When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it brought about a lot of changes, and one of the most noticeable shifts was in the restaurant industry. To maintain cleanliness and ensure customer safety, many restaurants decided to switch to digital menus. This allowed customers to access the menu using their own smartphones by scanning a QR code or clicking a link.

Interestingly, even after the pandemic, these changes didn't fade away. Many restaurants continued to use digital menus for everything – from viewing the menu to ordering food and paying the bill. In some places, they even tossed out traditional printed menus altogether.

Why Digital?

Digital Menus
Source: https://www.dotsignage.com/industries/qr-code-menu-restaurants

In addition to this, many fast-food joints have also joined the digital trend by introducing digital kiosks. These kiosks let customers order their meals by themselves using a touchscreen. Afterward, all they need to do is pick up their orders.

From the restaurant's point of view, they often love digital orders. They're usually more profitable because it's the customer, not an employee, who places the order. Customers using digital menus also tend to spend more time exploring the menu, and they often add extra items to their orders, which might not happen if they were ordering in person at the counter.

Digital Menus
Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/edrensi/2018/07/11/mcdonalds-says-goodbye-cashiers-hello-kiosks/?sh=6e20286e6f14

So, what's your take on this digital dining transformation? Like with anything new, some people find digital menus and kiosks simple and efficient, while others might have their doubts. Let's take a look at both sides of the story!

The Advantages of Using Digital Menus

Digital menus offer several advantages, and here are some of them:

Cost Savings

Let's talk about money. Restaurants can save a lot by ditching printed menus. Printing, updating, and replacing physical menus can be costly. Going digital cuts these expenses, which means more money in the bank.

Visual Allure

In restaurants, a picture is worth more than words. Digital menus shine at displaying dishes with delicious images. These pictures not only make mouths water but also boost sales.

Digital Menus

Seamless Integration

In the digital age, things work smoothly together, and digital menus are no exception. They easily connect with kitchen and payment systems, making everything run more efficiently.

Enhanced Hygiene

Especially during the COVID era, this is a big plus. Digital menus excel at reducing physical contact between customers and menus. Customers can access the menu right from their own phones, avoiding the need to touch a physical menu that might have been handled by many others. 

The Downsides of Digital Menus

However, despite their benefits, digital menus are not without their flaws:

System Glitch and No Backup

Sometimes, restaurants rely too heavily on the digital system and lack a backup plan, not realizing that digital menus or systems can also have errors. Instead of improving the customer experience, this oversight can make it worse.

"Once, during the fasting month when people were about to break their fast, I went to a restaurant that used digital menus. But right when it was time, the system stopped working because too many people were using it. So, I had to wait for almost 30 minutes because they didn't have paper menus or another way to order. It wasn't a great experience for customers." - Nadia.

Challenges for Seniors and Tech Novices

The inclusivity of digital menus sometimes comes into question. In a survey conducted by the Korea Consumer Agency, involving 300 individuals aged over 65 in South Korea, 81.6 percent gave digital kiosks at restaurants a try. 

However, within this group, 51.5 percent found the process challenging due to its complex order steps. Additionally, 49 percent reported feeling stressed due to slower order processing times, which also led to longer waits for others.

Difficult-to-Use and Confusing Digital Menus

This can cause issues too. Imagine if the digital menu is hard to figure out. Instead of making things quicker, it might leave customers confused and needing more help from the waiters or waitresses.

Finding Solutions: Striking a Balance

Now that we've seen both the pros and cons of digital menus, it's time to explore some solutions. While digital menus and kiosks can be fantastic when designed well, it's essential to consider these aspects:

Keep it Inclusive

Take a moment to think about your restaurant's target customers. Not everyone may be tech-savvy or comfortable with digital interfaces. Offering manual options, like traditional paper menus, alongside digital ones can ensure that all customers feel welcome. 

For instance, in McDonald's Indonesia, where digital kiosks are prevalent, they still provide cash payment options at the counter, acknowledging that not everyone uses digital payments.

Assistance When Needed

Recognize that some customers may find digital menus a bit confusing or overwhelming. Be ready to provide assistance when required. Well-trained staff can step in to guide customers through the digital ordering process.

User-Friendly Interface

Whether digital or traditional, the menu should be easy for everyone to navigate. Prioritize a simple and intuitive design to make it accessible to all customers, regardless of their familiarity with technology.

“Bringing in digital menus to restaurants is a good move, but ensuring a well-functioning system is even more effective for customer satisfaction. Remember, what's meant to improve things can also bring its own set of challenges.”

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