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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

Why QR code restaurant payments are poised to skyrocket

Pandemic pressures continue to rise as the new Omicron variant spreads and restaurants must find a way to survive—once again. 55% of diners choose contactless payment as one of the top three factors influencing choice of restaurant.

Why QR code restaurant payments are poised to skyrocket
[F/Adobe Stock]

Pandemic pressures continue to rise as the new Omicron variant spreads and restaurants must find a way to survive—once again. The Independent Restaurant Coalition reported that reservations remain 47% lower than 2019 levels. While some restaurateurs may resist the adoption of QR codes and apps, they will need to consider the potential gains on the digital side to flip more tables.

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According to a study shared by the Global Banking & Finance Review, 55% of diners choose contactless payment as one of the top three factors influencing choice of restaurant. Additionally, labor continues to be another major concern for restaurants nationwide. The labor force is shrinking and employers need to be more nimble with staffing. Embracing new technology, like contactless QR code payments, can broaden the customer base and simultaneously build a leaner service model to alleviate short-staffing pressures.

If you have been fortunate enough to enjoy dining experiences abroad, then you likely recall that the U.S. was behind Europe when using tableside credit card readers before the pandemic. While some establishments began rolling these out, many maintained readers physically tied to their POS systems. Either way, paying the check remains a step-intensive activity for servers in the vast majority of full-service restaurants.

Furthermore, contactless payments are simply spotty when it comes to dine-in. Where they exist, patrons are generally asked to install an app. What mobile payments and the QR code need is to get together. A global pandemic and mobile operating system enhancements converged and made that happen.

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U.S. industries are moving quickly toward standardization and various initiatives, such as the Financial Data Exchange, supporting secure transmission of account data to a third-party service provider. As customers become more open to sharing their data, technology is likely to support these necessary advancements toward an Open Banking System.

Today, there is widespread agreement that the QR code is here to stay. The rising popularity of mobile payments in China, combined with the promise of emerging technologies, like AR, have led Apple and Google to integrate native QR code reading via camera into their mobile operating system releases starting in late 2017.

Electronic menus were a natural evolution to the growth of restaurants. Menus can now be updated in real time as items were sold out or replaced. Moreover, diners are happy to brandish their phone camera at the table, given the ease with which web-based menus pop up for perusal. Broad acceptance of QR code-driven menus has allowed them to make their way into hospitality, where hotels have replaced in-room paper brochures with QR code-based activities schedules, spa menus and hotel information. The hype around the QR code is back, and many are predicting that it will drive AR experiences and other emerging usage models.

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Consider the fact most diners in a restaurant spend 15 minutes waiting to complete payment of their check. Consider that this could be done in seconds, using a simple QR code: the very same technology that the customer is already using to see today’s menu. What if diners sharing a meal could split up their bills and pay without handing a stack of credit cards over to their server? Given the ongoing labor shortages in hospitality, there has never been a greater need to free up precious time—allowing servers to focus on delivering the dining experience, not the paying experience.

What we can say for certain is that the QR code and contactless restaurant payments together are poised to skyrocket. One leading fintech and payments industry research firm, for example, has estimated that some 53% of all POS transactions will be contactless by 2023. And expectations for self-service checkout are on the rise according to a PYMNTS study.

Predicting what will happen in 2022 is tough; however, placing a bet on QR-based restaurant payments is not only a winning position but a key component of the future success of the zero-touch restaurant industry.

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To continue pushing your industry solution forward, garner feedback from users you are supporting. Get to know your guests and allow them to weigh in on your model. We do our very best to maintain 1:1 interaction with our fellow restaurateurs, allowing these key operators to weigh in on their revised service models—and what needs to be “86’d.” The ability to course-correct in a timely manner always helps us maneuver our business in the right direction. Just remember: be empathetic for a collective good. At the end of the day, we can’t achieve success without teamwork and collaboration.


Christine de Wendel, Co-Founder and CEO US, sunday app

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