“QR Code menus are the worst idea in the restaurant business”

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from an article written by Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic: Thinking of my first trips to the restaurant in the 1980s, I vaguely remember the waiters taking my grandfather’s credit card and using a manual flatbed imprinter to give an idea of ​​his increased numbers. My grandson, born at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, could come of age with similar memories of physical menus as a childhood relic. Vaguely remembering them when a dining scene in an old movie causes his memory to twist, he might ask, “Why did they stop using them?” If that happens, I’ll tell the plague he raged when he entered the world; the closure of bars and restaurants; the push to reopen in summer 2020; the persistent, if erroneous, belief that high-contact surfaces, such as restaurant menus, are a significant vector of infection; the CDC attorney that July. “Avoid using or sharing reusable items, such as menus,” advised the federal agency (PDF). “Use disposable or digital menus”.

The QR code menu, which you access by scanning a black and white square with your smartphone, has taken off ever since. It could dominate going forward. But I hope not, because I hate those digital menus. It doesn’t matter to die peacefully in your sleep; I want to go out sitting in a restaurant on my 100th birthday, an aperitif in my left hand and a paper menu in my right. And as much as I long for heaven if I’m lucky enough to stand on its doorstep, I want one last look down at a paramedic who’s ripping the menu out of my fist. In that better future, where old school menus hold out, I’ll go to my urn happy that future generations will still start meals by meeting each other across a table instead of staring at a screen. QR-code menus aren’t really an advance. Even when everything goes right – when everyone’s phone’s battery is full, when Wi-Fi is strong enough to connect, when the link works – they create a distraction that lingers between desserts and digestives. “You might just check to see what you want your next drink to be,” Jaya Saxena noted in Eater late last year, “but it’s easy to start checking messages and emails from there.” And wasn’t it already too easy? Friedersdorf cites the 2018 study “Smartphone Use Undermines Enjoyment of Face-to-Face Social Interactions,” in which social psychology researcher Ryan Dwyer and his colleagues randomly assigned some people to keep their phones out when dining with friends and others to put it away. What they found was that groups assigned to use their phones “enjoyed the experience less than groups that did not use their phones, mainly due to the fact that participants with phones were more distracted.”

It also notes the privacy concerns related to the QR code menus. Many of the codes “are actually generated by a different company that collects, uses and therefore often shares your personal information,” the ACLU warned. “In fact, companies that supply QR codes to restaurants love to brag about all the personal information you share along with that food order: your location, your demographics such as gender and age group, and other information about yourself and about your behavior “.

In closing Friedersdorf writes: “[…] I hope that, instead of remembering the pandemic as a turning point in the digitization of restaurants and bars, we look back at its consequences as to the moment when an increasingly atomized society has better understood the high costs of social isolation, it has felt a new urgency to counter it, and has opted for analogue mealtime norms as a particularly vital place to focus on “.

“What if three times a day society were geared to replenish what is becoming increasingly absent from the rest of our waking hours: undistracted human interactions not mediated by technology?”

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