My beef with QR code menus and other digital stomach twists

Allow me a moment to share my complaint about a food trend: the QR code menu.

It’s the hangover from COVID-19 that bothers me the most. I’ve seen it in restaurants across Sydney, most of them high-end, which, like everyone else in the hospitality game, may be struggling to return to post-pandemic profitability; but this is not the way to do it.

QR code menus have become popular in restaurants.

QR code menus have become popular in restaurants.Credit:Bloomberg

I understand why the QR code has gained traction in recent years due to the need to minimize the points of contact between customers and restaurant professionals. Yes, I understand that a paperless restaurant offers a more hygienic alternative to physical menus and means servers don’t need to touch potentially germ-laden credit cards. But for me, ordering from a digital waiter is dehumanizing and disconnecting.

Not only do I not like ordering this way, but I am horrified that after using the ordering app, it asks you for a tip. In fact?! They should give me a discount for working as my own waiter.

Surely I’m not the only one who feels that the joy of dining in a restaurant comes from the personal touches: the interaction with the waiter who can recite the menu like poetry, or the sommelier who can explain the slope of a valley where a wine comes from. and why it goes with a particular dish.

My eyes still water as I remember some of the best meals of my life in France and California, and it hasn’t just been the food, wine and setting, but also the waiters that have made them special. I’m happy to tip for the role people play in creating the atmosphere. But tipping an app? That’s a bit rich.

Oh the good times.

Oh the good times. Credit:

Not only that, I can’t help but hear myself as a parent insisting that the phone, like any screen, shouldn’t be a tabletop utensil. I find it disgusting in my home, so why should I feel any different in a restaurant? Not to mention the elderly who do not have a mobile phone or know how to use it, or others who simply refuse to use it for such purposes.

As we well know, technology often lets you down. Often the app doesn’t work, or you’re prompted for a PIN that needs to be entered and re-entered on your phone and have you going around in digital circles. Surely getting up and walking to the bar and ordering from a real bartender is quicker in this case.

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