QR codes have been around for quite awhile, but they are starting to catch fire. “It’s growing like gangbusters. It’s definitely a big deal,” says Brian Clark, marketing director with Fishbowl, a provider of on-demand marketing software and services for the restaurant industry. He has seen a spike in requests from customers concerning how to integrate QR codes into marketing efforts. “One of the benefits of a restaurant is that there are so many printed materials such as cups, napkins and menus. It turns anything into a value-add,” says Clark. QR codes are images, so they can be applied to just about anything printable. They can even be included on web- sites or in marketing emails.
QR codes are a type of bar code image. Scan one with your smartphone or iPad and you’re sent to a website, a menu or a coupon. Think of it as a shortcut to information, a link between offline and online.
Anything with a URL can be linked to through a QR code. A code on your menu could link to nutritional information or a feedback form. A code at the door could link to your Facebook page. An advertising mailer could include a link to your location on Google maps or a coupon that a customer can bring in and show on a smartphone. A take home menu could link to a restaurant’s online ordering system. “It’s going to be like any other marketing opportunity. It’s up to the restaurateur to put the creativity to it,” says Clark. He sees restaurants adopting QR codes as a way to quickly get customers onto email lists without having to fill out paper forms.
Getting started with QR codes is simple. Tom Haines, co-owner of Olo Yogurt Studio in Albuquerque, used bit.ly, a URL shortening service, to create a QR code that leads customers to the yogurt shop’s Google Places page. It allows him to track the number of customers that use the code. Embracing new technology comes naturally to Haines, who studied computer science in college before getting involved with Olo. “A company can use it to put forth an image that says they are more cutting edge,” says Haines. They are also, he notes, inexpensive, attractive to young customers and can provide useful metrics.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in cool new technologies, but Clark reminds restaurateurs that QR codes are tools. “The technology itself is so simple that anything you could do with any other form of marketing is fair game,” he says. Restaurants are in a prime position to try out QR codes. They are real world places that are looking to cross the bridge to the Internet. QR codes are a portal for doing just that. Look for restaurants to spend some time experimenting with QR codes to find out what gets the best results. That approach suits Olo Yogurt Studio just fine. “Since we only have one store, we can switch things up pretty easily,” says Haines.
Start using QR codes
Qr codes are all about maximizing our obsession with mobile devices. Go with the flow by using these mobile and online apps to explore the potential for quick response marketing.
Sign up for bit.ly and use the online URL shortener to make your link shorter. Copy that URL into the address bar on your browser and add “.qr” to the end. This link will take you to a QR code image that you can copy and use in your promotional materials. It comes with the added benefit of tracking.
This app supports iPhone, iPad 2 and iPod Touch with camera. It simplifies the QR code scanning process. Open the app, point the camera and listen for the satisfying click. The code comes to life and the information is immediately at your fingertips.
WalkIN is working on ways to take your waiting list high tech. Customers scan in the wait list QR code and are then notified on their iPhone or Android smartphone when the table is ready. The company is brand new, so the app availability is not yet known.