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Going Back to Printed Menus? Refresh Your Designs!

Going Back to Printed Menus? Refresh Your Designs!

Printed menus gave way to QR codes in many restaurants during the pandemic. Where do restaurants go from here? Read on for a few ideas.

Print Graphics for Restaurants in an Era of QR Codes

Printed menus gave way to QR codes in many restaurants during the pandemic. Where do restaurants go from here? Read on for a few ideas.

The restaurant industry has had several difficult years. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a massive downturn in business, followed by inflation and other challenges. Restaurants have had to adapt in many ways in order to survive. One interesting development to come out of the pandemic is the resurgence of quick response (QR) codes.

Many restaurants provide diners with a QR code that they can use to access menus on their smartphones. Restaurant staff have fewer items to clean when clearing tables, and restaurants can make adjustments to their menus more easily since it’s all online. QR codes do not spell a permanent end to printed menus, of course, but they give restaurants more flexibility.

The following offers some ideas of how restaurants can make use of print graphics when digital menus are an option, as well as a few words of caution about relying on QR codes.

Why are restaurants using QR codes instead of menus?

The widespread switch from paper menus to QR codes began in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Public safety measures tried to limit the ways people could transmit the coronavirus to one another. Rather than having menus repeatedly changing hands between servers and customers, QR codes allowed customers to access menus directly from their smartphones.

This marked a major comeback for QR codes, which originated in Japan in the 1990s as a way for a Toyota subsidiary to track its inventory. They began to appear in advertising in the late 2000s but saw a decline in use about a decade ago. The pandemic may have provided a compelling reason for large numbers of businesses to bring them back. The greater prevalence of smartphones has probably helped as well.

Many restaurants are reverting back to printed menus

At this point, restaurants that switched to QR codes are free to go back to printed menus if they want to do so. Many patrons find it refreshing to put their phone down during a meal. High quality printed menus also give a restaurant a more premium feel.

Restaurants that want to return to printed menus might find this to be a good time to review their menus and designs. Many options are available for restaurants, from single-page, laminated menus to booklets with a variety of binding styles:

  • Saddle stitching: This is perhaps the most professional-looking type of binding, which works best for menus with numerous pages.
  • Wire-O: Menus are bound with double-loop metal rings.
  • Spiral or comb binding: A plastic coil or comb binds the menu pages together.

What kind of graphics can restaurants use instead of menus?

For many food-service businesses, seated dining is only one of several revenue streams alongside online ordering, takeout, and delivery services. Increased use of QR codes could present an opportunity for restaurants to streamline their business models, such as by taking all ordering online.

Restaurants sticking with QR codes still use printed graphics to display the codes, such as:

  • Table tents
  • Tabletop inserts
  • Banners or signs placed near tables and booths
  • Sandwich boards
  • Flyers or business cards that customers can take with them

These options can help reduce clutter and, in the event of future public health alerts, cut down on direct contact between servers and customers. Restaurants that have customers order at the counter may continue to use fixed signs to display their menus, but they can also incorporate QR codes. Most of these options may prove to be more economical than having enough printed menus for every individual customer.

Precautions with QR codes

A few precautions are in order for restaurants that decide to stick with QR codes and digital menus. Using QR codes assumes that customers have smartphones with cameras. Any restaurant that sends its customers online needs a strong Wi-Fi network, an online menu that is optimized for mobile devices, and enough printed menus to accommodate people who don’t have smartphones. Your customers will thank you.

The renewed popularity of QR codes among businesses has also created opportunities for fraudulent schemes. Scammers have reportedly been placing stickers with their own QR codes onto signs in various locations. These fraudulent QR codes lead to websites controlled by the scammers, where customers might enter their credit card information while thinking they are ordering food from your restaurant. If your restaurant uses QR codes on signage, table tents, or other printed materials, you may want to regularly inspect the materials to make sure it’s your QR code.

Restaurant graphics and signage from AlphaGraphics

The Northwest San Antonio AlphaGraphics provides cutting-edge graphic and printing services to restaurants and hospitality businesses in the Austin area. We create unique, memorable, and high-quality graphics in a variety of media, both for everyday use and for special events. Make your business stand out. Contact us today to get some ideas!

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