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The New Normal: Part of a new series of articles focused on restaurant recovery; issues, best practices, and process changes that will become part of everyday business going forward.

The restaurant business is changing rapidly in the face of unprecedented challenges. And as we have shown, “touchless” is going to be a big part of the new normal. Another evolution is the use of touchless menus. A touchless menu allows customers to use their own smartphone to browse your menu without ever having to physically handle a paper menu. Creating a touchless menu is a fairly simple process and can be completed in just a few steps.

Menus might be the dirtiest thing in your restaurant

Why Do I Need a Touchless Menu?

As we focus on keeping customers safe and healthy, we need to reduce possible sources of infection. Unfortunately, menus might be the single biggest disease vector in your entire restaurant.

Good Morning America investigated and found that restaurant menus can contain 100 times more bacteria than the restaurant’s toilet seats. In fact, they swabbed menus and found an average of 185,000 bacteria on the surfaces.

That fact alone should be reason enough to at least offer a touchless menu option. If nothing else, it provides an option for your customers who may be seeking to have less contact with shared items (like menus) that could bring them into contact with disease-causing agents.

How a Touchless Menu Works

The basic concept for a touchless menu is that you provide a link to an online version of your menu that a customer can access with their cellphone. Simple enough, right?

But there are a couple of things that your business can do to make this an easy and smooth process for your customer. Typing out website addresses on a cellphone can be tedious and mistakes are easily made. But you can save your customers from that frustration with a free and simple tool: QR Codes. More on that in a bit. But for now, suffice it to say that a customer can just open the camera on their phone, point it at a tabletop sign, and be taken directly to your menu.

Most of your customers have access to a smartphone that will allow them to use your touchless menu.
Most of your customers have access to a smartphone that will allow them to use your touchless menu.

Your Existing Menu

At this point, most restaurants already have a website.  And one of the most important things you can have on that website is your menu.

You might be tempted to just scan your menu into a PDF file and put a link to it on your website. If that is the best you can do then it is certainly better than not having your menu posted at all. But PDF menus are not the best way to present your menu information online.

Having your menu posted as a webpage (HTML) is better for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it is better for your Google search profile. Google prefers to show searchers full webpages rather than PDF’s (unless they feel there is no better choice).

However, having your full menu on your webpages may be beyond the technical capability of your team without some help. Furthermore, for the sake of creating a touchless menu, it isn’t sufficient just to have your menu posted on your website. It also needs to be mobile friendly because you will be asking your customers to view it on their phones.

A mobile friendly page can be created in a number of ways, all of which are beyond the scope of this article. If you have a webmaster or work with an outside agency to do your web work, they should be able to guide you to an appropriate mobile friendly solution.

The QR Code

Once you have your menu available online, it’s time to provide an easy link. One of the best ways to do this is using what is known as a QR code. The “QR” stands for “Quick Response” which is exactly what you want for your customers.

QR codes can be created for free at a number of different sites on the web. Just put in the web link for your menu (or the first page of your menu if you use a multiple web pages to display your menu) and then save the small image file that looks like this:

A sample QR code. Your code will be unique for your online menu.
A sample QR code. Your code will be unique for your online menu.

Almost all modern smartphones have QR readers built right into the camera app. All a customer has to do is point their phone at the code and a prompt will display asking them if they would like to visit your webpage. You don’t even have to actually take a photo. Simply pointing the camera at the QR code should trigger the link to appear.

Use your phone's camera to capture the QR code and click the link to visit the webpage.

Use your phone’s camera to capture the QR code and click the link to visit the webpage.

From QR Code to Touchless Menu

Clicking the link will open up the specified webpage on the customer’s phone. This will allow them to browse your menu all on their phone.

If you want to be more creative, you can set up multiple QR codes for each section of your menu (e.g., appetizers, entrees, desserts, etc.) to take them directly to a specific section.

You can also create a QR code that goes directly to an online ordering system, as long as you have a methodology for recognizing orders that come from inside your restaurant’s location (as opposed to delivery or pick up orders). By linking to an online ordering system, you can help to reduce contact even further.

Use a QR code to easily direct customers to your online menu for an easy touchless menu that customers can view on their phone.

Set Up a Table Display

Now, all you need to do it create a table display with your QR code on it. Just let your customers know that they can access your menu by simply pointing their camera at the QR code and they will be taken to your online menu.

How you choose to do this is up to you. It can be as simple or creative as you choose. And we do offer a number of creative and innovative table sign holders, stands and other menu accessories for the tabletop.

Shop All Tabletop Sign Holders & Menu Accessories

Inventing the Touchless Future

As we continue to navigate new issues that have arisen due to COVID-19, restaurants will continue to be called upon to innovate just to survive. Even small efforts such as creating touchless menus as an option can go a long way to reassuring anxious customers as they re-engage with their favorite restaurants.


  1. Guadalupe zavala

    Buena opción

  2. Guadalupe zavala

    Muy buena aplicación

  3. Why are restaurants facing a labor shortage?

  4. Saeed

    how can i get the customer email contact when he scan my restaurant menu

    • Wasserstrom Author

      Unfortunately, you probably can’t get the email address using this method (without further programming, at least). In addition, it may be a privacy violation to collect a user’s email without their explicit permission. Something to consider before you do anything like this. A better method might be to incent a user to give you their email address. For example, “Sign up for our email list and get a free dessert.” That provides explicit consent and is always the best way to go. Hope that helps!

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