QR code menus may stay, experts warn about safety concerns

Tech menus cut costs, create ease in restaurants
QR Code M
Posted at 7:48 AM, Jul 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-29 07:47:59-04

CLEVELAND — There are some routines from the pandemic that we don't want to stick around. But a few, may be here to stay.

One can be found in restaurants in Northeast Ohio.

QR code menus started showing up during the height of the pandemic as a no-touch way for customers to order from their favorite places.

"I do love the QR code menus," said Daniel Lindquist. He was sitting at the bar inside Avo Modern Mexican in Ohio City having drinks with a friend.

QR stands for "quick response." Invented in 1994 in Japan to help streamline car manufacturing, the square, binary codes can lead to anything when scanned by a phone.

In restaurants like Avo in Ohio City, the digital code is read by the camera on the phone and a link to the menus pop up automatically. But, companies that support the codes can track information like when, where and how often a code is scanned.

Some have people download an app and login.

Lindquist said he's not worried about the tracking.

"I think your phone has pretty detailed security," he said.

The square codes cannot be hacked or changed once created but websites connected to them can. Dangerous links connected to the QR codes can contain malware or expose information on your phone to phishing.

If a bad link is clicked on, information could be vulnerable. Experts warn not to scan any QR codes where the destination is not known.

Avo does have physical menus still printed.

"We used to have around 100 menus printed," Avo owner Gabriel Zeller said. "And we're down to around 25."

The restaurant uses washable menus that cost around $7 each to print. Zeller said about 80% of his customers use the QR code menus and that cuts down on costs.

He isn't alone. The National Restaurant Association reports half of all full-service restaurants in the country got QR code menus during the pandemic. Menus like that can save between 30-50% on labor costs.

"100% these are going to stay in all of my restaurants," he said.

Zeller does not track any information from his customers who use the QR code menus.