Not all industries adopt new technology when available, especially when it's going to change operations, regardless of the benefits. The pandemic, however, accelerated manyindustries' uptake of new software and applications.
You no doubt have used a digital menu if you have visited a restaurant in the past few years andscanned a QR code to open it. During the pandemic, it became mandatory, and not just some innovation in mobile ordering technology.
We all love our mobile ordering apps, ordering food from the comfort of our homes with door-to-door delivery. They're simple and easy to use, making the ordering process as frictionless as possible.
Yet QR codes sometimes meet objection with the dine-in experience? Even though scanning a QR code with a camera is far easier than finding, downloading and installing a dedicated app.
Those objections don't come from the majority. A recent survey showed 79% of customers prefer to order through online kiosks rather than staff, and 78% say that they enjoy the benefits of ordering with QR codes.
Whether your customers love them or aren't entirely sold just yet, it doesn't matter. Eighty-eight per cent of businesses are considering ditching the physical menus for digital ones altogether. Not surprising when seventy-eight per cent of restaurants said digital menus have significant benefits.
Let's look at why digital menus and QR codes are becoming essential to restaurants and the hospitality industry.
Why do people prefer a digital menu?
There are not many things you can't personalise in life now. Mobile and digital ordering do just that, allowing customers to edit orders and add requirements and requests. Even better, there's no confusion between the customer and kitchen when they've deselected certain ingredients or written instructions.
Customers want to know ingredients, nutritional value, price, taste descriptions and see images of what they're buying. You can add this to printed menus, but depending on the size of your menu, this can create a booklet. Resulting in not only a large printing bill but a mass of information likely to confuse the customer. Digital menus will still be extensive, but customers can filter the results and skip to sections on the menu with a single tap.
Order in their own time
Often customers feel rushed when being asked if they are ready to order. Especially if they think it's rude to say no and jump to a decision hastily. Digital menus allow customers to sit and order in their own time and know they can ask for help if needed.
Why do people object to a digital menu?
When dining out, customers may expect as much service as possible. Perhaps some communication and recommendations from the waiting staff and to generally be made to feel special and appreciated. Many businesses have said the introduction of technology has extended staff capabilities. As menus, ordering, inventory, and other aspects of the job have been automated. Staff can now naturally interact with customers, help upsell, and concentrate on the dining experience and atmosphere.
Not everyone has a smartphone. Whilst this is now a minute portion of the general population, it can prove an issue. This isn't a problem unless you plan to go to zero staff, which isn't recommended! Customers will also have a smartphone and get confused about how to scan the QR and open the menu. We recommend adding instructions to the code, and if this doesn't work, staff should be on hand to guide customers through the process.
What are the pros and cons of using a digital menu?
Customers can see images for each meal item
A picture is worth a thousand words. When it's a picture of something you're going to eat, it's probably worth a million!
Easily filter menus for dietary or nutritional reasons
Customers can filter recipes and not rely on the staff's menu, allergy and nutritional knowledge to eliminate human error.
Make adjustments to the meal with instructions sent directly to the kitchen
Digital menus allow customers to communicate directly with the kitchen staff.
Less reliance on staff during times of low availability
Nearly three out of four restaurants are suffering from labour shortages. Whilst digital menus won't replace staff, they will ease the burden when you are short.
Easily promote menu items that have better profit margins
Selectively ordering, using bold fonts, and emphasising imagery are among a few techniques you can use to promote menu items.
Zero reprint costs
Menus are constantly changing now with supply chain issues and price increases. Digital menus can be instantly changed for free.
Easily gain menu performance
Get data and insights into menu performance and start to make changes that provide customers with want they want and increase profit.
They can't transmit germs and bacteria
Another benefit highlighted during the pandemic is that non-physical menus can't spread illness.
Digital menus are live and can be changed instantly. Make items unavailable when you've run out, and move items to the top when you've got lots of stock, to name a few examples.
Staff can concentrate wholly on hospitality
Staff no longer have to hand out menus and write down orders to relay to the chefs. They can interact with customers, upsell, refill drinks, keep areas cleaner and concentrate on the finishing touches that create a great dining atmosphere.
Not all customers have smartphones
Not all customers will have smartphones on them, and we recommend having tablets available for them or having the staff take the order on a restaurant-provided phone.
Lack of understanding that only the camera feature is required
Digital menus may confuse customers on how to order, mainly if they haven't used a digital menu before.
Phone use at the table
Some customers come out to interact with their friends and family without technology.
Adding details can be annoying
Adding personal and payment details is far longer and more annoying than paying at the till or table-side card machine. This can be limited by integrating mobile payment solutions such as apple pay or just using the digital menu as an ordering device and having staff take payment.
Customers don't like giving away personal data, especially if they feel they will have their inbox filled with restaurant news and offers.
Are QR codes here to stay?
QR codes have been around for years, and some areas of the world have been quicker to adopt them as a link and information-sharing method. "QR code scanning is expected to increase year-over-year by 10% in 2022, following a jump of 15% last year and 25% in 2020."
"I think QR codes are here to stay. They're great marketing tools, and they're great at highlighting a small segment of someone's menu."
Michele Benesch, president of the menu design firm Menu Men.
"The human-interaction element of dining is never going to go away, but I think...restaurants will use... QR-code menus in a way that will help them turn more tables and save costs on the overhead of menu and labor."
Bruce Bell, head of Square for Restaurants
Undoubtedly, using digital menus can help businesses become more efficient, gain information regarding customer behaviour to serve them better and ultimately reduce costs of menu production.
The main objections from customers are that they like the service experience and dislike adding personal and payment information to order.
A mixed approachseems to be the most effective way, allowing customers to get all the benefits of using digital menus & QR codes whilst getting an excellent level of service from staff.