I don’t want to love QR codes, but I just can’t help myself. They used to be outcasts, but now everybody wants to be their friend. Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, QR codes are those glitchy black and white squares we all have to scan with our phones if we want to get more information about something. They didn’t catch on until a little pandemic came along and taught us that everything we touch can put us in grave danger. With our lives already revolving around the little supercomputers in our pockets, it wasn’t a far step to give in and become completely addicted.
Pizzerias’ first step into QR codes was as a replacement for paper menus. No more need to reprint every time prices change or a new item gets added, QR codes gave pizzerias license to make changes in real time. Customers like me were already used to ordering food online, so viewing a menu on a phone isn’t anything new.
I’m glad that pizzerias have embraced QR codes, but I’m worried they’re not always using them correctly. Customers interact with QR codes on their mobile devices, not on desktop or laptop computers. That means that any page I land on as a result of scanning a QR code should be optimized for mobile. Just this week I scanned a QR code at a restaurant and landed on a gallery of photos of their menu. I had to pinch and enlarge just to read the dang thing. And every time I did so the pixelation made the menu
impossible to read. If you’re sending people to a page on their mobile device, make sure they can read it once they land. No more PDFs or clunky web pages; just give me the info in straight text.
People are constantly on mobile devices, so it might seem smart to replace everything with QR codes. But I’m afraid we’ve tiptoed into the realm of overuse. Just last week I was testing out a new frozen pizza. I didn’t see any instructions for how to heat the pizza — just a QR code. I thought I’d land on a detailed page with diagrams and charts, but instead I got to a page that just told me to preheat my oven to 450 F and bake the pizza for 6-8 minutes. That was it. Just one sentence. In this case, the QR code inserted an unnecessary hurdle. If I didn’t have my phone on me or the battery was dead, I wouldn’t have known how to deal with the pizza.
The beauty of QR codes is that they remove the stumbling block of having to type in a URL. You can direct customers to enter a competition for a free pizza by scanning a QR code on your wall. Attract direct business from third party delivery customers by offering them 10 percent off when they scan the QR code on the flyer you place on their box. Provide a QR code printed right on the box so customers can directly access your pizzeria’s amazing 80s hair metal playlist.
As much as we may have resisted, the QR code is now en vogue. Use it to simplify your business, but beware of letting the cute little glitchy square create unnecessary barriers for your customers.
SCOTT WIENER is the founder of Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City and SliceOutHunger.org Instagram: @scottspizzatours