how to create qr code menu best practices

How To Create a QR Code Menu For Your Restaurant


To create a QR code menu that is both effective for your restaurant and safe to use for your customers, there are some preparatory steps you must consider.

There are many websites that offer templated QR code menus for a flat monthly fee: the so-called “QR code generators.” But they almost never show you the full picture…

Good QR code menus are hard to make.

They need precise work catered to your branding.

» REQUEST NOW: Get a Free Quote on Your New QR Code Menu

As a restaurant owner, your menu is your most valuable asset. A potential customer will often decide whether to buy from you solely based off of your menu items.

So what use is a menu that looks and feels the same as all other restaurants in your neighborhood? It’ll just drive your customers away, off to the more unique offering.

In this guide, I’m showing you how to create a QR code menu for your restaurant that isn’t just the “same old” but rather a long-term asset for your restaurant’s growth.

The 2 Paths To Creating Your QR Code Menu

Due to their digital-first nature, you can’t really “make” a QR code on your own: you have to rely on some third-party service that generates the code for you and stores your data in it.

Without going too deep into the history of QR codes, you can think of them like traditional barcodes used in supermarkets, carrying information to be interpreted by a machine.

Yet QR codes are much more flexible than that.

And they can carry quite a bit of data…

The best practice, however, remains to use QR codes as a way to redirect people to a website, or some type of contact information that they can bookmark and later reference.

That’s because QR codes with too much data become impractical:

dos and donts of creating a qr code menu
Do’s and don’ts of QR code design (Source: Xamoom)

So, what are the 2 paths you can take when creating a QR code menu for your restaurant, and what pros/cons do they carry? Here’s a detailed breakdown of both options.

PATH 1: Use a QR-Code Generator & Design The Menu Yourself

The quickest and “easiest” way to create a QR code menu is to sign up to one of the many QR code generators available on the internet and use their pre-made templates.

The problem is, making a QR code menu is not as easy as they make it seem. Once you sign up to a generator, you’re usually left with complex menus and design configurations.

qr code menu generator too many options
There are so many options in QR code menu generators

Templates are often clunky to set up, and the information is divided into multiple menus which are confusing at first. It takes hours of work just to get all menu items laid out correctly!

Not to mention making them look pretty…

But it’s not all cons.

QR code menu generators offer quite a few benefits:

  • They are fairly inexpensive if you have time to spend creating your own designs from scratch and your needs are limited to just one small restaurant location
  • While clunky at first, the options provided do fit the needs of most small restaurant owners who need to get their QR code menu up-and-running quickly
  • Dynamically-generated QR codes and cloud-based software allow you to swap the content at any time without fear of losing data or information stored in them
  • Although the general approach is to rinse and repeat, templates are a good way to get a temporary menu up and running before investing in a long-term alternative

… and that’s about it.

The cost savings are primarily related to the “self-service” part of the generator experience, where you fiddle with the options until you’re left with a design that looks good to you.

But there’s a BIG problem with this approach…

Why QR Code Menu Generators Aren’t Always The Best Option

As a restaurant owner, you have a deep connection with your menu. It’s the reason that customers choose you over any other restaurant, and you likely know it by heart.

That’s why using generators isn’t always the best option. Sure, they can list your menu items, but they can’t magically give you a design that fits your brand for the long-term.

Slapping your logo on a template isn’t enough for a menu to show its true value: you have to meticulously craft each section of the menu for it to help you grow your bottom line.

And that can only be done with a bit more effort spent on the menu design.

(i.e. hiring a menu designer to do the job for you)

The Importance of Menu Design (& Not Just Graphics)

A common misconception is that a pretty restaurant menu will do the job just fine. That’s how most QR code generators lure you into signing up to their services.

However, the reality is a bit different. A pretty menu will certainly help with showing your prospective customers that you’re serious about your branding efforts…

But without a proper structure, the menu only acts as eye candy.

Have you ever picked up a menu feeling like your eyes were just scrolling through endless menu items without ever finding that one dish that makes you go: “Yes, this is the one”?

That’s the outcome of bad menu design.

