Those wavy squares you see on everything from restaurant menus to airline tickets?
They’re QR codes, and if they sound familiar, it’s because we’ve all been here before.
QR codes reappeared in retail after initial COVID-19 precautions against the virus involved avoiding all possible surfaces. But QR, short for quick response codes, for smartphones was already seen around a decade ago in the United States when smartphones first appeared.
Poking fun at gimmicks in the mid-2000s, QRs are making a comeback today.
About 45% of Americans have used a QR code scan, according to a June 2021 survey by Statista, a German consumer data company. In Sioux Falls, restrictions were more lax on safety standards, consumers and business owners told Argus Leader, so the QR may not be as important as in the rest of the States. United.
But QR codes are still in stores and bars, for those who want to give it a try.
“It takes a while for people to learn how to scan them, especially right away,” said Mikaela Stofferahn, manager at Sickies Garage, Burgers and Brews. “Using disposable menus was sort of a thing, but then we moved on to QRs and kept them. “
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The usability of QR is a winning and painful point
QR codes are small square barcodes. They are seated on tables in restaurants or glued to the walls at the entrance to offices. QR codes work by holding a phone in front of the code, opening the phone’s camera app, and allowing the code to display a link, typically for a website, at the top of the phone.
The usability of QR codes is questionable, with their access blocking 15% of the national population who do not use smartphones. And according to polling site YouGov, 14% of the American population thinks QR codes are difficult to understand and use.
A proportion of those who used a QR code were under 29 in the Statista survey, so there could be a generational gap for using them as well.
Most QR codes are not suitable as a menu substitute for people who are blind or unable to use a smartphone. For this, a real braille menu or the like must be provided.
Yet QRs are everywhere again, even as COVID-19 restrictions have become more lax in Sioux Falls. Whether QR is viable in the long term depends on where, how, and for whom they can be used.
Sioux Falls split over the use of QR codes in restaurants
QR codes first appeared in Asia in 1994, initially as a follow-up for an auto parts supplier before becoming popular for menus and more.
Quick Response was first popularized in the United States around early 2010 – according to photos in the USA Today file. But little of their use has gained traction, and QR menus or airline tickets have only recently become popular.
QR now faces another difficult audience in Sioux Falls.
“A lot of people like these physical menus. I didn’t see a big change anyway who preferred to use them, but people love the printed menus, ”Stofferahn said.
His customers during the lunch rush at Sickies Garage, Burgers and Brews tended to choose the print.
“They started (using QR) a year and a half ago. I’m not a fan of them, ”said Dawn Oyen, a customer who just sat down for a meal at Sickies, as she began to peruse a physical, multi-page menu of burger options.
In Sioux Falls, Dave Oyen said it wasn’t “really a thing to just see QRs. “
The Oyens recently visited Las Vegas where “they forced you to use QR everywhere, from hotels to restaurants, and it was hard to read,” said Dawn Oyen. “It’s not always user-friendly,” although she noted liking them for plane tickets or office tasks.
Of several restaurants surveyed by Argus Leader, most said they use a combination of physical menus and QR codes to please all of their customers.
At Sickies Garage, the printed menu sat right across those tiny squares, which were largely overlooked in a lunch rush by patrons, but the bar maintains both options for safety and reading preferences that their customers prefer.
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$ 8 savings per menu, sanitation and other reasons to keep QR
Ease of use, cost savings and environmental friendliness by reducing the number of printed documents are good reasons to continue using QR codes.
“Our QR codes were added as a security measure .. now we have the option of a portable menu or using QR codes, so for us it was not about savings per se”, Ross Speral, director of Sickies Garage technology and marketing, noted that there is ease of use and potential “future benefits” to the technology.
For the local beginner bar Hello Hi, they plan to keep QR codes on each table and on the top of the bar to announce new promotions like a Santa themed cocktail or a fully readable menu.
“It’s the difference between paying two dollars (for the QR) or ten dollars for a printed menu. It is much less. Sara Benson, Managing Partner of Hello Hi Bar, said.
His Tiki-themed bar created QR menus a few months after the bar opened and the pandemic hit.
“One of our staff took the initiative to print them out and got the website, being tech-savvy. Our menu had been posted, so it was pretty transparent. He was trying to stay hygienic, ”Benson said. “We weren’t sure if (COVID-19) was related to the air or to the surface at the time… But we plan to stick with it now.”
The QR code menus also remain in the phone’s browser, prompting customers to continue browsing the menu. Benson said people typically walk in directly with a phone’s camera open now to scan the code.
The savings for the company “are significant but not enough to get rid of the printed menus,” Benson said. “It’s about 80/20, those looking to use QR codes. “
Still, it’s easier in terms of printing and design costs to keep QR, possibly permanently for Hello Hi, but they still plan to keep their seasonal menu in demand and their regular menu in print.
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QR remains in vogue as a hybrid option
And Statista’s survey found that nearly 60% of Americans expect to keep QR codes as part of their future learning or shopping, so maybe the second time around is the charm.
QR codes do not need to be changed often, unless they are intended for temporary promotions like the Sioux Falls Stampede hockey team does from time to time for advertisements, or design firms. do this to distribute business cards to customers.
According to Sioux Falls graphic design firms, sales of QR codes have slowed down a bit, but not enough to impact business.
“I don’t think I’ve done it for a few months now. They don’t really blow themselves up, so (clients) don’t have to print new ones for a while, ”said Randy Kiewel, marketing consultant at AlphaGraphics. He said his main customers are car dealerships and restaurants to direct people to a menu of options, whether it’s for parts or food.
“It’s the same cost, usually for the whole menu and the insertion of the QR code. It doesn’t take much time for us. It doesn’t cost a lot on top of what they’re already paying for the design, so it doesn’t affect us, ”Kiewel said. “People always print, whatever. “