Will physical menus ever make a comeback?

UK Hospitality

In days gone by, staring at your phone in a restaurant was a pretty impolite thing to do. But these days, especially with the societal changes brought about by the pandemic, its part and parcel of the dining experience. In fact, it seems like a much more social alternative to plastic-shield wearing waiters. 

Various international bodies for disease control and prevention have recommended that hospitality premises use disposable or digital menus to limit the spread of COVID-19.  This advice has been noted by both customers and venues alike who are committed to mobile ordering. Digital menus are increasingly – if not completely – commonplace. 

Mobile ordering systems are providing technological replacements to the traditional paper menus, and this trend is set to continue. For many of us, the thought of touching a physical menu in 2021 makes us wince. Here’s how mobile has dominated the ordering landscape, and why physical menus might never make a comeback...

QR Codes Have Changed The Game

With QR codes now, customers don’t even need to download an app or inconvenience themselves by moving away from their seat to grab a grubby menu from the bar.

One aspect that mobile ordering services are utilising as a method to eliminate shared menus which could spread the virus between customers are QR codes, which use a scannable design of black and white squares. This unique code, when scanned using your smartphone’s camera, opens up a link to a restaurant’s menu page.

This technology is seeing somewhat of a comeback since the mid-2010s and has various benefits. Not only are they super hygienic, but they actually make the customer experience a lot better.

The Benefits Of QR Codes Aside From Safety

Menus post-pandemic

QR codes are fitting a niche in this sanitation-concerned world. But will they survive in a post-pandemic society?

It seems highly likely that touchless menus are here for the long haul. They existed before the pandemic, and are only likely to increase. They are an example of a newly-emerging phenomenon of ‘phygital experiences’. These are experiences in which technology and traditional physical experiences blend seamlessly to perform everyday tasks. They become immersive in their simplicity and convenience. 

Take a kiosk as an example of ‘phygital’. Kiosks appear in airports, banks and restaurants and almost everyone can claim to have used one. They’re so widespread that most people won’t have considered that they’re having ‘phygital’ experiences. 

Phygital experiences in a post-COVID world  

The continued and increased existence of these kinds of ‘phygital’ technologies is undisputed. And it will likely permeate further into the world of dining. Whilst physical menus may not disappear totally, they are destined to play second fiddle to ‘phygital’ menus. 

‘Phygital’ menus aim to bridge the relationship between a human user and the dining institution so that the experience becomes so effortless the customer doesn’t even realise how much easier the process has become. 

The future of ‘phygital’ menus includes advanced anticipation models, like the ones already in place on Netflix, where preferences are sussed out in advance. In this sense, the physical paper menu has already been left behind. 


March 30, 2021

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