By Larry and Adam Mogelonsky
Menus are an important aspect of the overall presentation of a hotel restaurant. Indeed, a whole book on proper menu design could be written, with inventory arrangements, fonts, graphics, spacing, types of paper, menu backings and all other stylistic concerns outlined as contributing factors for a guest’s overall appreciation of the dining outlet.
The pandemic has thrown a wrench in this marketing and sentiment-boosting tool as many customers now expect menus to be accessible on their phones via a QR code. The benefit for the restaurant is certainly there in the form of saving on printing costs, but it’s nonetheless a tradeoff.
The concern that we have over the proliferation of QR menus is that they don’t build guest satisfaction as much as their physical antecedents, and this reduced sentiment can halo back onto room revenues in a negative way.
Here’s why: paper is palpable. You feel the slight roughness of a thick paper stock, subtly smell the ink, are delighted by the way the room’s lighting creates soft shadows on the page and are soothed by (what we ideally hope that you would use for your establishment) the touch of the leather menu backing on the palm of your hand. Viewing a menu on your phone gives you none of that. Yes, you get graphics, color and the ability to keep the webpage updated in real-time as inventory changes, but everything beyond the straight visuals are lost in the endless scroll of a two-dimensional screen.
And building on this notion of scrolling, one critical difference is that a physical menu presents all items together for readers to consider, whereas a responsive webpage (over simply displaying a PDF version of the menu) will usually configure all items into a single column so as to keep everything legible and to avoid lots of pinching. This second drawback is one of perception, where a narrowly focused column on one’s phone can increase the observed length of the menu, resulting in patrons ‘dropping off’ before perusing the entirety of it.
We see a similar trend in website readership where it falls precipitously after around the first quarter of an article or page. In sum, on digital-first menus, you have to put your most expensive items (or highest margin) items at the top or they will likely be missed.
At this point, with the end of the pandemic still very much a question mark, optionality and fitting your theme is what works best. Paper menus should be readily presented at high-end restaurants so that the theme is congruent and customer satisfaction isn’t deteriorated, while at more casual settings a QR code access may be just fine. While there are both paper and labor costs associated with QR menus, you must still consider the above downsides.
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Editor’s note: To discuss business challenges or speaking engagements please contact Larry or Adam directly.