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Menus Fizzled but QR Codes Find Favor Powering Pay at Table at Restaurants

Decades old — tracing its origins back to the 1990s — the QR code has at times struggled to find its place in commerce and in everyday self-service situations.

Case in point: As noted here at the end of last month, QR codes enjoyed a stint of popularity as a digital version of menus … and then they lost that popularity. Media reports said that many restaurants were pivoting to paper menus, as a result of technical glitches and customer dissatisfaction with scanning the menus and then trying to read them on mobile phones.

Menus Fizzle

PYMNTS Intelligence’s own data shows that only 29% of restaurants were offering QR codes to view their menus, a percentage that sinks to about 20% for smaller, independent restaurants. Only 23% of restaurant-goers that we surveyed said that they viewed the experience of using QR menus in a positive light.

But as illuminated by recent announcements by some providers, QR codes are finding appeal for pay-at-the-table settings. With that technology (literally) in hand, restaurant-goers pay for their meals with their phones at the point of sale with a device used by the waitstaff.

Pay at the Table Gives QR Codes Traction

At the end of last month Up ’n go, which provides pay-at-the-table QR technology to the hospitality sector, said it had notched $1.1 billion in total payments processed and noted that its platform had “settled” over 16 million restaurant checks since its founding in 2017. 

The company has estimated that using QR codes to dine and pay saves as much as 20 minutes per transaction with the optionality to choose digital wallets — which we note improves the turnover at the table itself. The more quickly diners eat and pay, the more quickly and efficiently the next diner can come in and be served.

The use of QR codes, particularly as a payments option, has had some momentum since the pandemic. As we reported in the fall of 2020, Square launched its QR code-driven Square For Restaurants platform, which allows customers to browse menus, place orders and pay for meals with scans from their phones. 

Last month, NCR Voyix, in collaboration with sunday, a payments solution provider, announced the launch of Aloha Pay-At-Table. The offering enables QR codes to be scanned, for diners to see their bill, split costs and pay. The companies have said that streamlining the payments experience saves 15 minutes from the average visit, which improves the restaurant’s operating efficiencies — and tips increase by about 10%, due to automatic, precalculated tip solutions.