QR codes aren’t new. The quick-response barcodes were invented in 1994 to track automobile parts, and certain digital-friendly restaurants began using QR codes years ago as a way to allow customers to order and pay directly from their tables, or sometimes to learn more about their dishes. But the codes hit their stride during the pandemic, as bars and restaurants ditched hardcopy menus and embraced touchless ordering.
At most concepts, customers take out their smart phones, pull up the camera and point it at the QR code, which provides a link to the restaurant’s menu. But the Pensacola Beach Hilton, a property under the Innisfree Hotels portfolio, has moved beyond this utilitarian use and taken QR codes to a new level.
When a diner visits one of the property’s restaurants, they’ll find the usual menu joined by video previews of select dishes and drinks, so they can see how the items have been prepared.
“When the COVID pandemic encouraged us to revitalize QR codes as a touchless way to access restaurant menus, we saw that our guests began to embrace the use of the QR codes, so we started thinking about other creative ways to leverage this technology to enhance the guest experience,” said Scott Ford, director of marketing at Innisfree Hotels.
A self-described foodie, Ford thought that a video showing a dish’s preparation would be a fun way to bring unique entertainment value to guests, while digitally bringing them into the chef’s kitchen.
The videos are currently available at the upscale sushi restaurant, Bonsai, where diners can view the preparation of the restaurant’s signature dish, a hickory-smoked tuna roll. And at Sal De Mar, the Hilton’s pool deck bar, visitors can snap the QR code to see a video of bartenders making the 40-ounce strawberry-jalapeño Margarita.
Diners are prompted to watch the videos by call-out boxes positioned next to the QR codes. Each is short and professionally edited — the Margarita video clocks in at 33 seconds, and the tuna roll video is just under one minute. They’re fun to watch, but more importantly, they help move items.
“The customers love this new QR code concept, and we have experienced a significant increase in orders of the featured video items on the menu,” Ford said.
He adds that the next phase of the plan is to expand the videos to more menu items, but not all, as that could ruin the novelty and cause customer fatigue.
“We feel that this provides a unique experience for some select dishes, but a menu full of QR codes would probably be overkill and may actually take away from the guest experience,” said Ford. “The plan is to limit the QR code video items to three or four dishes and maybe a cocktail or two for each restaurant menu.”