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QR Code Marketing for Restaurants: Using & Placing QR Codes

June 9, 2020
QR Code Menu

91% of iPhone users can scan a QR code with their phone’s built-in Camera app. That number will gradually grow to 100% as older versions of iOS disappear.

The numbers are similar for Android devices, too. The vast majority of people have the ability to scan a QR code in seconds. By 2022, over one billion smartphones will have easy access to QR code scanning. This little nondescript piece of technology gives you access to an enormous pool of customers. 

And that makes it particularly useful to the bar and restaurant industry. QR codes will also play a massive part in the rise of contactless menus. So let’s go over the many ways hospitality can use QR codes to spread the good word about their business. And some of the most impactful places you can put your QR code.

QR Code Marketing Strategy for Restaurants

There are four primary ways to use QR codes in restaurants for marketing. QR code menus, promotions and deals, unique information, and personalization.

QR Code Menus

This moment is uniquely suited for the growth of touchless menus that use QR codes. How clean a bar or restaurant was already a hugely important factor for diners deciding where to eat or drink. In fact, a study found that around 75% of people avoid restaurants and bars with negative reviews about cleanliness.

Couple that with the fact that paper menus are proven to be the single dirtiest thing on restaurant tables. It’s a perfect storm.

Getting rid of paper menus makes your bar or restaurant safer, and it communicates to your guests that you take their safety seriously.

They’re also way more accessible for customers. Anywhere a customer sees your menu’s QR code, they can scan it and check out your menu or digital wine list. It’s one of the easiest, most affordable ways to get your menu out there. It takes literally a second for someone to scan it.


A QR code is typically associated with one piece of information, and that’s often a URL. Though it can be an image, a document, or anything else that’s encodable. But it’s usually a URL. That’s why you can scan one and it brings you to an online menu.

But you can also associate your QR code with a page that lists your current deals, specials, and promotions.

When someone scans the code, they’ll see all your happy hour specials, rotating deals, your special prix fixe menu, and whatever else you want to put front-and-center.

Tableside Information

At Boston’s 606 Congress, fresh fish is served with a side of QR code. When scanned, the code reveals all sorts of information about the fish. The species, the name of the boat, the boat’s captain, the day of the catch, etc.

That type of contextual marketing is effective at creating repeat customers and generating word-of-mouth buzz. It doesn’t necessarily have to be just about the food, either. It can be all types of menu, pairing suggestions from your food and wine pairing menu.

There is lots of information about the food or drinks you serve that will enhance a guest’s experience. So think about providing it via QR code. And, truth be told, almost all context will enhance experience. Any time we can imbue an activity with meaning, it becomes meaningful. No surprise there.

Personalized QR Codes

Some of QR codes offer advanced functionality that turns them into a conduit for continued interaction with customers. Some, for example, are able to surface different deals at different meal times. Or plug in to loyalty programs and give repeat guests tailor-made offers based on their past purchases.

The idea of what some call “smart QR codes” is that it’s not just an access point for a menu. Or a one-time delivery of information. It’s a tool to have ongoing, personalized relationships with customers.

That, in turn, generates a large amount of data about your customers and their behavior. That’s data you can use to engage in some menu engineering to boost menu sales and profitability.

As … Food?

We didn’t include this as one of the four primary QR code marketing strategies, but it’s worth bringing up. If for nothing other than a hearty chuckle.

San Diego’s Harney Sushi includes a QR code much like 606 Congress. It accompanies seafood and provides unique information about it. But at Harney, you can eat it. It’s printed on rice paper and placed on top of the sushi.

It’s not all fun and games, though. Many medical professionals think edible QR codes are the future of prescription drugs.

Regardless, eating QR codes is interesting enough to touch on here. But you may not find them a realistic approach to QR code marketing just yet.

Best Places to Put Restaurant QR Codes

So those are the primary types of QR code marketing a bar or restaurant can do. And now that you’ve got your content associated with a scannable QR code, where are the best places to put it? We’ve got 9 spots for you. We suggest printing your QR codes out on sticker paper for physical placement and uploading the digital image as a PNG for digital placement.

  • Your website. Make your QR code easily visible on your homepage, ideally high up so a visitor doesn’t have to scroll down to find it. That’s the first place most folks will seek to engage with your bar or restaurant.
  • Third-party menu or review sites. Even if you publish your menu on your own site, you’ll likely show up in third-party sites like Yelp. Include your QR code menu on your business page there.
  • Social media. Having your QR code menu pinned to the top of your social media feed is helpful. Along with blasting out QR code promotions as they run.
  • The front door. A QR code right smack-dab on the middle of your front door is about as visible as it gets.
  • Menu stands. The menu stands or hanging menu cases outside your bar or restaurant are ideal candidates to have their paper menus replaced or supplemented with QR code menus.
  • Restaurant tables. This can be a contactless menu or information like 606 Congress uses. It can be on the table itself, on coasters, on a stand near the condiments, or on a nearby wall. This may also be a good place to put a graphic about how to scan QR codes.
  • Receipts. Print a QR code with deals and promotions on every receipt.
  • Booking confirmation emails. An automated email that confirms a reservation is a great place for a scannable code for a contactless menu.
  • Takeout containers. Deals and promotions or unique information can be associated with QR codes and placed on boxes, bags, and other takeout containers.

QR Code Marketing Is Fun

QR codes are a simple, fun piece of bar and restaurant technology to leverage. They give you access to an enormous amount of potential customers and a bunch of different uses.

The most immediate and impactful way to use QR codes is by replacing your paper menus with touchless menus. Every customer is looking out for restaurants at the cutting edge of hygiene right now. A contactless, scannable menu is a ridiculously easy solution to implement. Not only does it make your bar or restaurant safer, but it makes customers feel safer. And that’s great marketing in and of itself.