Every time there's a new "Gigi in the 561" podcast, I learn something new. Such as, who knew QR codes were on the way out -- at least at restaurants.
You know what I'm talking about -- those odd-looking, square, Barcode-on-steroids images that you see almost everywhere. You scan them with your smartphone camera to get more information, enter contests or trigger some other clever marketing gimmick. In the case of restaurants, it pulls up their menu in place of the traditional one you hold in your hands.
QR (Quick Response) codes have been around since 1994, when a Japanese car parts company came up with the idea. They needed to keep track of their inventory, and barcodes didn't cut it. As they say, "necessity is the mother of invention." From that humble beginning, the QR exploded onto the scene.
The menu QR code didn't really gain traction until COVID hit, and "touchless" took over wherever possible. But even then, it was often more trouble than it was worth. There was time spent fumbling with your phone, trying to get the right scanning angle. If you were with friends or business associates, God forbid it didn't work and you looked like a doofus.
We have actually been on some cruise ships where QR was the only option -- there were no regular menus. Putting all your eggs in the technology basket -- yeah, that's a good idea.
Quoting from an article in Gizmodo:
“They (QR codes) are almost universally disliked,” Kristen Hawley, founder of the restaurant technology newsletter Expedite, told The New York Times, citing one reason as etiquette. Taking a phone out at a table can feel like a distraction, something people use to pass the time when they would rather be doing almost anything else, and when forced to use a phone as a menu alternative, it successfully kills the mood."
It's not like people using their phones while dining isn't annoying enough already. Do we really want to provide another reason not to interact in what is supposed to be a social setting?
For me, it harkens back memories of the Cue Cat, the ill-fated, proprietary, barcode reader that debuted in 2000 as the "next big thing." By using a cat-shaped scanner attached to a computer, users could scan a special code to navigate to a specific Internet URL. It drew in a bevy of investors, including my former company, Belo (owners of The Dallas Morning News).
Unfortunately, it didn't work out. Installing it was clunky and time-consuming, consumers didn't see the need and there were privacy concerns as well. After a big, initial splash, it quickly flamed out in a sea of negative press. It was pretty much history by 2001, and Belo ended up writing off nearly $40 million.
The idea of information shortcuts isn't a bad one. With billions of URLs out there, having instant access to the ones we want has merit. We just may have to wait until the human-computer interface is perfected.
Until then, can I have a menu, please?
Yes, I know it's spelled like "Jerry." No, I don't know why it's pronounced "Gary."