It’s time. QR code menus take ages to load, are often confusing and unreadable, have poor navigation, and are simply unwieldy relics of a drastic time that an industry experiencing an unprecedented boom cannot in good conscience foist on diners any more. They are not just inconvenient, they are borderline unethical. Off with their heads.
Last weekend, I saw a table-full of senior citizens out for dinner at a posh restaurant in Bengaluru struggling to scan the codes and order from the tiny menus on their phones. When they asked the server for a printed menu, he shrugged.
The same evening, I ended up ordering a pepperoni pizza for my non-pork eating family because the description was written in such tiny print that my 40-plus eyesight couldn’t handle it. The bill came to around ₹2,000 per person that evening and with those kind of prices, restaurants should be singing the menu to us in bass and tenor, not expect us to interrupt our evening to peer at a phone screen every few minutes to place an order through a complicated system.
More than once, I have assumed that I have placed an order, only to find out 30 hungry minutes later that there was a last button to confirm the order that I missed. Silly me, I thought all I needed to do was have a good time when I go out with friends or family.
This kind of poor design is inexcusable at a place you have come to relax in. After all, experience matters at a sit-down restaurant.
No one’s denying QR codes have their uses—mobile payments being one since no self-respecting Bengaluru autowalla accepts cash any more—and during the pandemic, with fomite fear at its height, they were somewhat justified while eating out because you didn’t want to touch a menu someone else had handled.
Of course, it was clear pretty soon that the theory that the coronavirus spreads through minuscule surface particles called fomites was not exactly accurate but by then no one was thinking straight and all precautions were good precautions. Also, restaurants were criminally short-staffed and it made sense to continue using QR code menus for efficiency. What’s the excuse now?
I can still understand the use for QR code menus at quick-service restaurants with limited menus and a flexible idea of service, but not at a full-service restaurant where, presumably, the idea is to get some personal attention, recommendations and that subtle kick when the waiter smiles and says “good choice”.
Yes, Indians don’t make the most terrific patrons—they can be rude, uncouth, classist and are embarrassingly stingy when it comes to tipping but what we lose when we hand over every interaction to technology is the chance to connect with humans, however fleetingly, in however minor a way.
Dining out is one of those epicurean pleasures that should be spared the cold, creeping touch of technology. We really don’t need an app for everything.