COVID Restaurant Marketing Communications

Evolving Your Menu To Be Contact-Free

As restaurants continue to open their dining rooms, one staple of the sit-down experience may never look the same—the menu. Traditionally a high-touch surface for guests, menus of the handheld variety are being rethought to reduce the spread of germs and contact points at the table. Consider these ways to evolve your menu to make ordering safer and maybe even optimize the process altogether. 


Digital menus look to be the future of contactless ordering, and one of the easiest, lowest-lift ways to implement this in your restaurant is likely through the use of a QR code. Guests can scan a QR code with the camera on their phone, which delivers a digital version of the menu right to the palm of their hand. Ruth’s Chris Steak House has done just that in its reopened dining rooms with QR codes that point to both their full dinner menu and wine list. From there, guests could order in-person or from a simple form triggered by the code. 

Digital menus also have some great added benefits. As restaurants get more comfortable with the technology, they could start to play with customization and optimization. As Hospitality Technology points out, digital menus could be constantly reorganized by most popular dishes, allergens, dietary restrictions, price point and more. The publication also notes that QR codes can eliminate the exchange of money or cards during the payment process as a second QR code could allow the diner to pay via their phone.


If QR codes are a bit too cumbersome at the moment, restaurants could go old school with a large menu board servers could bring to the table. This keeps the ordering process contactless and would better accommodate guests without a smartphone or those not as comfortable with technology. Another similar option would be to invest in a large digital board that all diners could view before sitting down or from their seat. 


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A solution like a menu board might require pairing down your menu for the time being, which also could have its benefits. As he told Food & Wine, Tony Gemiginani, chef and owner of two restaurants in San Francisco, expects to offer a simplified menu with small plates, aimed at creating a more approachable, affordable and fast dining—and serving—experience. 


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Printed, single-use, disposable menus may also be an easy option for restaurants to implement in the interim before developing a longer-term contactless solution. Just keep in mind—this method still involves the waitstaff placing menus at the table, so it’s not entirely contactless, it could require some design and printing setup to get things started, and it contributes to the amount of waste produced each day. 

No matter how you evolve your menu ordering process, what’s most important is that you choose a direction that’s safest for your guests and best for your bottom line as everyone adjusts to a new way of dining out.