The inconvenience of QR code restaurant menus
Published 15 October 2022

Credit: Unsplash

The imposition of the contactless QR code by the catering world is said to speed up the customer experience and thereby improve it. Clarissa Hyman disagrees.

I hate QR codes. They are not there for my convenience. I understand why we avoided physical menus in the throes of the pandemic when the spread of infection via the touch of a contaminated surface was a realistic menace. But they have stayed to torment us further as an ubiquitous element of public life, even though we still inhale the potentially dangerous exhalations of other diners. To me they are a bar to a more pleasurable eating experience that I both anticipate and expect. It’s all pretty Orwellian.

And yes, it’s also an age thing. The assumption no-one who eats out still has a flip phone with no internet is ageist and exclusionary. I love my i-phone to bits, even though I’m not of the generation that types with their thumbs, but I still have to ask for help in capturing the QR code and finding the part of the menu I want.

I’ve tried. Honest. But it may be a cyber curse on my old smartphone that the battery always seems about to conk out when I’m half way through reading the menu. And it’s frustrating and difficult to have to keep scrolling back and forth to read, cogitate and waver over key choices, especially if you are someone who likes to consider the desserts first.

Obviously it’s not high in the list of restaurant priorities in these unprecedented challenging times. Restaurants have to do all they can to get bums on seats and keep their doors open. And if QR codes make their lives a little easier, increases average spend (reputedly), eases staffing shortages and makes employees jobs easier, well who can blame them.

I understand digital menus can be rapidly updated but so can a chalk board or daily printed carte. And there are horror stories such as the QR code quoted on slate.com that led to a website where each of the seven menu pages was a separate PDF that had to be clicked, zoomed in on, and closed before moving onto the next. Navigation it’s called, but for some of us it’s like traversing dark stretches of the Amazon.

Meal finally ordered. Meal finally consumed. Bill finally paid. As I was leaving a digital establishment recently, I said to the manager, ‘I hate those code thingies’. ‘Don’t worry’, he whispered back, ‘you’re not the only one’.