And it results in less revenue…

(More on this in path #2)

Graphics should enhance the menu items, not obscure them! Meaning that the design process always starts from a solid understanding of your ideal buyer first and graphics second.

By following this process, your digital menu comes to life on its own.

And it helps you grow your restaurant business for the long-term.

PATH 2: Have Someone Create & Host The Design For You

The second path is to have someone create and host the menu design for you. Why? Because it leads to the best return on investment for your restaurant, hands down.

While Covid-19 may have accelerated the adoption of QR code menus, they are here to stay for the long-term. So if you haven’t started yet, why not ask for a bit of help?

There are tons of benefits to working with a professional:

  • The menu design process is much more thorough, with clear visual guidance for your customers to immediately identify (and purchase!) your signature dishes
  • You get real-time suggestions and help from someone who’s worked on hundreds of similar projects and who knows the ins-and-outs of making your menu a success
  • The end product is completely aligned with your branding and tells the story of your restaurant, unlike most of the pre-made templates generators offer
  • You get unmatched design prowess with custom-made elements that provide that “eyecandy” effect while focusing on your content first and foremost

… all of this without having to worry about countless configurations.

See the results of a custom digital menu for yourself:

bespoke qr code menu example from doe magnet
A bespoke QR code menu can offer an experience unlike any other restaurant

With the images at the top highlighting the most popular (and profitable!) combo items, customers are much more likely to order one of them instead of single items.

And the tabs are easy to use on both mobile devices and tablets. All it takes is just one quick snap with the camera and all your menu items are nicely displayed on their mobiles!

Why Bespoke QR Code Menus Are Worth The Investment

With QR menu generators being so “cheap”, you may be wondering why bespoke digital menus are worth the investment, or whether you should even consider them.

In the end, it all boils down to three things:

  1. Your reputation as a brand
  2. Your time as a restaurant owner
  3. Potential revenue loss due to bad design

If you truly want a menu to work for your restaurant in a way that provides long-term growth, a generator will require you to spend hours upon hours designing the templates yourself.

While this is laudable, it may not be the best use of your time, and it may lead to inconsistencies in your branding efforts. Not to mention the potential loss in revenue.

A bad menu design will confuse your prospects, leading them to choose the best value to dish ratio rather than the most profitable dish. This is not what you want with your menu.

Plus, what if you don’t like your templated design after hours and hours of work? There’s only so much you can do at that point… You’re only left with the option of hiring a designer.

The BIG advantage of requesting a bespoke QR code menu is that you don’t have to double-guess whether your menu is going to work or not. It certainly will.

That, and the huge time savings of not having to cobble together a templated design that may or may not work (on top of all the other responsibilities you already have).

Sure, the sticker price may be higher for professional design…

But the result will last you 20x longer too.

The Cons of Working with a Menu Design Professional

Everything has its pros and cons. While I recommend working with a menu designer over signing up to a QR menu generator, there are some things to consider:

  • When working with a professional, it all comes down to trust. If the person on the other end doesn’t look like they know what they’re doing, stray away from their services.
  • The initial process of explaining the menu designer your history, prior branding efforts, and menu composition is painful and can take a few days of back and forth.
  • Once you lay out your vision to the menu designer, you don’t own the creative process anymore. The only thing you can do is wait for the final result.
  • It’s best to ensure that your designer is able to communicate effectively. Bad communication can lead to serious issues down the road.

All of these points can be mitigated by working with someone who can demonstrate their expertise either through a portfolio of previous projects or through referrals.

With a bit of time spent laying out all the information necessary for the designer to start, the menu creation process should go smoothly and these issues should be minimized.

7 Best Practices To Make a Great QR Code Menu

Whether you choose to create the menu yourself or with the help of a professional designer, I’ve compiled 7 best practices you should always follow for the best result:

1. Forget The Design & Start With The Menu Items

listing all menu items for qr code design
List all menu items on a blank sheet of paper

What good is a menu that doesn’t show your best dishes front and center? Before you start thinking about the bells and whistles, jot down all your menu items from top to bottom. No need to think about sections at this point, just get an overall idea of the menu items you want to include in your flaming new QR menu and list them all onto paper.

