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The QR Code Effect: How Tech is Transforming the Restaurant Industry

Re-posted with permission from “Deep Dives into Digital Transformations” by Alison Grieve

I’d been doing some research for this article last week, and it just so happened that on Friday night, as I headed out for a relaxed meal with my husband to celebrate our anniversary, the subject of QR code ordering became particularly relevant to my own customer journey.

Our initial interaction with staff at the restaurant we’d chosen was great; we were seated quickly, ordered soon after and we didn’t have long to wait for our food and drink.

However, once we finished our mains and were ready to order more drinks and a dessert, we found ourselves waiting… and waiting… and waiting to catch the attention of a member of staff during a busy service.

I remembered back to a conversation I’d had earlier that week with Chris Timms, Head of Solutions at QikServe, industry leaders in digital order and pay solutions for restaurants.

“There are many good reasons for having staff members take initial orders for starters and mains in restaurants. The priority is always to get customers seated and ordering as quickly as possible,” explained Chris, having previously been a restaurant operator early on in his career. “But where operators typically lose out on revenue is in those later drinks and desserts. Customers are still in their seats but the flow of service, and revenue for the operator, is put on hold.”

The issue has become magnified over the past couple of years with the shortage of labor throughout the restaurant industry causing the average server to be spread across a larger number of tables than they were prior to the pandemic.

Back at date night, my husband and I decided to wait no more, paying at the register and wandering off in search of another restaurant to take the money for drinks and desserts that we would have gladly given to the first had there been a quick and easy way to do so… like a QR code ordering system.

QR code order and pay solutions: revenue growth and customer adoption

Taking my Friday night experience as an example, the extra drinks and desserts accounted for 29.9% of our total spend for the evening.

When I relayed my experience back to Chris at Qikserve, including the proportion of spend that the first restaurant had lost, he wasn’t at all surprised.

“The impact on revenue growth when we launch a QR code order and pay at table system in restaurants is immediate,” explained Chris.  “QikServe’s data shows a consistent increase of over 27% in spend per cover following that one simple enhancement to service offering. And it’s not just about revenue; enhancing the guest experience keeps great customers coming back.”

Daniel Rogers, inventor of QR code order and pay solutions and founder of Qikserve, came up with the idea of using QR codes for ordering following a trip to London where he was faced with the classic dilemma of leaving his young kids on their own at a table while he waited in line to order or bringing them with him and risk losing the table.  At that time, QR code technology was in its infancy and required specific apps in order to scan the image.

Apple introduced a QR code scanner into its iPhone cameras in 2017, providing immediate access to over 700 million iPhone users. Even then, however, critics were sceptical about whether there would be mass adoption of the technology.

The QikServe team, that has grown from three in 2012 to over one hundred today, had to develop not only expert knowledge around the technology itself (which now integrates with over 100 POS, payment, loyalty and delivery systems) but also gain a deep understanding of the psychology of the guest experience, learning how to simplify digital journeys for both customers and operators.

Fast-forward to today, customer adoption of QR code scanning in the USA increased by 26% in the two years from 2020.  While the pandemic was clearly the catalyst that drove the change, the convenient, efficient, personalized service offered by mobile ordering has become a standard expectation for many restaurant and hotel guests.

Data from QikServe’s own platform reveals a consistent adoption rate of over 90% following QR code order and pay implementations. The QikServe platform transacts revenues of over $500 million for its customers each year, which range from 5000 site coffee chains to five star hotel groups, such as Wynn Resorts.

How does a QR code order and pay solution improve customer experience?

