HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) — The initial case for QR code menus was clear.
“Everyone wanted to become more contactless during the pandemic,” said Steve Mellinger, a supervisor at Tröegs, a brewery and restaurant. “So QR codes provided a good option for us.”
Restaurants came for the lack of contact and stayed for other benefits.
“You don’t have to print new menus,” said Mark Plumlee, senior content manager at Must Have Menus, which helps restaurants design and manage their menus. “You can track how people are interacting with your menu. You’re getting more analytics. If you’re using a QR code, you’re essentially cutting down also on waitstaff time.”
There was just one problem.
“I just think customers hate them,” Plumlee said.
Not all customers. At Tröegs, which offers both QR and paper menu options, Mellinger said a majority of customers — about 60 percent, he guessed — are happy with the QR menu. Still, not accommodating the other 40 percent wouldn’t be a good business move.
“We definitely have people who if they want a paper menu, they want a paper menu for sure,” Mellinger said. “And you definitely want to make sure you have that available for them.”
Plumlee said the number of QR code menu designs by restaurants — and downloads by customers — surged early in the pandemic but then flatlined. News of the trend reversal was reported earlier by The New York Times.
The reason for the pushback among many customers against QR code menus?
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“I think restaurants are one of the last places today where there is kind of an expectation that people aren’t going to be on their phone,” Plumlee said. “And when you’re starting it off by having to be on your phone right from the beginning, it kind of already ruins that.”
Not everyone is firmly in one camp or the other.
“I love that there’s the QR code for just sustainability reasons,” said Christine Piro, eating at an outdoor table with her husband Nicholas and puppy Dorie. Still, she had a paper menu in front of her — just one for the table. “I hadn’t gotten my drinks yet, and so I wanted to see kind of what the options were. And I really like this” — the paper menu — “rather than having to kind of scroll through each of them.”
But she said the availability of QR code menus has enabled the family to almost always have no more than one paper menu at the table, even when her two kids are there too.