In our post-COVID world, “contactless” is the magic word when it comes to making people feel safe eating out again.

And thanks to QR code menu, going contactless just got a lot easier for restaurants. Short for “quick response barcodes,” QR codes have been around since the 1990s.

If you aren’t sure what we mean, they’re those funky looking squares filled with squiggles and lines. But all those squiggles and lines make it super easy to share a ton of information with your customers.

QR codes have been popular in Asian countries for decades, but never really took off in the United States until now, when folks in the restaurant industry realized they’re the perfect way to remove one of the most contact-heavy aspects of dining out: The menu.

Of course, if that’s all QR code menus were good for, they wouldn’t have become so popular so quickly, seeing a 750% increase since February of 2020. There are loads of other benefits, like the ability to update your menu instantly and manage promotions on the fly.

In this Ultimate Guide to QR Code Menus, you’ll learn all about quick response codes, best practices for how to use them, pros & cons, and how they’ll benefit your bottom line.

Let’s dive in!


  1. Why Restaurants Should Use QR Code Menus.
  2. Types Of Contactless Menus Available.
  3. Developing Safer Dining Experiences.
  4. How To Create A FREE QR Code Menu.
  5. Build A Better QR Code Menu.


What is a QR Code menu?

A QR code menu is a bar or restaurant menu that customers can access with a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. The diner uses their phone’s camera to scan the quick response code. Your menu then displays on their phone, allowing patrons to browse through your dishes.

Some QR code menus have an ordering system that allows guests to place an order, and even pay their bill – all without ever having to touch a physical menu or come in contact with a server.

How do QR code menus work?

It all starts with digitizing your menu. A QR code is then created and linked to your digital menu. The QR code works like a URL. Customers scan the code using the camera app on their phones, and are immediately taken to your digital menu.

There are two QR code types. One is static, which is perfect if you do not change your menu often. The other is a dynamic QR code which is perfect if your menu URL changes.

You can display your QR codes however and wherever you like:

  • In the front window.
  • At the hostess station.
  • Near the order counter.
  • On each table with stickers or table tents.

Once customers scan the QR code with their smartphone, a notification pops up. They then just touch the notification and view your digital, contactless menu. They can then scroll through your delicious offerings and place an order.

Do you need a QR code scanner app?

No, you don’t need a QR code scanner app. This is one of the greatest benefits to your customers, because there’s no need for them to download anything to their phone or tablet. They just scan your menu code (with their camera app), tap the notification that pops up on their phone, and start scrolling through your menu.

Why should restaurants use a QR code menu instead of a printed menu?

QR Code menu display

There are so many reasons you should use a QR code menu that this article could have been about nothing but that! In no particular order, we offer 7 reasons your restaurant should use a QR code menu instead of a printed one.

1. Contactless menus are safer for consumers.

Menus are one of the few restaurant items that go through dozens of hands each day without afterward being blasted with gallons of scorching hot water and bleach. And it’s one of the concerns diners voiced about going back to eating out once lockdown ended.

QR code menus also protect your staff from having to handle menus (or spend loads of time sanitizing them).

The CDC agrees, recommending that you replace physical menus with either single-use or digital options.

2. QR code menus are less wasteful.

In the wake of COVID-19, many bars and restaurants moved to disposable menus. Unfortunately, that method isn’t very sustainable either economically or ecologically.

3. Updating your menu is fast and easy

If you’re in the restaurant business, you don’t need us to tell you that commodity prices have gone up considerably over the past year. (If you’re still hosting 50-cent wing night, you know what we mean.)

With QR code menus, you can easily adjust pricing, change featured items, add and remove dishes from the menu, and more – instantly and across multiple locations. Oh, and let’s not forget another facet of our new post-COVID reality: Changes to your hours of operation. And you can post all of these changes without the added expense of redesigning and printing new menus.

4. You also increase profits with greater customer retention

People miss dining out, but many still don’t feel safe doing so. Make them feel safe by removing unnecessary contact – someone handing them a menu that others have touched – and they’ll be happy dining at your restaurant. And happy customers are repeat customers.

According to a report by Bain & Company, a 5% improvement in customer retention increases profits by more than 25%. The reason is twofold:

  • Returning customers spend more money with you over time.
  • They also tell others about their experience.

Your repeat customers can even share your QR code menu with other people.

Of course, not every customer turns into a repeat customer. Some may be on vacation while others follow discounts from one place to the next. That’s where our next benefit comes in.

5. Get to know your customers

QR code menus provide analytics that help you understand your customers’ behavior. Which days and times are the most hectic? Which menu items are consistently high sellers and which ones collect the proverbial dust?

