The Future of QR Codes is More QR Codes, With Restaurants Continuing to Lead the Way

QR code

Digital hieroglyphics of QR codes are everywhere now from airports to restaurants, leaving many to wonder what comes next — or if indeed we need something to replace a reborn piece of “outdated” character recognition tech that emerged as a hero of the pandemic.

As vaccine passports and other use cases for QR are explored, they continue making their biggest impact now in the quick-service restaurant (QSR) and broader dining sector.

Restaurant news site QSR magazine recently reported that “Industry experts had been wondering for months leading into summer 2021, when prevalent vaccinations were expected to drive a resurgence in on-premises dining, what the fate of all those QR codes would be. But it quickly became clear that QR codes, a somewhat forced adaptation during the pandemic, had enough benefits for both restaurants and customers that they are here to stay.”

That story cited a statistic from link management service Bitly finding that QR code downloads increased 750% between 2020 and 2021, but also wondered “how do we win over more customers and operators” and observing that “the technology leveraging QR codes needs to evolve if QR codes are going to be more than just a pandemic fad.”

Giving a sense of proportion to QR code growth over the past 20-odd months, PYMNTS latest edition of the Restaurant Readiness Index, a Paytronix collaboration, surveyed over 500 QSR managers and found that QR codes are now widely embedded in touchless point-of-sale (POS) systems for ordering and accumulation of loyalty rewards — twin QR code superpowers.

Asked what restaurant managers and customers think will drive lasting value for QR (along with larger order sizes), the latest Restaurant Readiness Index found that ability to pay via QR code nearly doubled between September 2020 and September 2021, with nearly 28% of top performing QSRs now offering this touchless scan-and-pay capability.

Figures go higher we look at the impact QR codes have on customer experience, with close to 33% of Restaurant Readiness Index respondents telling PYMNTS that QR codes enhance end-to-end experiences from ordering to checkout.

Even with pandemic medals pinned on, some wonder if easily implemented QR codes will just as easily vanish when the pandemic ebbs enough, or another technology displaces it.

There is a middle ground — at least for the moment — as several companies are innovating with QR to keep the optical technology relevant for the immediate future.

Ghost kitchen POS solution provider Bbot recently enhanced its QR-based platform to increase customer engagement with personalized digital menus accessed by QR scan and more.

Announcing its seed fundraise in November, Ovation, a relationship enablement platform for restaurants and retailers, is using QR codes in its mix of SMS text and kiosk-based satisfaction surveys and feedback solutions, noting in a recent statement that this approach yields “a 18x higher engagement rate than long-form surveys and a 16x higher recovery rate than responding to online reviews.”

Get the study: 2021 edition of the Restaurant Readiness Index