Restaurant QR Codes: Enhancing or Hindering the Dining Experience?

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5 min read

Apr 13, 2023

Restaurant QR Codes: Enhancing or Hindering the Dining Experience?

Having your phone out at the dinner table was once a faux pas, but the rise of QR codes in the restaurant industry has made phones a permanent part of the dining experience – for better or for worse.

QR code menus helped restaurants serve diners while reducing contact during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the worst of the pandemic behind us, many restaurants have retained QR codes as an integral part of the dining experience. Is that the right move? And if you haven’t used them yet, should you start now? Keep reading to figure out if QR codes are right for your business.

Table of Contents:

What are Restaurant QR Codes?

QR code, otherwise known as quick response code, is a type of barcode that most smartphone cameras can read. When a person scans a QR code with their phone camera, it triggers an action, such as opening a link. Restaurants started leveraging QR codes en masse during the pandemic as a way to turn paper menus digital and reduce contact. 

Pro tip: Making a QR code is easy. There are many free QR code generators available online that create unique QR codes you can configure to trigger an action. Beyond opening a link, QR codes can send a text with predefined messages, save contact information, open a PDF and more.

How Do Restaurants Use QR Codes?

While restaurant QR codes are primarily associated with contactless menus, food service venues are leveraging this technology in several other ways.

qr code menu exampleCustomer scans QR code menu at a restaurant

Restaurants that replace physical menus with digital ones typically place printed QR codes on tables, via a sticker or table tent. Customers scan these codes with their phones to pull up a digital restaurant menu.

Some restaurants link QR codes to a simple online menu where guests can browse options, then order food from a server. Others link to an interactive contactless mobile ordering system that guests can use to place and pay for orders with a credit card, foregoing an interaction with a server altogether. 

Virtual Waitlists

QR codes can also let guests add themselves to your virtual waitlist. When walk-in guests see a waitlist QR code on-premises, they can scan it to join the list. 

Virtual waitlist software, like the solution offered by SevenRooms, prompts guests to enter their contact information, party details, dietary restrictions and requests. And, while in the virtual waiting room, they can browse the menu, see their wait time, upgrade their table and more.

Check Presenters

When placed on checks or in check presenters, restaurants can use QR codes to encourage guests to sign up for their newsletter or loyalty program, take a post-meal survey or review the restaurant online.

FYI: Look for a QR code generator that lets you track key information about your codes, such as how many times customers scanned them and the sources of the scans. 


Add QR codes to promotional posters in your high-traffic areas, such as in bathrooms or near the host stand. You can use this opportunity to sell tickets for special events, promote your email list, advertise your social media handles and more.

Pros of Restaurant QR Codes

Below are some reasons why QR codes are appealing to restaurants.

They Save on Print and Paper Expenses

QR code menus reduce the need for printed menus, which saves money. Restaurateur, John McDonald of Mercer Street Hospitality, says medium-sized restaurants can save $5,000 per year on printing costs by switching to digital menus.

They Update Menus in Real-Time

When your menu is accessible via QR code, you can make quick menu updates in all locations without reprinting each physical copy. If you link it to your POS, you can automatically update the availability or update prices daily based on inventory costs.

They Improve the Guest Experience

QR codes increase efficiency. When guests can place their orders via QR code menus, staff can focus on more meaningful guest interactions and touch points. Digital menus aren’t plagued by design limitations so you can be extra descriptive with your menu text. You also give control back to your guests, allowing you to focus on quality service.

They are Contactless

The contactless nature of QR codes means customers can order, get on the waitlist or pay from a distance. This benefit is why QR codes became popular in the first place.

They Digitize Guest Data

When guests can join your email list through a QR code in their check presenter, you grow your audience faster because you won’t have to manually input email addresses into your CRM system, or risk misplacing all those manual entries.

Cons Of Restaurant QR Codes

Consider these potential downsides of using QR codes before implementing them at your restaurant.

They can alienate your less tech-savvy guests

While smartphones are widespread, some people don’t have them and can’t access a digital code. Before going 100% digital, consider how you’ll retain some manual methods to access your menu, get on your waitlist or join your loyalty program.

They can hurt the personal touch aspect of the guest experience

Removing human interactions from the waitlist or ordering process can feel impersonal, so QR codes may not suit every establishment. For example, fine dining restaurants might use QR codes in a less visible way than casual establishments to protect their hospitality protocols.

QR code menus reduce privacy

Because customers share their data with the QR code generator, which can sell their data to third-party companies.

QR codes are vulnerable to security threats

Hackers have used QR codes to share malicious apps and access the victim’s virtual wallet along with phishing attempts.

They make phones a required part of the dining experience

Some guests and venues have very strong opinions regarding phone use during meals — some might prefer to focus on the experience rather than the screen. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay went so far as to ban cell phone use at his restaurant in 2006 to combat these problems.

Customers may spend less

Mercer Street Hospitality’s John McDonald found that his customers spent up to 20% less when they ordered from QR code menus than paper ones.

Are QR Codes Right for Your Restaurant?

restaurant owner qr code exampleExample of a restaurant QR code displayed at a table

Don’t jump on the QR code trend just because everyone else is; it’s important to be intentional with your decision and ensure they fit with your service style and clientele. For example, ordering via a QR code might better suit casual concepts than fine dining ones when considering how it limits important hospitality touch points.

Remember that adopting QR codes doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing process. You might choose to retain paper menus but ask guests to join your waitlist by scanning a QR code to save guests the hassle of the host mishearing or misspelling their name and contact information.

Create an intentional QR code strategy for your restaurant. If you think digital menus are a smart upgrade, check out SevenRooms’ mobile order and pay solution to help ensure a seamless interaction. Request a demo today.

FAQs About Restaurant QR Codes

1. How Do I Get a QR Code for My Restaurant?

You can create a QR code for your restaurant using an online QR code generator. The program will prompt you to select the action you want your QR code to trigger, upload or write relevant content (such as a link), configure tracking metrics, and finally, generate a code. 

2. Are QR Codes Good for Restaurants? 

Using QR codes at your restaurant can save you money on printing expenses, and make it easier to display real-time dish availability, pricing and availability. While there are many benefits, QR codes also have downsides that might not work for your business, like security concerns and reduced hospitality. Consider how you’ll integrate QR codes into your processes before taking the leap.

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