6. Create real-time promotions.

The right promotion increases awareness of your brand and drives sales. And with the simplicity of making changes to a QR code menu, it’s never been easier to schedule a pop-up promotion and make changes to your featured items. What’s more, the analytics possible with QR code menus let you monitor your promotion and make adjustments as needed.

7. Increase restaurant reviews

One of the fastest ways to draw new customers into your restaurant is to have loads of great reviews. But even happy diners often forget to drop a line by the time they get home – especially if your restaurant wasn’t their last stop. Your QR codes could include a link to a satisfaction survey, making the review process seamless.


Types of QR Code menus

There are three basic types of digital, contactless menus:

  1. PDF format and Image menus
  2. Mobile-friendly website menus
  3. Interactive QR code menus

Why you shouldn’t use a PDF or image menu

PDF menus were the most common option when bars and restaurants first started creating digital menus. The simplicity of it makes it easy to understand why – just create a PDF of your physical menu and upload it. The process only took a minute or two.

The problem with PDF menus, of course, is that they aren’t responsive (meaning they aren’t mobile-friendly, so they don’t respond to different screen sizes). A PDF menu looks fine when viewed from a laptop or desktop. But try opening one on your phone. It looks, well, terrible.

The content is illegible and using your fingers to zoom in doesn’t help much. Even if the image doesn’t become too pixelated to read, it’s still impossible to scroll through.

PDF menus also don’t give the customer ordering options or have links to call. What’s more, they aren’t SEO-friendly, because search engines can’t read PDFs.

That means local searches (you know, those things that drive customers to your restaurant) are less likely to find you when someone types “tacos near me” into their phone.

That’s especially true if the word “taco” isn’t in your restaurant’s name.

Mobile-friendly website menus

Mobile-friendly menus are a big step up from PDF menus. They’re responsive, so prospective customers have no issue reading your menu or viewing enticing photos of your delicious food.

Interactive QR code menus

Customers can also easily browse through and even interact with your menu. You can even add a search function to make it easy for customers to just type in whatever food they crave and go directly to that item.

And again, they’re search-engine friendly, which makes it easier for prospective customers to find you.

Pros & cons of QR code menus

woman holding a phone to scan QR code menu

QR code menu pros

By now, we’ve described many pros of QR code menus, but as a reminder:

Safety: Contactless makes people feel more confident eating at – and working for – your restaurant.

Less wasteful: Printing disposable menus is expensive and not very “green.”

Updates are fast and easy: Making changes to your menu items, pricing, hours, and more can be done in only a few minutes.

Increased efficiency: Having patrons order through your QR code frees up servers to focus on side work, delivering orders, and other tasks. It also cuts down on miscommunication and order errors.

Happier customers: Giving your customers more accurate menus, more efficient service, and a contact-free experience keeps them coming back to your restaurant – and telling their friends about you.

Detailed analytics: Learn what your customers are ordering and when, how they interact with your business, and even how well your menu performs.

Create powerful promotions: Improved customer awareness makes it easier for you to offer impactful promotions and even make changes if needed.

Great looking menus: You get a menu that reflects your brand, from logos to fonts to colors.

Upselling and cross-selling: Automatically recommend side dishes, drink pairings, appetizers, and more for increased up- and cross-selling.

More reviews: Increase your restaurant’s online reviews by creating QR codes that link to satisfaction surveys.

QR code menu cons

The only real “con” we’ve found with QR code menus is a hesitancy to use the technology among older diners.

Use has picked up over the past year, though. More and more people of all ages have embraced new technologies they feel offer protection against COVID-19. And for those who still prefer a physical menu, you can always print copies of your QR code menu.

lady in restaurant sterilizing table surface

How QR code menus create a safer dining experience

We all know that COVID-19 hit the restaurant industry hard. Even after things opened back up, most people were still hesitant about eating out.


Restaurants responded by implementing safety measures to protect employees and guests:

  • Spacing out tables.
  • Adding screens or guards between booths.
  • Improving sanitation and sterilization procedures.

Contactless QR code menus add another layer of protection since diners don’t need to touch anything but their own smart devices. And servers don’t spend time at every table, explaining specials and entrées.


How to create a QR Code menu for a restaurant, without a PDF?

Restaurants are always searching for innovative methods to market their cuisine and service. With the increased use of smartphones and QR codes, restaurants may utilize this technology to produce a QR code that leads to an online menu.

Don’t have a PDF menu to convert to a QR code yet? Never fear. Below, we will share how to create your own menu file and a QR code that links to it digitally.


