GTPulse: Local Entrepreneur Wants To Make Restaurants Menu-less
Life working in a restaurant this summer looks a lot different than last. I try to envision what past me would have thought if she saw a glimpse into the future that is 2020. What conclusions would I draw from seeing no barstools lined up neatly behind the bar, or seeing everyone wearing a mask? What would I think of seeing everyone obsessively sanitize their hands every time a surface was touched? It doesn’t matter now. This strange new world is here to stay and the changes are already becoming old hat. So many protocols for businesses have changed, and arguably the most affected of these businesses are bars and restaurants. Distancing tables, operating at a smaller capacity and making sure to have a mask and gloves on at all times are some of the changes that most dining establishments have seen. Paper menus are a new feature of the 2020 restaurant too. Disposable menus are just another way to subtract a point of physical contact while dining out, but I’ve got to tell you, it makes me feel a little guilty every time I pass a wastebasket and see it filled with pristine, paper menus.
“I feel like I’m burning through all the trees!” one of my managers said to me the other day as I eyed the dwindling stack of paper menus sitting right next to the wastebasket full of them.
But what can we do?
The more contactless a dining experience is, the less likely that someone will fall ill. I also like to think that it provides some peace of mind for the guests too, but isn’t there a better way? According to Miles Prendergast, there is.
“Change is scary for business owners I understand, and especially ones involving some technology.”
Miles and his business partner Kevin Spagnuolo have started Menu Today, a QR system that eliminates the need for physical menus.
For those unfamiliar, Quick Response, or QR codes, are those little black boxes on posters or advertisements that you scan with your phone. Usually, once you open your smartphone and scan the code you’ll be taken to a website. They were made to be a quick, easy way to get eyes on a business’s website.
A few years ago you needed a phone app to access QR codes, now all you need is a smartphone with a camera.
“Most people don’t know that it doesn’t take any extra downloads in order to use it. What this system does is, as a restaurant owner, this interface will allow you to communicate whenever you want to your customers.”
Customers will sit down and instead of being handed menus by a hostess, or waiting to be brought menus, a QR code will be at each table. Once the customer opens their smartphone camera and scans the code, the restaurants menu will pop up on their screen. Quick, simple, and COVID-19 free.
The app also has the potential to cause a little less heartache for servers and customers. The menu can be changed from a computer in a matter of seconds. So when the carbonara sells out for the evening, it can be temporarily deleted from the menu. This might not seem like that big of a deal, but if you’ve ever had to tell a drunk man, ‘Sir, we don’t have the mango chicken at the moment’ five times…you would know how nice it is to not have that option on the menu at all.
So far The Cook’s House, The Parlor, and Brengman Brothers Winery have converted to using Menu Today. Miles is hoping for more restaurants to make the switch, because who knows how long these dining changes will last.
“What do you spend on paper costs? How long does it take to update your menu? This is my attempt at trying to see the future a little bit but also seeing it with an environmentally conscious mind as well. It’s a challenging time for restaurant and business owners and we’re just trying to make it a little easier.”