QR Codes For Restaurants - Why They Are Your New Best Friend: Restaurant Idea Roundup

Prima Restaurant Equipment about us page QR Code

Pop Quiz: What does "QR" stand for? If you answered "Quasar Re-invigoration" then you are close... not really, it just means you watch too much Star Trek. The "QR" in QR Code stands for "Quick Response". Up until recently, when a company would attempt to draw a consumer's interest to a certain product or service, it would use various channels such as newspapers, billboards, tv advertising, the internet, and many other methods. Unfortunately, one of the problems with these methods is the dreaded time in-between the interest sparked by the ad, and the conversion action taken by the consumer. A person might be interested to see that Southwest Airlines is advertising cheap flights on a billboard in Times Square, but then is immediately distracted by the guitar playing man in underwear, not to mention that report he needs to get on his boss's desk by 3pm. By the time he gets home to his computer, he has totally and completely forgotten about the ad.

Potentially, the ad was interesting enough for him to remember it in three weeks when he is looking for airline tickets for the holidays, but by then it is an old promotion and he has missed out on a good deal and Southwest has missed out on a customer. The problem in this instance is not the ad itself, the promotion, or even the brand name, the problem is that age old enemy of life itself: time. The businessman in our scenario had every intention of checking into the advertisement that initially arrested his interest, but over time (and with other distractions), he simply forgot.

With the advent of advanced mobile technology, smartphones, and most recently, the QR Code, the battle for a "quick response" by a consumer has progressed significantly. No more will marketing departments hope that the consumer is carrying around a pad of sticky notes, or some kind of recording device (remember Palm Pilots? :) to record all of the interesting advertisements he wants to take action on at a later time. Now, a consumer can see an ad and act on it immediately. This has been done to some degree with mobile accessible portable devices, however there is still the danger of a consumer not seeing exactly what you (the company) wants them to see.

  • What if they don't type in the URL correctly (I HATE typing on touch screens... who's with me)? So you make it simpler...
  • But the simpler the URL is, the more general the page tends to be and you risk losing your customer (because who likes searching around on a mobile website for 10 mins trying to find the right product/page?). So you use a URL shortener like Bit.ly...
  • But then you have lost branding and, anyway, those URL's are really hard to type in unless you literally stop everything else you are doing and "look up at the URL, look down at the phone, up, down, up, down, up, down".

The solution of course is to have a unique identifier that can go directly to a highly specific URL, that only takes seconds to input, and that can be easily identified as such.

Enter the QR Code. The QR Code is specifically designed to meet these needs (see example in the first image) and has officially bridged the gap between the physical world and the online community. The QR Code is becoming more recognizable in the US and since 95.8 million people in the US use a smartphone, it is only a matter of time before we see these QR codes everywhere and on everything. Because of this growing interest, I thought it would be helpful to identify specific ways that the restaurant industry can benefit from using QR Codes as well as giving some practical tips on best practices for using them (also, if you have a smartphone, make sure to scan all of the QR Codes I included in this post as they go to various interesting videos and pictures of ways people have used QR Codes).

restaurants need to take advantage of qr codes for marketing

How To Create QR Codes For Your Restaurant

The first step is getting a QR Code, which you can get from one of the many free code generators out there. For URL QR Codes I personally prefer using Google's URL Shortener or Bit.ly (they will build a QR Code for you when you shorten a URL). For QR codes involving text, phone numbers, or SMS messages, Kaywa is a good, free tool that works. Since URL QR Codes have a few more steps involved, we will be focusing more specifically on them in this next section. Here are the steps you need to take in order to create QR Codes for URL's. After we look at these, we will then discuss various ways you can use QR Codes to get people into your store to try your amazing and unique food!

  1. Identify Your Landing Page - Before creating a QR Code, you need to decide which page will best leverage what you are trying to accomplish. Are you putting a code on a business card? Then making your "About Us" page be the landing page makes sense. Are you putting a QR Code in an advertisement about why your pizza is the best in the city? Then perhaps you want a page that shows a step-by-step process of how you make your pizza. Don't forget that the more specific your landing page is to the location and context of your QR Code, the better you have of getting your customer to be interested in trying your restaurant out. Here is the number one thing to keep in mind with landing pages and QR Codes: every visitor from that QR Code will be on a mobile platform (smartphone or tablets like the iPad2) so make sure your landing page is easily viewable on a mobile phone. Oh and this goes without saying so I will say it: Make sure you check the QR Code landing page link before printing a bajillion business cards. I made the mistake of doing this once... never again. Get 1 or 2 people with smartphones to check the QR Code page on their phones BEFORE your send the code out to every customer.

