QR codes see resurgence in St. Louis restaurants as pandemic rages on
When the coronavirus pandemic shut down restaurants in March, many knew there would be permanent changes made in the industry. Amid the more widespread adoption of online ordering, contactless payment and curbside pickup, there is another service that has become increasingly popular: QR (quick response) codes.
ScanCode, a local fintech (financial technology) service company, offers integrated QR codes to local restaurants and small businesses. “You started to first see [QR codes] here in the U.S. about a decade ago, but they were strictly used as a marketing tool,” said Emily Redington, CEO and founder of ScanCode. “They didn't have [much] benefit for the end-users. … You kind of stopped seeing them around much the last few years, but with Covid, there started to be a resurgence.”
Redington started Scancode in St. Louis in August knowing there was a growing market for restaurants to use QR codes not only for touch-free menu viewing, but payment as well.
“The idea of a bunch of people touching the same menu or giving your credit card to a server who has touched everyone else’s credit card is a bit offputting these days,” Redington said. “People are going to start using this more for payment, [so we wanted to] incorporate that in for restaurants where customers don't have to think about it. Making it as simple as possible for the customers is how I think it benefits everybody. People want it just simple now.”
Local restaurants have adapted this technology for that reason. The team at Mission Taco Joint decided to use QR codes about a week into the pandemic and have found them to be effective during this time.
“Not trying to guide someone through … clicking through eight buttons on your website [to find the menu] is super helpful for people who are new to the digital space,” said Alex Baldera, Mission Taco Joint’s director of technology. “We’re also using them for directing people to the online ordering site, which was important when we were still only doing to-go orders. And now we’ve added a QR code to the bottom of receipts that allows you to pay at your table if you want.”
While many see QR codes as useful, some find that there are disadvantages to this online form of menu viewing.
Taco Circus owner Christian Ethridge finds that the absence of print menus creates a lack of intimacy for customers. “You try to really control the variable under which you make contact with your customer,” Ethridge said. “The QR code is good for safety, but quite honestly the usability of digital – when someone’s scrolling rather than seeing the whole menu in front of them – it has been a little bit of a challenge just because they're not seeing the whole thing.”
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