What tech must restaurants put on their menu of services?

Discussion
Photo: Getty Images/LeoPatrizi
Jan 12, 2022

According to a new report, the restaurants that go “digital-first” are the ones that are set up for success.

Consumers are looking for in-restaurant mobile payments and QR code ordering, according to a new study by Paytronix Systems and PYMNTS, as reported by Yahoo! Finance. This in-store technology is especially attractive to the same customer demographic — typically Millennials with higher incomes — that utilizes multi-platform restaurant aggregators to order food. The time savings of such digital solutions appears to be the major appeal, and it works as a loyalty builder.

QR code menus became common in restaurants in the initial waves of the pandemic, when experts had yet to determine that COVID-19 was not commonly spread via surface contamination.

Pay-at-table solutions are also catching on. A separate report prepared by Paytronix in conjunction with PYMNTS, called the Restaurant Readiness Index, found that 28 percent of top performing restaurants allow customers to pay with QR codes.

An article on QSRWeb touts pay-at-table technology, including that which uses QR codes, as an industry poised to grow throughout 2022. The purported advantages of the technology include allowing customers to interact directly with a loyalty program, increased security over card-based payment, faster processing and allowing restaurant staff to focus on customer service instead of shuttling cards back and forth to tables and processing payments.

Not all in-restaurant diners, however, are excited about digital solutions like QR codes.

Opponents of QR code menus complain of the technology forcing diners to use smartphones at the table, interrupting conversations, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Some further say that when customers scroll menus on their individual smartphones, it destroys the communal aspect of browsing a print menu together. And some find the process cumbersome, rather than a time-saver.

There are also some potential downsides to pay-at-table technology, according to Toast. Besides the large upfront costs of replacing a POS system, the new process may make restaurant-goers feel rushed and less likely to linger, since the decision to pay is entirely in their hands instead of signaled when a waiter puts down a check.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think that QR code-based menu and payment solutions, and pay-at-table technology, are what customers are looking for from restaurants? What do you see as the most purposeful technology being used by restaurants at this point in time?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Technology should be a supporting role of a meal, not the main focus. Technology that eases friction and makes the overall dining experience more enjoyable is key."
"Pay-at-table is both obvious and important. The QR code thing doesn’t mean much in a post-pandemic world."
"Pay-at-table has been in Europe for many years — way ahead of the U.S. so the trend in the U.S. will grow quite nicely in the coming years."

Join the Discussion!

22 Comments on "What tech must restaurants put on their menu of services?"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Ken Morris
BrainTrust

Customers are so-so with the QR codes but pay-at-table is a winner. Restaurant technology is ahead of traditional retail. They long ago embraced cloud based solutions for POS like Toast that have traditionally been aimed at the independent operators and not large chains. The capability of a cloud based POS tool allows these restaurants to control the menu, their food costs and make incremental changes centrally and implement chain wide in seconds. This cloud based infrastructure also allows them the flexibility to take payments online for in-store pickup and route orders directly to the kitchen and bypass the POS lowering their shrink from theft and improving customer service.

Christine Russo
BrainTrust

Pay-at-table is not as common as QR code menus and we will see this grow more as the technology simplifies – there are mobile solutions that do not require a full POS change.

David Naumann
BrainTrust

The pandemic accelerated the adoption of pay-at-table and was the catalyst for technologies that were on most restaurant operators’ radar. With labor shortages and rising wages, we will likely seem more restaurants completely automating ordering and payment at family and casual dining restaurants. Once a restaurant system is automated for online ordering, it makes it much easier to expand it to table ordering and payments. Fine dining restaurants will continue to differentiate the guest experience with servers as long as it is feasible and guests demand the personalized services.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

With respect, I don’t think that QR codes for menus or payment at table is a major reason people select one restaurant over another. The biggest reasons are factors like cuisine type, price, quality and so forth. That said, technology that adds convenience and reduces friction is useful in enhancing the experience for those that like such things. The important point to make is that not everyone likes menus on phones, etc. so it’s important to provide options.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

I will go one step further. In the non-pandemic world, I could see people choosing not to go to a restaurant because they have a QR code menu.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Given its length, The Cheesecake Factory digital menu would need to be delivered as a Kindle book!

