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Restaurants Reintroduce Paper Menus Amid Customer Complaints About QR Codes

waitress and restaurant patrons

In recent years, QR code menus gained popularity among restaurants as a way to streamline service and reduce the need for additional staff.

However, consumer complaints have reportedly prompted a shift in the industry. Many diners have expressed frustration with QR code menus, citing issues such as difficulty in navigating the menus, concerns about privacy and a perceived negative impact on the restaurant’s ambiance, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday (May 31).

As a result, restaurants are now reverting to paper menus to cater to consumer preferences, according to the report.

One of the main complaints from consumers regarding QR code menus is the need to squint or struggle to figure out their order. For some, navigating the menu on their smartphones feels like a cumbersome task, the report said.

Privacy concerns also play a role in the backlash against QR code menus, per the report. Additionally, some individuals, particularly older customers, face difficulties using the technology itself. The initial step of taking out their phones and scanning the QR code can be a hurdle.

The negative impact of QR codes on check averages and tips for servers has also prompted some restaurants to reconsider their use, the report said. One restaurant group experienced a 10% decrease in check averages when using QR code menus, as diners often failed to scroll through all the offerings.

In response to customer complaints, many sit-down eateries are ditching QR codes and reintroducing paper menus, according to the report. Some establishments stopped using QR codes on menus altogether. Others have adopted a hybrid approach, catering to the preferences of different customers by discontinuing QR code offerings at one location while maintaining them at another or by offering both printed menus and QR codes and allowing customers to choose their preferred method of ordering.

While the overall sentiment is shifting away from QR code menus, there are still niche uses where they prove beneficial, the report said. For instance, QR codes can provide additional information to interested customers.

PYMNTS Intelligence has found that consumers are rarely fans of QR code menus. Only 31% of consumers felt positively about viewing menus with QR codes at restaurants, according to “Digital Divide: Technology, Customer Service and Innovation in the Restaurant Industry,” a PYMNTS Intelligence and Paytronix collaboration.

QR code menus can keep younger customers engaged, but exclusively relying on these codes can alienate older generations, Michele Baker Benesch, president of Menu Men, a company that designs and manufactures both print and digital menus, told PYMNTS in an interview posted in February 2022.

“People are frustrated, especially people 40 years and older,” Benesch said. “Sometimes their phones don’twork. They don’t know how to access the QR code. So before they even get to order a beverage … they’re already upset, and that hampers the entire customer experience.”