2. Make Sure Your Sections Are Clear & Concise

how to create a qr code menu by listing items
Break the menu items into sections

Once you have your list of menu items ready to go, start breaking them down into sections. This can be done in many different ways. One way is to divide combo dishes on the menu by time of day (breakfast, lunch, dinner) for easy reference. Another is to divide them into different courses (appetizer, first dish, second dish, desserts, drinks, etc.). Choose your preferred style!

3. Decide Which Dishes Deserve The Most “Attention”

choosing dishes to create qr code menu
Circle the items that you want to highlight on your final menu design

Once you’ve clearly separated your menu items into sections, choose one or two per section that deserve the most attention. You should spend some time thinking about this as clearly highlighting your best (and most profitable) dishes will lead to the greatest return on investment. Once you’ve chosen at least one for each, your menu designer will know what to do with them.

4. Set Global Styles for The Entire Menu

This is when the graphic design process starts. At this point, you want to set global styles for the entire document: page setup, font, colors, and so on. This will lay the foundation for your physical QR code card as well as the online menu design. The process is usually split between the two activities either by using software like Photoshop or by using a generator.

5. Add The Content To Your QR Menu Design

tabletop qr code menu card for restaurants
The QR code on your tables is just as important as the mobile menu it’ll display

Once you have an idea of where to fit your content, you want to copy and paste all the menu items into the appropriate sections and start bringing them to life on the screen. Remember that both the physical QR code and the online menu should have a cohesive look for customers to feel like they are experiencing a unique design. That’s what will make your branding stick.

6. Highlight at Least One Dish per Section

bespoke qr code menu example from doe magnet
Each dish should have its own unique take for your digital menu to work well

You’ve already done the exercise of highlighting your most profitable dishes, now it’s time to have them pop out of the menu. Don’t be afraid to have these menu items dwarf the rest as they are the ones you want to publicize the most. Of course, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t advertise the others… It just means that adding some fries to that burger will make you more $$$!

7. Apply Final Touches & Graphics (The “Eyecandy”)

You’re in home stretch territory. You’ve listed all your new menu items, highlighted the best for your customers to purchase, and styled both physical QR code and digital menus. Now you can have some fun… Add some final touches to your design like graphical elements or sleek lines that wrap around the menu items. Be creative, you’re basically done with your menu!

With these best practices in mind, you’re ready to create a QR code menu that not only looks great but also serves the purpose of growing your restaurant’s bottom line.

A QR Code Menu Should Help Your Restaurant Grow

tabletop qr code menu card for restaurants
A simple QR code menu can go a long way towards growing your restaurant business

Don’t get fooled by the shiny QR menu designs flying around left and right. Your digital menu has a purpose other than looking pretty, and that is to make you more money in less time.

By laying out your menu items in a way that shines light on your most profitable dishes, you can create a menu that not only attracts new customers but that also helps your restaurant grow.

If you haven’t gotten around to creating your own QR code menu yet, there are tons of real-time resources to guide you towards making the right decision for your restaurant.

Why not give ours a try?

free qr code menu quote

Originally published Nov 10 2020

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I design my own QR code menu?

Yes, you can. But it’s not as easy as you may think. Even when using one of the many “QR code menu generators,” creating your own digital menu requires time and effort. If you’re looking for a more professional approach, it’s best to request a quote from a menu designer.

How do I get a QR code for my menu?

To create a QR code for your restaurant’s menu, you can either use a third-party generation service or hire a professional menu designer to do the work for you. QR codes require you to host the URL data on a server so you should always rely on a service you trust.

Can I get a free QR code for my restaurant’s menu?

You can get a free QR code but I would recommend against it. This is because there are usually pretty big caps on the amount of data that you can use with free QR codes and that comes at the expense of end-user experience (i.e. your customers will see a blank screen!).

How do you create a QR-code menu?

Creating a QR-code menu is a fairly involved process. You have to list all your menu items, then sort them into sections, highlight a few dishes, set the styles for both QR card and website, apply branding assets, and complete a few rounds of final touches before printing.

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