Katie Thomas
BrainTrust

QR code menus, while convenient, are temporary. No matter what age, they are hard to read and digest on a phone compared to a normal size menu (or larger, a la Schitt’s Creek). However technology that enables ordering and payment should be here to stay. It allows customers to order food and drinks when they are ready – not just when the waiter happens to come by. It also allows waitstaff to perform more value added tasks, providing recommendations and improving experience.

Not sure I agree with Toast’s assessment on lingering, though. If anything, I think this tech allows people to linger – which is something the restaurants need to assess.

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

Absolutely yes! Why have more “touchpoints” than needed? Everyone knows how to take a picture with their phone. They have to do it for COVID-19 testing, so why not use the same technology for menus? Also, when paying with your phone, you generally skip a step of having to wait for the server to go back and forth saving time and yet another touchpoint so, yes, this is here to stay.

David Slavick
BrainTrust

Two-plus years ago dining in Canada 100 percent of my dining experience included pay-at-table using a handheld device. It made me shake my head and wonder why the U.S. is so far behind with technology adoption. As the hospitality/restaurant dining experience continues to struggle with staff shortages the transformation to leveraging technology to service and support the guest will become more prevalent. Likewise, marketing and loyalty leaders in the space should be training their employees to prompt for membership, and giving instant savings or benefits (free dessert or bounceback offer) for program opt-in off of the device. Get a return on your technology investment through data capture, drive incremental visits and lift overall average ticket.

Jennifer Bartashus
BrainTrust

Technology should be a supporting role of a meal, not the main focus. Technology that eases friction and makes the overall dining experience more enjoyable is key. Leave it to the customer to decide where they want to use technology to enhance their experience. It also depends on what type of restaurant it is – technology may be critical at casual dining chains but have little place at fine dining establishments.

Digital menus, ordering or payment may appeal to some, but not all, so restaurants need to be able to serve tech-minded individuals as well as those who aren’t. After all, it is a service industry. Nothing is more frustrating than needing something (a refill, napkins, the check) and not being able to find your server. Tech can help with that. Put some of that power to control the experience in the hands of customers and everyone benefits.

David Spear
BrainTrust
Pay-at-table has been in Europe for many years — way ahead of the U.S. so the trend in the U.S. will grow quite nicely in the coming years. I actually like the ability to pay right at the table. My guests can continue to enjoy drinks or dessert while I’m taking care of the bill. Generational comments aside, QR code menu browsing really removes an important piece of the restaurant experience from the customer and replaces it with a sterile, generic, mobile screen that has nothing to do with style, panache, art, feel, emotion — all the things one can get from an outstanding PRINTED menu. I’ve recently experience both with many different groups of people (of all ages) and there is definitely more fun, more engagement with each other when everyone is looking at a PRINTED menu. One area where I see huge potential with digital is engagement pre- and post-dining experience. I would recommend a much more proactive approach with loyal customers using text, voice, online, and chat. Restaurants depend on this feedback… Read more »
Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Though it isn’t exactly the same as we are discussing today, for three decades or more Europe has been using pay-at-table. The value is that the card never leaves the diner’s sight, it is fast and saves the waitstaff from having to go back and forth to accept the payment. Fortunately, two restaurants in our neighborhood have adopted pay-at-the table as they use in Europe.

I have difficulties with the other two options. When I go out to eat, I want to connect with the waiter. With the menu option, scrolling the pages is simply an annoyance compared to having the entire menu right in front of you. And how many time does one have questions for the waiter? Similarly, ordering online with the search and touch for what you want is an annoyance and risks diner errors.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

QR codes may work well in some restaurants. But I detect a hint of self-serving research here. Any time a technology claims to be the key to success, I run the other way. Technology is merely a tool which might be useful creating YOUR uniquely successful restaurant. It also can mislead any operation into high costs which make customers dissatisfied.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

I am in for order/pay-at-table with a tablet or mobile device, but I am not in for QR code menus. Detailed menus are difficult to read on phones and are much easier to read and make decisions about in larger formats. Plus I still like the interaction with the servers so they get order exceptions correct.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Pay-at-table is both obvious and important. The QR code thing doesn’t mean much in a post-pandemic world. The opportunity for fraud when your credit card leaves your hand is too big, so I think it’s the most important tech.

