Diners Want QR Codes for Payments, Not Menus

On the Border Mexican Restaurant

As casual dining restaurants look to strike the balance between service and efficiency, On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina is tapping QR codes for customer payments, even as it has shifted away from the technology for menus.

The casual dining chain announced in a Monday (July 10) press release that it is rolling out restaurant technology company Up ‘n go’s QR code payment solution to all 109 U.S. corporate-owned locations.

In an interview with PYMNTS, VP of Marketing Suzie Tsai noted that, while the restaurant has largely returned to more traditional methods of providing menus, QR code payments meet a customer need while also boosting restaurant efficiency.

“No longer do guests have to scan the QR code — if they want, they certainly can — … but we went back to the more traditional ways of providing a menu,” Tsai said. “On the payment side, we continue to work through how to make making payments easier, because so much of it has to do with the pacing and timing of service and giving the guests a short, easy, faster checkout experience.”

Tsai added that the rollout can also help address challenges that servers have had with Wi-Fi-dependent point-of-sale (POS) devices, boosting labor efficiency with a solution that does not rack up hardware costs for the restaurant.

Certainly, consumers have grown tired of QR code menus in recent years, as COVID contagion concerns have subsided. For instance, research cited in last month’s edition of PYMNTS’ “B2B and Digital Payments Tracker®,” a collaboration with American Express, “Inflation Puts Technology on the Menu for Restaurants,” revealed that only 17% of diners prefer QR code menus over more traditional alternatives.

As recently as early last year, this frustration had begun to take root. Research from PYMNTS’ study “The Digital Divide: Technology, the Metaverse and the Future of Dining Out,” which drew from an April 2022 survey of nearly 2,500 United States consumers, revealed that only 26% of dine-in restaurant customers said that viewing a menu with a QR code has a positive impact on their satisfaction.

Yet of course there are labor reasons to implement contactless technologies. Tsai spoke to the balance between service and efficiency.

“It’s half and half. It’s definitely, on the team member and the server side, making sure that we hire the right people to deliver on that experience,” Tsai said. “The other half is making sure that we have the technology to make that experience seamless for both team members and the guests.”

Notably, not all innovation proves beneficial for restaurants’ bottom lines.

In May 2021, the brand launched its Queso Club membership program, offering free queso for a year for $1 with the purchase of a bowl of queso, a program that ultimately proved too costly to continue in the long term. However, it did drive loyalty. As such, when the brand relaunched its loyalty program earlier this year, it focused on Queso-based offers for different membership tiers.

“Our intent for queso Club was to drive frequency, drive loyalty, … and Queso Club played a huge role in driving that traffic … but … we gave away a lot of Queso. It was very costly to our business,” Tsai said. “The new rewards program that we have is a bit of a blend of that Queso Club and typical loyalty.”