Having informally surveyed a few of my foodie friends, and based on some anonymized data insights provided by the QikServe team, I’ve compiled a list of the main reasons guests choose to use QR codes for elements of their ordering and paying in restaurants, cafes and hotels:

  1. Convenience: QR code order and pay at table systems enable customers to browse the menu, place orders throughout the duration of their visit, and make payments directly from their mobile devices without the need to wait for a server to take their order or bring the bill. This creates a seamless dining experience and saves time.
  2. Contactless and hygienic: We are still living in an era of increased hygiene awareness (one of my friends said they’ll never touch a physical menu again).  QR code solutions minimize physical contact and the handling of traditional menus or payment terminals. Customers can simply scan the QR code using their own devices, reducing the risk of germ or virus transmission.
  3. Improved order accuracy: By placing orders directly through a QR code system, customers can ensure their selections are accurately recorded.  It reduces the possibility of miscommunication or mistakes that can occur when placing orders verbally with a server.  This is particularly relevant for hotel resorts with guests from all over the world. QikServe introduced multi-language menu management specifically for this purpose.
  4. Customization and information: QR code systems can provide customers with detailed information about menu items, including ingredients, allergen information, nutritional values, and specials.  This empowers customers to make informed choices and cater to their specific preferences or dietary restrictions. A few years ago, on a spontaneous road trip to Arizona, my cousin ordered a slice of cake from what was then Rosie’s Den Cafe.  She didn’t realize it had nuts in the frosting, but her nut allergy soon told her in the form of a swollen tongue and lips. We could definitely have done with an online menu that day!
  5. Faster service: With QR code ordering, customers can have their orders sent directly to the kitchen and bar, minimizing the time between placing the order and receiving the food and beverages.  It can help expedite the dining experience, particularly during busy periods, as it eliminates potential delays caused by manual order taking.
  6. Splitting bills and payment flexibility: QR code systems often offer the ability to split bills among a group of diners, allowing each person to pay for their portion individually.  This eliminates the hassle of manual bill calculations and makes splitting expenses more convenient.
  7. Loyalty rewards and promotions: QR code solutions can integrate loyalty programs, discounts, and promotional offers directly into the ordering and payment process.  This encourages customer engagement and provides incentives for repeat visits.

Taking all the feedback onboard, it’s hard to imagine why a restaurant or hotel, wouldn’t have a QR order and pay system to at least augment the in-person servers.  But how difficult is such a system to implement, and how should restaurants go about selecting an appropriate vendor?

How to review technology vendors and select the right QR code order and pay system for restaurants

As with any digital transformation project (or even a simple technology integration), choosing the right vendor can really make the difference between your tech rollout leading to a 27% increase in revenue to an unmitigated disaster! To make the process easier for operators looking at implementing a QR code order and pay at table system, I have put together a checklist to work through, regardless of whether integrating with existing systems or starting from scratch:

  1. Identify your requirements: Determine the specific features and functionalities you need from the QR code system. Consider aspects such as ease of use, customization options, integration with your POS system, security measures, analytics capabilities, and customer support.
  2. Research potential vendors: Look for reputable technology vendors that specialize in QR code solutions for restaurants. Research their track record, read customer reviews, and assess their expertise in the industry. I had a read through various case studies for this article and found this one about Wahaca was interesting as they’d started with just one part of the digital journey initially (using QR codes for payment) but then expanded to more areas of service. I’ll be checking out Wahaca for myself later this week and will be sure to report back on my experience! UPDATE – check out my video of my digital journey at Wahaca.
  3. Evaluate vendor capabilities: Request demonstrations or trials from shortlisted vendors. Assess the user interface, user experience, speed, reliability, and compatibility with various existing technology. Test the ordering, payment, and customization processes to ensure they align with your expectations. I asked QikServe whether they provide demos and they directed me to this contact form . I also asked if they could service restaurants in multiple geographies and they assured me that they work with customers in over 40 countries globally due to their work with multi-brand, multi-brand hotel groups.
  4. Integration and compatibility: Check whether the QR code system can seamlessly integrate with your existing POS system and other relevant technologies. Compatibility is crucial to ensure smooth operations and accurate data synchronization.  This is where QikServe really blew my mind.  I had assumed that tech companies typically push their own solutions onto prospective customers, in the same way that it’s so dang frustrating to use Microsoft apps on an iPad!  However, after speaking to the team at QikServe, I learned that technology integrations has been a key part of their strategy and resulting growth over the past decade, with an unrelenting focus on making life simple for operators. QikServe now has over one hundred integrations and counting; the philosophy being: if you can’t play nicely with others, you shouldn’t be at the party.
  5. Security measures: Evaluate the security features provided by the vendor, such as encryption, secure payment processing, and data protection. Ensure they comply with industry standards and regulations, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).  If you opt for QikServe Payments, you’ll be using a system powered by Stripe, with enhanced AI-driven fraud detection.
  6. Scalability and support: Consider the vendor’s ability to handle your restaurant chain’s size and future growth. Evaluate their customer support services, response time, and availability to address any issues or technical difficulties. This is also absolutely vital for large hotel resorts. QikServe’s COO, Sif Rai, explained that there have been so many vendors appear in the market over the past decade but they lack the experience, expertise and resilience to truly partner with larger chains that require complex integrations, problem solving and operational knowhow in diverse geographies and across multiple brands. It’s therefore important to research the history of a vendor and work with one that will have the sticking power to enable your growth.
  7. Pricing and contracts: Review the pricing structure, including setup costs, transaction fees, and ongoing maintenance charges. Scrutinize contract terms, service level agreements (SLAs), and any additional fees associated with upgrades or customization. Look for systems that show exactly what fees are going where so you don’t get any nasty surprises further down the line.

To make the transition as smooth as possible consider these planning steps:

Having come from an operational background, then overseeing the digital transformation projects for literally thousands of restaurant sites since joining QikServe, Chris Timms has a wealth of knowledge to help steer operators through the planning process to avoid any potential pitfalls, and help QR code and payment setups go as smoothly as possible.

  1. Define clear objectives: Establish specific goals for implementing the QR code system. Outline the desired outcomes, such as improved efficiency, enhanced customer experience, or increased revenue. If you have these objectives in place from the outset, it will be easier to measure the success of the system further down the line.
  2. Involve staff early on: Include staff in the decision-making process and communicate the benefits of the QR code system. Engage them in training sessions and address any concerns or questions they may have. Chris cites this aspect of planning to be the most important in successful implementations. Operations teams are absolutely crucial in making an implementation of QR code ordering successful, so it’s absolutely vital that they are included in the decision making process as early on as possible. Even marketing departments are sometimes included too late in the process and menus have to be redesigned with updated photographs as nobody checked with marketing before rolling out a system.
  3. Test and pilot: Before fully implementing the QR code system, conduct testing and pilot runs in a controlled environment. Gather feedback from staff and select customers to make necessary adjustments and ensure a seamless experience.
  4. Communicate with customers: Prior to launching the QR code system, inform customers about the upcoming change. Use various communication channels such as email newsletters, social media, website updates, and in-store signage to educate them about the new ordering and payment process.
  5. Provide customer support: Offer readily available customer support channels, such as on-site assistance, online chat, or a dedicated support hotline, to address any questions or issues customers may encounter while using the QR code system. I found it interesting to discover, contrary to what servers might assume, that tips are consistently higher when guests pay via their mobiles than when using chip and pin, so it’s worthwhile training those on the frontline of foodservice to become advocates of digital journeys as it is likely to benefit them as much as the restaurants.

I learned a lot writing this article.  I don’t think I’d ever really thought about how simple it would be to change an experience of dining out from disappointing to excellent with just a simple scan of a QR code.  I learned just how much revenue is lost for, really, no good reason.  And, more than anything, I learned just how committed QikServe has been for the past decade to transform what was once just a guy in a restaurant in London with an idea nobody really understood, into an international technology company, distilling complex tech platforms and integrations into simple, joyful guest experiences, whilst adding 27% onto the revenue streams of hospitality business around the world.  What a journey, indeed!

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