DeAnn Campbell
BrainTrust

There will always be consumers – of all ages – who prefer analog, but the convenience to both business and customer with QR enabled menus and mobile payment are too compelling not to embrace. No more reprinting or crossing items off in pen every time a menu item changes. Our phones rarely leave our hands these days anyway, so I’m not sure how scanning a code would interrupt the flow of conversation.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Just when we wrote off the emergence of the QR code, it has had a resurgence during the pandemic and, in particular, plays a significant role with contactless commerce. While the QR code has made it more efficient for menus and pay-at-table options, the technology should not replace the customer experience part of the restaurant journey.

The QR code solutions have resulted in many efficiencies and cost savings for restaurants that have had to endure such horrible disruptions during the pandemic. However we should not expect that efficiencies and cost-saving methods are why customers go to restaurants. They should continue to focus on their brand proposition, what makes the restaurant unique, and the service levels that will bring customers back for more.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

The question is, will technology become a difference maker when selecting a restaurant? For some, as noted in the article, the answer is yes. However, beyond QR menus and pay-at-table, what technology is desired by potential customers? Electronic reservations and call ahead seating seem to have real differential advantages to customers. How about technologies that blast the restaurant’s features of the day either via email or text? How about recommended menu items based on previous visits? The key is to use technology beyond simplification of the process. Technology can be used to enhance the relationship between restaurants and customers. Look what social media has done in this area.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

First of all not a surprise that Paytronix Systems thinks that these technologies are what consumers want, given that they sell them. Pay-at-table is great — as long as you have a credit card, and advanced ordering may be okay most of the time, but there is more to a dining experience and service than efficiency. So for quick service operations it probably makes all the sense in the world; for other foodservice operators, some technologies may make more sense than others — and some make no sense at all. It all comes down to the customer, the operator, and the brand promise.

James Tenser
BrainTrust

Yes, those QR code menus feel intrusive to me (who wants another PDF cluttering up their phone storage?). And I agree strongly with the sentiment that a meal out (any meal?) should be a time to mute and pocket the phones and interact with fellow diners. Printed menus engender conversation about the food choices too — a pleasant ritual.

Pay at the table can be a true enhancement, although absolutely hate those greasy screens bolted to the tables at some chain restaurants. The best experience so far is when the server brings a hand-held terminal to the table after the meal and lets you swipe your card (or tap your phone) and discreetly add a gratuity.

Has anyone invented a digital equivalent to those little portfolios nicer restaurants use to deliver the cheque? I’d argue for a similar form factor, which would allow diners a few private moments to consider how much to tip.

Anil Patel
BrainTrust

Absolutely. Every person, be it Gen Z or a millennial or senior citizen, has reached a certain level of digital acceptance and expects digital capabilities to do basic tasks like order and pay while sitting in a restaurant. The QR code-based menu is not only easy to use but also reduces the waiting time. Moreover, with QR-based solutions, restaurant owners and staff can automate the workflow and leave the applications to do all the hard work while focussing more on things that interest their customers and help serve them better. Restaurant staff can increase their productivity and customer satisfaction by delivering superior customer engagement and reducing errors.

Pay-at-table is a growing trend that needs more adoption. At present, most restaurants have waiters who arrive at the tables with QR codes for payment and bills or a credit card machine for payment. Pay-at-table will cut down this waiting time at restaurants having loud music and noise.

John Hennessy
BrainTrust

QR code menus are generally a mess. Sometimes they open a web page. Sometimes download a PDF that you might have to find on your device. Often a challenge to read.
But Toast app! Game changer. Terrific interface (admittedly based on a limited menu restaurant). Select items and quantities, order in app, pay in app. QR code unique to table so food and beverage finds you. Table of 12 friends. At least eight separate tickets each managed by an individual or couple. Fair distribution of bill as each owns own order and payment. A few runners needed to bring food and beverage to table. No hard to find waiters and waitresses. Fast service as your order goes directly to kitchen. I am a huge fan of the integration of personalized order control and in app payment that the Toast app delivers. I would choose a restaurant for a large group based on it offering Toast.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Technology should be a supporting role of a meal, not the main focus. Technology that eases friction and makes the overall dining experience more enjoyable is key."
"Pay-at-table is both obvious and important. The QR code thing doesn’t mean much in a post-pandemic world."
"Pay-at-table has been in Europe for many years — way ahead of the U.S. so the trend in the U.S. will grow quite nicely in the coming years."

Take Our Instant Poll

Which of the following do you think is the most important technology in use in restaurants today?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...