By Larry and Adam Mogelonsky

Every hotel company has its tech priorities. One such technology that was thrust upon us during the pandemic was the quick ready (QR) code. Love it or hate it, vendors are now doing incredible things with them, and our hope is that from the use cases below you can pick what’s right for your hotels to implement sometime in 2023.

As a start, consider these 10 ways that QR codes have helped hotel restaurants:
1. Saving on printing costs
2. Dealing with erratic supply chains that require sudden menu omissions or pricing increases
3. Reducing labor involved with handing out physical menus
4. Lowering average table turn time
5. Offering guests a frictionless BYOD ordering experience
6. Expediting the payment process
7. Increasing tipping in a now-cashless society
8. Getting more data on specific orders and special requests
9. More precise geolocation of food order delivery
10. Analytics of order fulfillment to improve service and guide staffing decisions

There are objections and cases where these ten don’t apply. For instances, fine dining wants physical menus that are nicely embroidered to exude the ambiance of luxury in order to justify the menu prices. Secondly, QR codes are only as good as the digital experiences they lead to, so if a QR menu leads to a static menu PDF that customers have to pinch in and out of, then that’s not working in your favor.

Thus, you have to think holistically about how you deploy these matrix barcodes, considering:
• Knowing that linking to a static PDF is no longer acceptable customer service, the next option is to connect a QR to an HTML-based menu, nullifying the pinching issue (and at a low cost as most websites are already mobile-responsive) but not quite for the scrolling drop-off
• To prevent said scrolling drop-off from negatively affecting beverage revenues, you need to prioritize your alcohol offerings by putting them at the top or first connecting to a landing page that broadly delineates for food and beverage options
• Now think in terms of tabulated menus similar to online ordering apps where this sectioning facilitates less scrolling and more visibility on desired food or beverage categories, although this refinement often can’t be done without bugs for the browser version
• To drive app downloads and thus provide a better digital menu experience, you need nudges like putting the WiFi password right need to the matrix barcode which redirects to the app download page (although this likely won’t be enough of an incentive versus going straight into the browser version)
• As abovementioned, app downloads can be required to access certain promotions or freebies, which can be further rationalized for multi-operation hotels where the app provides a convenient path to purchase for not only the restaurant but also room service, spa, gift shop, golf tee times, virtual concierge, housekeeping, activities or maintenance orders
• App or HTML, the wider trend is that menus are becoming more interactive, so expect to see such additions like on-click images, cinemagraphs or GIFs of dishes, curated UGC and promotional or announcement pop-up banners (possibly with an ‘order now’ functionality that puts an order directly through to the kitchen instead of waiting on the server)

Connecting the Guestroom Via QR
As we transition to the QR experience version 2.0, it’s only natural that this coincide with the deployment of more IoT devices and the evolution towards a bona fide connected room.

This tech can indeed offer a series of contextual and filtered actions to enhance the in-room experience, including but not limited to:
• Placing a matrix barcode by the door to facilitate express check-out by already knowing the room number
• This same QR placed by the door could also be used for guests to signal when they are departing for the day to schedule a stayover clean and to notify the smart thermostat for energy savings
• In a now-cashless society, branded QRs can increase total tips (and provide tracking on those tips) to offer a non-wage incentive for keeping room attendants versus competitors who don’t have an easy pathway for guests to leave a tip
• Speaking of housekeeping, if your brand is going the opt-in route, QRs can act as a fluid portal for on-demand cleaning services (perhaps even prompting an app download in the process)
• To help mollify the QR overload and physical signage objections, QRs can be inserted on digital displays like TVs – an action which also helps address several of the security concerns whereby hackers can use false QR codes to install malware on unsuspecting phone
• As a future use case, QRs on interactive TVs can be used for content-as-a-service (CaaS) advertising where hotels get a slice of the clickthrough bids and conversion value

Connecting All Profit Centers Via QR
Next, for on-demand amenities, access to facilities or any other service not directly associated with the guestroom, the versatility of QRs allow hotels to maintain service in a labor-light operative model by letting guests order whenever and from wherever they want.

Especially for full-service properties, some possibilities include:
• Because resort staff is reduced and often can’t spend time patrolling a beach for orders, location-specific QRs can be used to call food or drinks to a chaise or cabana without the guest needing to walk up to the bar
• QRs can be used alongside image-driven advertisements for onsite experiences where access then links directly back to the right webpage of curated activities (or, even better, to prompt an app download)
• Finally, to readdress the concern that frictionless ordering via QR codes will render hotel associates into mere fulfillment agents, it’s important to consider how you can channel the time savings from this tech into service improvements, either through actual product enhancements that may not have been possible given previous labor limitations or retraining so that staff can engage guests on a non-transactional level

Having made it this far, you can tell that some use cases may apply to your organization and some do not. It really comes down to the last bullet point in that hotels can never lose sight of the human element in service-oriented business. Any QR functionality you set up must ultimately never take away from the guest experience, but add convenience and increase amenity awareness so that your teams can focus their limited time on other product evolutions.