    QR Code of a video featuring a QR haircut

  2. Track Your Landing Page - Once you have decided on your landing page, make sure you are tracking every visitor who will use that QR Code. When we use QR Codes, we run them through this Google URL Builder so that we can tell exactly who is accessing our Code and where. Then, using FREE Google Analytics, we can track the visitors specifically from these QR Codes and analyze which codes/ads/promotions work better and which we should continue to optimize. To use the URL Tracker from Google, simply enter in your information into the provided slots (or go to this video for a tutorial: Google Analytics URL Builder) and then copy the resulting URL. BTW, (1) tracking these will (of course) only work if you are sending traffic to your website (not to youtube or facebook or anywhere else) and; (2) if you are not currently using any sort of Analytics to track your website traffic then that is the first step you need to take (read this post for more information on that: Enhancing Customer Loyalty Through Online Channels).
  3. Shorten Your Landing Page URL - Once you have your ultra long URL with tracking parameters, enter it into a URL shortener like Goo.gl or Bit.ly. This is actually an important step because, the more information that is input into a QR Code, the more complex the QR Code will be. The more complex the QR Code is, the larger it has to be to be scannable.
  4. Create Your QR Code - If you are using either Google or Bit.ly then you will have a QR Code automatically created. Simply copy that image (Ctrl+C or right click on it and select "Copy").
  5. Place Your QR Code - Once you have copied your Code, find somewhere that you want to place it and "paste" it there (Ctrl+V or right click and select "paste"). Make sure it is large enough so that someone can easily scan it with their phone. There are various places you can put QR Codes so get creative! For one creative example, check out this video involving a very large QR Code, a racetrack, and skydiving.

    Another important thing to take note of is that your QR Code needs to have a call to action near it. People are still a little unsure of what to think of QR Codes and people with smartphones don't just scan every code because it's there. Entice them to scan it. For example, my wife owns a photography business and when we designed her business cards, we put a QR Code on the back with a link to her albums online. We didn't just leave it to fend for itself though, we designed a little arrow pointing to it with "Check out some of my pics" text next to it. Now people see that and think, "well I would like to see how good or horrible she is before I call her so I might just check it out". If we didn't say anything, people might assume it goes to her website home page, or just shows her contact info, or whatever else could potentially show up.
  6. Track Your QR Code - Using your analytics platform, visit the "referral sources" screen and find the "source" that you entered in (maybe it was QR Code). Drink it in and use this data to change the way you use QR Codes in the future. Does the QR Code on your menus tend to get far more clicks than the QR Code on your business cards? Figure out how to better optimize the business cards. Maybe change the call to action text? Once you have this information, you are empowered to change for the better.
QR Code on a T-shirt

How To Best Implement QR Codes For Your Website

Now that you know how to create QR Codes, what are some legitimate ways you can use them for your restaurant? Well, I have compiled a few ideas below. Obviously, these will not work perfectly for everyone so their main purpose is to get you thinking about ways you could use QR Codes to better serve your customers and your restaurant. Here are some possible ways that you as a restaurant can implement QR Codes:

  • Business Cards - This is the obvious one of the bunch, but still good to implement. If you as a manager or owner have cards you can hand to people, put a QR Code on the back with call-to-action text near it, "See our menu" or "Watch this video of our restaurant". It could even be as simple as being a link to your website homepage so they can check you out. Maybe it is a link to your Google Places account so they can instantly get directions. Get creative with what things people would be interested to see on your cards!
  • Print Advertisements - Do you advertise in a local magazine or newspaper of some sort? Insert a QR Code into the advertisement with a link to any of the ideas on the business card point above. Don't just hope that people are finding you with this print media, you can track anyone who comes from that print media! Of course, here is where the results will not be as accurate until smartphones and QR Codes become more common, but it never hurts to be ahead of the curve. Get creative!
  • Menus - This is one that you could have fun with. What if, instead of hoping they believe your "Humongous Juicy Bacon Cheeseburger Plate" is actually humongous & juicy, you put a QR Code on your menu so that the user can watch a video of the burger being prepared online while waiting for the waitress to return to take his order! I see this as killing two birds with one stone. You put great quality images and videos of your food on your website (so you are getting a GOOD website and avoiding these mistakes restaurants often make with their websites), and you use that information in your establishment as people are waiting to order.

