The Resurgence of the QR Code

Almost 10 years ago, when I first started my business, many people told me to use QR codes. QR stands for “quick response.” The QR code typically looks like a barcode, but in a square shape. When you point your camera at it, a link appears directing you to the information.

Ten years ago I thought about it, but didn’t see them being used that much. Here and there I would see a QR code. It was common enough that I knew what they were and how to use them. But not so common that I saw them everywhere. Now it seems the QR codes are everywhere. I’m not sure if the resurgence started with Covid, or maybe just a coincidence. In particular, I often notice QR codes with restaurant menus.

This past weekend I stayed in a hotel. Typically, a menu for the hotel lobby restaurant would be a paper brochure nestled with the welcome information in the room. This time, however, I found a sticker on the desk with a QR code.

Last week I went to a ramen place for lunch. When I entered the restaurant the host handed me a small, stiff card with a QR code to view the menu. As another example, a very popular ice cream place in the downtown core where I live has a QR code available to review the menu at various spots while you wait in line.

For many reasons, this is a great option for viewing menus. Providing a QR code, instead of something printed, means the restaurant can make changes instantly. Changes might include prices, daily specials, new additions, or even correcting typos. The QR code is less expensive than printing and laminating menus, plus it provides flexibility and instant updates.

From a practical point of view, they’re also easy to keep clean. Handling printed menus can leave them stained, dirty, or greasy. But with a QR code, everybody is looking at their own personal device. It also allows people to zoom in, if they have problems reading the tiny print on a paper menu.

The only downside is the tiny smartphone screen to read larger menus, even if you can magnify the print. It could take longer to review and scroll the different sections on a phone vs. a print menu. However, I think the trend is here to stay.

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