QR codes are having a moment. Chances are, anyone visiting a restaurant during the height of the pandemic was either introduced or reintroduced to scanning those black squares first made popular in the early 2000s.

According to PYMNTS, contactless payments have surged by 150 percent in the U.S. since March 2019, which, in turn, has boosted QR code adoption by 11 percent since the pandemic began. 

Part of why QR codes have gained so much popularity among restaurants has to do with the convenience and safety they offered at the height of the pandemic. No more menu handling or interactions with waitstaff. With the scan of a QR code, restaurant patrons could access the menu and even order directly from their phones.

Let’s look at how QR codes have fast become an integral part of the way restaurants do business and how you can further explore the technology at your establishment.

The Digital Swiss Army Knife

Let’s look at how QR codes have fast become an integral part of the way restaurants do business and how you can further explore the technology at your establishment.

Online ordering

According to the National Restaurant Association, a quarter of restaurant operators across all sectors added the functionality of in-app or online ordering during the pandemic. This was primarily done to promote social distancing and reduce the amount of time servers spent at tables.

The verdict is still out on online ordering and preferences vary generationally. According to the National Restaurant Association’s consumer survey, Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers prefer traditional table service (69 and 67 percent, respectively). On the other hand, 55 percent of Gen Z adults prefer electronic alternatives. 


The National Restaurant Association found that 40 percent of operators implemented contactless or mobile payments as an added safety measure. For nearly a quarter of restaurant guests, the availability of these options was a contributing factor when choosing where to dine. 

Waitstaff Support

Tom Sharon, co-founder of Cheqout, told the New York Times that using QR code menus with the added functionality of ordering and payments could reduce restaurant labor costs by up to 50 percent. California-based Blu Jam Café moved to self-service, QR-code based ordering because doing so is touchless, safe and has reduced labor requirements by about 8 percent.

Loyalty Program Integration

Loyalty programs and reward schemes can also be integrated into QR code menu usage, particularly when linked with digital payments. Loyalty points can be added directly from within an app linked to a diner’s account. 

Restaurants can also integrate reward schemes into the dining experience by adding a call–to-action (CTA) to the landing page that diners can access upon scanning the QR code. They can then earn discounts on their orders or enter giveaways by signing up for a newsletter, downloading an app, following the establishment on social media or filling out a feedback survey.  

Data collection

QR codes also present a great data collection opportunity for restaurants. By using a CTA or asking diners to sign into a digital platform, restaurants have the unique opportunity to learn more about every person sitting at the table.

Starbucks uses the data it collects via QR codes to offer customers a more personalized experience through the Starbucks mobile app. The recommendations the app gives are based on several factors, including each particular store’s inventory, the weather, local favorites and the customer’s previous orders.

The Future is Quick Response

The comeback kid—the QR code—is likely here to stay. They are predicted to grow by up to 240 percent by 2025. Ultimately, QR codes allow restaurants to do more with less, from ordering from a digital menu to paying to providing a paper-free receipt. It integrates with loyalty programs and collects data so restaurants can provide a more personalized experience.

Doubt the QR code and be left behind. Welcome it in and you have a whole new avenue for connecting with customers in a safety-conscious, post-pandemic world.

Dirk Izzo serves as President and GM of NCR Hospitality. He is a seasoned leader with experience in building and marketing innovative cloud-based solutions to help clients optimize their business performance. In his current role, Dirk is responsible for developing simple and innovative solutions that run the restaurant from end to end. NCR is the technology provider of choice for restaurants around the world and Dirk is focused on delivering the next-generation software, hardware and services that delivers on what customers want, when they want it.

Outside Insights, Story, Technology