Creating your own QR Code menu in 3 easy steps

man using QR code generator to create online menu

1. If you do not already have a digital menu, creating one is as easy as typing a letter in Word or Google Docs. If you’re feeling more creative, you can also take advantage of the many design platforms, like Canva.

Most of them offer free design templates for restaurant menus. Their graphic designers even create different options based on a variety of metrics, such as whether your establishment is casual or fine dining, serves BBQ or Mexican-Asian fusion, and more.

2. Once you have your menu created, simply take a picture using the camera on your phone. Then upload them to the digital platform you select and follow the prompts. When you finish uploading your menu images, the system turns your saved pictures into a digital file. From there, it generates a unique QR code.

3. Just right-click on the generated QR Code, save the QR code, and upload it to any and all printed collateral that you have posted for those interested in viewing your menu from their phone. Many restaurants opt to post their QR codes as a window decal for those either walking by or waiting to be seated. You may also place them on tables alongside your drink and dessert menus or condiments.

What is a QR code menu generator?

QR code menu generators are a type of software that does exactly what the name implies: lets you create QR code. Restaurants use QR codes to easily share their menus, information about their business (address, hours of operation), run promotions, and connect with both returning and potential customers. All you need to get started is a URL to link the QR code to.

How to build a better QR Code menu.

As with nearly everything in the service industry, you want to remove any obstacle you can for your customers. That means you want a QR code menu that’s seamless, easy to navigate, and intuitive.

Start by making sure your item descriptions are accurate and include relevant information about ingredients. Remember to add some photos; viewers process pictures far more quickly than they do words.

Make it user-friendly and intuitive. You don’t want to force your users to scroll through too many screens.

Don’t forget to implement your restaurant’s branding.


Controlling the look of your QR code menu.

QR Code Menu Samples

You have complete control over the look of your QR code menu, so take advantage of it.

Incorporate your brand’s logo and color palette to create a unified, consistent look across channels. You can add photos of the food, obviously, but also videos of your chefs preparing their masterpieces and mixologists making their delectable (and profitable) concoctions.

You can also get creative with the appearance of the QR code itself. Options include adding your logo, colors, icons, and more.

Read more about QR code design


How your interactive QR code menu can drive more sales

QR code menu promotion

Done right, QR code menus can have a real impact on your bottom line.

  • Advertise daily specials and other promotions.
  • Highlight and feature your most profitable items, so they’re the first things your customer sees when they open your QR code menu.
  • Implement upsell and cross-sell pop-ups.

Read more about marketing your QR code menu


The best ways to display your QR code menu

Showing QR code display on table at a restaurantYou have a lot of options for displaying your QR code menu. And most restaurants are using a combination of methods. Remember, it’s all about making it easier for your customers.

Put it on the front page of your menu. Yes, we’re trying to avoid physical menus. However, some folks resist this kind of technology – until they actually use it and realize how simple and not “end of the world” it is. By placing your QR code on your physical menus, you’re increasing the likelihood that a holdout will become a convert.

Stick it in the window. People walking by your restaurant see the QR code and many will scan it, especially if they’re familiar with QR code menus. Now they have it on their phone for the next time they want a meal someone else cooked.

Put the code on posters in your restaurant. You can hang posters inside the restaurant, near the hostess station, and in the window to catch the eye of passersby.

Put the code on the table. Table tent menus and tabletop inserts are an easy way to grab diners’ attention. Just make sure you include a note about not picking up the table tent when they scan the code, so they get the true contactless experience.

Set up a sandwich board. This option lets customers scan your QR code without setting foot into your restaurant – that’s true social distancing.

Add the codes to business cards and loyalty cards. 

Your customers will take your QR code everywhere if you put it on a business or loyalty card that fits right in their wallet.

If you’re looking to take your QR code game to the next level, check out our article: 18 Design-Centric Ways to Display QR Codes in Your Restaurant. If that doesn’t get your creative juices flowing, nothing will.

Read more about displaying your QR Code



After 18+ months of living with COVID-19, it has become increasingly clear there will be no return to “normal.” That means restaurant owners and managers must adapt if they want their businesses to thrive in the age of COVID-19. Luckily, QR code menus are one of those rare win-win solutions that benefit both the customer and the business.

Take your menus from hands-on to hands-free in a matter of minutes with QR code menus.


Additional resources

QR Code: Wikipedia

QR Codes Have Replaced Restaurant Menus. Industry Experts Say It Isn’t a Fad: CNBC

Contactless Tech Restaurants’ New Reality: Pizza Marketplace

Considerations for Restaurant and Bar Operators: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Consumer Price Index Summary: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Prescription for Cutting Costs: Bain & Company

The Influence of Tabletop Technology in Full-Service Restaurants: Cornell University