    Another menu QR Code idea: have a small card/menu you hand out to people waiting to be seated and instead of them wasting time watching the football game or the screaming child on the bench (and praying that child will not be seated in their section), they spend their time watching videos of YOUR food and getting an idea of why your restaurant is special. All without talking to any of your incredibly busy waitstaff (you have a full house right now, remember?), because you have a great mobile website. I honestly think this is my favorite QR Code idea for restaurants. It may be a crazy marketing scheme at this time that has no real benefit, but if the market is correct and smartphone usage continues to become the norm for the average person, it is really not too far off to imagine that QR Codes used in this way will also become the norm. Get creative!

  • See this mashable post on creative QR Codes

  • Receipts - So a customer pays for their order and heads for the door. Attract them into coming back with a QR Code that takes them to a printable page with their receipt number automatically added to a "10% off your next visit with us" coupon. Or if information is more important to you, then have it take the user to a short 3 question survey (remember that it can be difficult to type on a smartphone so keep it short and easy). Get creative!
  • Your Building - I know you want to, so please laugh and get it out of your system. *waits* Ok, now that you have laughed in derision, please take a second to think about this idea seriously. Paint a QR Code on the side of your building. If you are in a busy city, I guarantee that there are people who walk/bike/drive by you into their office every day and have never eaten at your restaurant. Maybe they have actually never really noticed you. Change that by putting a 4 foot QR Code on the side of your building that takes them to a "Who We Are" Page with images of your food and hours. Or send them to your Google Places page so they can easily see that information as well as have driving directions for the next time saved easily. Get Creative!
  • "Hours" Sign - We've all been there. Been wanting to check out that new place but neglected to get the information on it until we arrived at the door and then realized it was closed on Mondays. Put a QR Code on your "Hours Open" sign with a link to your Google Places Page (this is the less courageous version of painting a 4 ft Code on the side of your building) so that they can know where to come back once they want to try again in the hours you are open. Or send them somewhere else, but wherever you send them... Get Creative!

What Are Your Ideas?

So those are ways that you can create and implement the use of QR Codes in your own restaurant world. Hopefully it has sparked some ideas in your brain. If you do think of some other great ways that QR Codes could be used by restaurants, do us all a favor and share them in the comments below!

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Disqus - noscript

I just found this blogpost dealing with more ideas for Restaurants & QR Codes.  Some great ideas! http://notixtech.com/blog/16-q... 

Of course, you should know that not everybody likes QR Codes and there are those who think they are a thing of the past.  Here are a few articles you may find interesting as you wrestle with whether or not to implement these in your restaurant:

1) "CBS: SMS More Valuable than QR Codes" - http://www.mobilemarketer.com/...  

Make sure to take note of the comments on the article as well.  Here's my quick response.  While I agree that SMS will immediately reach more individuals than QR Codes, I disagree with the philosophy driving this (i.e., "We will not use QR, but will replace them with SMS Messages") because it is an either/or logical fallacy.  My number one question: "Why can't you use both for now until smartphones become more prevalent?"  It's humorous that one of the reasons CBS gives for this decision is that it takes an extra step for someone to download a scanner... how is having them dial a phone number to verify their phone, so that they can receive a text message, so that they can then click through on the link in that message more convenient?!

Bottom line, I still stick with my premise that even though QR Codes might be phased out for another similar, not yet invented, method... the basic premise behind them is that they marry the physical world with the online world in a quick painless process (I mean, you have to download the scanner once on your phone and then you have it for every other QR code... it's not like you have to download it every-time you want to scan a Code).

2) "QR Codes Already Obsolete?" - http://www.ericsiegmund.com/fi...

I really appreciate his comments on Google's announcement that they are officially dropping QR Codes.  The idea of the NFC chip coincides with the philosophy of why QR Codes work (i.e., they marry the physical world to the online world), however I agree with him that there is no way small businesses (and even big businesses for some things) can get the chips embedded into coffee cups and menus and all other forms of randomness.