For years I have adopted and used the phrase “a tool is not a way of life,” and almost started a blog with that title. I’m glad I didn’t, because…well, because a tool is not a way of life, and who would want to read an entire blog with posts about THAT?
One tool that I have used off and on is the QR code. Years ago, one of my annual corporate goals was to explore how my then-employer could use QR codes; at the time, there wasn’t any pressing need to adopt them.
I have since chosen to adopt QR codes for some of my Bredemarket work, especially in cases where an online reader may need additional information.
Of course, I’m not the only one who has adopted QR codes, and dissemination of detailed information isn’t the only reason to use QR codes.
For example, you may want to use QR codes to prevent yourself from dying due to a global pandemic.
And when that particular use case emerged about two years ago, restaurants rushed to adopt it, and vendors of QR code solutions rushed to promote them.
[M]any of these fortune tellers have something to sell. The most recent of these visionaries are those who have declared that QR codes are here to stay. Leaders in the online ordering and pay-by-phone business offer statistics to prove that the technology has been fully embraced and will continue to outlive the pandemic as the norm for restaurants. Operators who have fully leaned into QR code integration celebrate the news, broadcasting to investors that the technological investments and the pivots to less employee-reliant labor models were prudent, if not prescient, moves.
But now that the pandemic is (hopefully) receding, the shakeout (no, not THAT shakeout) is occurring. For some restaurants, ordering and paying with QR codes and other technological devices is a benefit, but for others, it is a detriment.
If your product is an immersive experience—or the facilitation of relationships—QR code usage may turn out to be counterproductive….
At Barcelona Wine Bar, we heard early on the frequent complaints from guests about QR fatigue and pivoted back to paper menus. Sales increased as each of our restaurants returned to in-person service. More importantly, so did guest satisfaction. We have recently returned thick, leather-bound wine lists to our tables for guests to leaf through instead of asking them to do more mindless online scrolling. QR ordering and payment will remain an option out of courtesy to those who feel safer or find it more convenient. However, as hosts, we would much prefer the opportunity for a final check-in and good-bye.
Here is another example of using a tool when it makes sense, and not using it when it doesn’t.
And this doesn’t have to do with “authenticity,” since the Barcelona Wine Bar concept is just as much a manufactured concept as that of Cracker Barrel and Starbucks (which have embraced QR codes and related technologies).
I only have one complaint that applied to both the Barcelona Wine Bar concept AND the Starbucks concept.
If you are an operator who puts little stock in on-site dining, recognize that customers on their phones often do not hear music, notice artwork and architectural details, nor care if the bartender is smiling or not.
Perhaps there’s a reason why customers do not hear your music.
Perhaps the customers do not like your music.
If a restaurant truly wants to facilitate conversation, turn the danged music off!