Matt Case - June 5th, 2024 - 7:56am PDT 

    Restaurants Ditch QR Code Menus After Customer Backlash

    NEW YORK — In a win for diners who loathe QR codes, more restaurants are abandoning the trend of using smartphone-accessed menus.

    The shift comes after widespread customer complaints about scanning QR codes to view menu options. Many establishments are reverting to traditional paper menus as a response.

    Initially popularized during the pandemic to reduce the spread of COVID-19, QR codes allowed restaurants to cut costs and, in some high-tech venues, streamline ordering without a server. While diners initially found the novelty intriguing, the charm quickly wore off. Squinting at smartphone screens to read food and drink options became tiresome, and privacy concerns arose over potential data tracking by QR code technology firms.

    Seniors, in particular, faced difficulties using the camera to scan the codes and navigating digital menus. Additionally, QR code menus were often deemed tacky, especially in upscale restaurants.

    Customer dissatisfaction grew, with many voicing their frustrations directly to restaurants and on social media. Some diners, like Oz du Soleil, even walked out of restaurants due to QR code menus. "It's like self-checkout or putting your own IKEA stuff together," the 59-year-old software trainer told the Wall Street Journal, expressing both frustration with the navigation and privacy concerns.

    In response, many sit-down restaurants are returning to paper menus, while some are opting for a hybrid approach where QR codes provide supplementary information or payment options.

    "In the restaurant industry, the QR code menu is seen as a little bit tacky," says Teddie King, director of operations at Zuma, a Japanese restaurant chain that stopped using QR codes two years ago.

    Rich Fox, operating owner of Yes Parade Restaurant Group in Seattle, acknowledged that phone-accessed menus make it easier to update prices and items but conceded that they irritate both customers and servers. He noted that check values dipped ten percent because diners didn't scroll through the entire menu, preferring the ease of flipping through a paper menu.

    As a result of these widespread complaints, the era of QR code menus appears to be waning, with traditional paper menus making a strong comeback in restaurants across the country.