Now that we’re no longer in a pandemic, can we stop using QR code menus?

I miss physical menus.

Fasiha Nazren |
February 28, 2023, 1:36 pm

As a Gen Z, I am all for technological advancements.

iPod Touch? Way ahead of its time. ChatGPT? Wish it existed when I was still in school. Automated taps in public toilets? Best invention since sliced bread.

But QR code menus? No, thank you.

Photo by Fasiha Nazren.

Yeah, QR code menus are great but…

The concept of QR code menus was borne out of necessity thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In theory, there’s almost nothing to hate about it.

It keeps interaction with wait staff to a minimum, you don’t have to wait for a physical menu to be handed to you and it’s apparently more hygienic because you don’t have to come into contact with the menu, which is a high-touch surface.

It’s probably helpful for restauranteurs as well because it means lesser manpower is required, what with the manpower crunch the F&B industry is facing right now.

Bonus points for the eco-conscious: It’s not printed on paper. Yay, earth!

I’m sorry, I’m no Jane Goodall. I like my menus printed, preferably in colour.

Photo by Mikayla Lee.

Why, you ask?

Milking my 10% service charge

I’m not necessarily saying the service of an eatery is bad if they use QR code menus.

I’m saying there’s potential to provide better service, especially when some restaurants impose a 10% service charge for dine-in.

Yes, QR code menus can be more convenient. But at what cost?

Photo by Fasiha Nazren.

The “QR” in QR code stands for “quick response” but it sure doesn’t feel quick when I have to key in my credit card details (as is mostly the case when you order via QR code menus) before my order is sent to the kitchen.

Meanwhile, during the pre-QR code menu era, the wait staff would take my card when I ask for the bill.

If I’m paying a 10% service charge (on top of 8% GST), I hope to at least feel the “serv(e)” in “service”.

Am I asking for too much if I want to have someone tell me the specials and recommend me the crowd’s favourites instead of squinting at a PDF file on my phone? 🙁

Hello?? Why are you using your phone??

So why did we meet for dinner again??? To be glued to our screen, is it??? Oh my god, I’m turning into my mother.

To me, the whole point of dining out is to put our smartphones away and catch up with one another.

Thanks to QR code menus, I’m forced to use my phone to place an order.

Photo by Mandy How.

And because a phone is too small to look at together compared to a physical menu, everyone else scans the QR code on their phones to look at the menu.

Before you know it, everyone’s checking their emails or scrolling through Instagram. Tsk, tsk.

This is not a slippery slope fallacy, ok. It’s backed by actual ~research~.

A study from 2018 put 300 people to share a meal at a restaurant with friends or family. They were randomly assigned to keep their phones on the table or put their phones away during the meal.

Guess who didn’t enjoy their meal as much? Those with phones on the table, of course.

Participants felt more distracted and reported lower enjoyment when phones were present.

“Girl, how to order?”

I love my parents, I really do.

My adoration for them is truly tested when I bring them to an eatery that uses a QR code menu.

If you’ve tried teaching your parents how to navigate Instagram, use the SingPass app or leave a Shopee review, you probably understand what I’m talking about.

“Where’s the menu? How to scan?”

*Attempts to zoom an unzoomable menu* “What’s this? I cannot see.”

“Oh no, I accidentally closed the apps (yes, with an “s”). How to go back?”

Then it ends with an exasperated “Can you help me order?”

I’m not even annoyed, though. In fact, I feel bad that the less technologically adept folks have to deal with this newfangled way of ordering food in restaurants.

I’d imagine it’s like me attempting to use an Android phone — excruciatingly hard, and for what???

Bring back physical menus, please

Singapore has more or less gone back to pre-pandemic life: DORSCON green, the disbandment of the Multi-Ministry Taskforce, and no more masks in public transport.

To make it all right in the world again, can we please bring back more physical menus?

Top image from Fasiha Nazren and Mandy How.

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