QR codes are replacing physical menus at restaurants

Have you dined at a local restaurant lately and noticed an absence of menus? Instead, there’s a simple QR code at your table or at the entrance for you to scan to see the day’s dishes.

That’s becoming more and more commonplace as restaurants forego handing out physical menus in favor of pointing customers to an online version via their phones.

As Eater’s Amanda Kludt writes: “There are a lot of obvious upsides to relying on QR codes during this pandemic. Fewer items to touch and wash, less contact with servers, and more and easier ways to obtain important health and contact info from diners.”

The CDC has been advising restaurants to use disposable or digital menus, which has led some restaurants to go as far as purchasing laminating machines so their menus can be quickly washed and reused. The option of QR codes instead means less waste in the long run while also quelling health concerns of diners.

Another positive, according to Jonah Miller at the Counter, is restaurants that frequently update their menus with the seasons don’t have to keep paying for reprints. “Digital menus liberate a chef—from hesitating about introducing a new dish that requires a menu overhaul, and from having to disappoint diners when a dish runs out,” Miller says. “There are no reprint costs, as there are with paper menus.”

Some downsides: There is a learning curve for diners who aren’t familiar with QR code technology or might not have a smart phone. It also removes the quintessential experience of browsing a paper menu and pointing out interesting dishes to your table mates. (Granted, we’ve already given up most of our traditional restaurant experiences since the pandemic began.)

But for most restaurants, the QR code change is one entirely dictated by guests’ experiences and whether they are for or against the digital transition.

Read on for more from Eater and the Counter.