Off the menu: QR codes here to stay in restaurants
Until COVID-19, the QR code, that square offshoot of the universal product code, was essentially a marginal technology as far as the consumer market was concerned.
During the pandemic, however, the restaurant industry has taken to QR codes as a contactless way to interact with customers. Many operators have replaced traditional menus with QR codes at the table; these codes took customers to an online menu they could view on their phone. Other restaurants used them to request additional orders during the meal or to facilitate contactless payment when a visit was coming to an end.
Restaurant owners quickly realized that QR codes had benefits beyond the ability to facilitate contactless transactions. Moving away from traditional printed menus in favor of codes gave management the ability to change menus (and prices) with little cost or delay. Customers could also be notified of product availability changes in near real time, and as wait staff interaction with customers was reduced through the use of the QR code, productivity was boosted.
With the recent relaxation of COVID-19 precautions, however, many restaurants have decided to stick with QR codes as menu substitutes, and some have expanded their use, using them to promote daily specials or provide information. detailed menu items. A Florida hotel even provides guests with QR codes that link them to broadcast-quality videos showing how various star dishes are prepared.
Despite their obvious benefits, the use of QR codes by restaurants has its detractors, who point out that such “contactless” interaction erodes the nature of the hotel experience and promotes guest isolation. While these criticisms may be valid in the case of high-end restaurants, QR code proponents argue that most complaints about the use of codes simply represent resistance to something new.
Either way, restaurants embracing in-dining QR code technology should ensure they are prepared to make the process user-friendly. A strong internal Wi-Fi connection is a must, with easy customer access should customers choose to order using QR code technology.
Additionally, restaurants should have traditional paper menus available for customers who prefer them — or who may not have fully charged their phones before leaving home.
KFC returned to its library of product formulations and resumed its Mac & Cheese Bowl as a limited time offer.
The bowl features cheddar-style macaroni and cheese topped with popcorn chicken and finished with a tri-cheese blend. Customers have the option of specifying “classic” or “spicy” popcorn chicken. The Mac & Cheese Bowl is served with fries and a drink.
KFC is also testing its own version of chicken nuggets, which are coated in the brand’s signature breading. Currently in testing in a North Carolina market, the nuggets are offered in packages of various sizes.
Although KFC has offered chicken pieces in the past, this is the first time in 60 years that the brand has ventured into the chicken nugget niche.
Boston Market has also gotten into the chicken nuggets business with a new menu option – Rotisserie Chicken Nuggets. Nuggets are unique in the way they are prepared; pieces of white chicken meat are seasoned before being roasted in a rotisserie.
Sold with a dip, nuggets come in spicy or “signature” flavors.
There is a Boston Market location at 1387 Boston Road in Springfield; they respond to (413) 271-3808.
The Blue Heron restaurant in Sunderland has rebranded its second-floor private dining room, calling it the Mount Sugarloaf Room.
Seating up to 18 people, the Mount Sugarloaf Room now offers two fixed price multi-course menus for those who book it. The “Signature” menu offers a selection of family-style appetizers, a salad dish, a choice of three main courses and a dessert tasting. Enhanced by an expanded selection of entrees, the “Première” option replaces chicken with beef tenderloin in the entree selections.
Prior arrangements are required to reserve the room. The Blue Heron answers at (413) 665-2102.
The latest supply challenge in the restaurant industry is a condiment crisis. Sriracha, the popular hot sauce, is in dire shortage.
The weather is the culprit for this latest product availability snafu; drought in Mexico earlier this year drastically reduced the harvest of red jalapeno peppers, an essential component of Sriracha.
Sauce supplies are currently limited in the retail and foodservice distribution channels, and there is no easily substitutable condiment alternative that has the same flavor profile and mouthfeel as the Sriracha.
Chefs who have not yet accumulated a stock of Sriracha are looking for alternatives; a suggested substitute for use in recipes is sambal mixed with mashed garlic.
While a scoop of ice cream may tantalize the taste buds on a sweltering July afternoon, for the sense of smell, ice cream is a rather mundane experience.
Salt & Straw, based in Portland (OR), a high-end retail chain with stores in Oregon and California, decided to add an olfactory component to the pleasure of ice cream. This month, the chain introduced three “culinary flavors” designed to be sprayed on ice cream to add an aromatic dimension to the frozen treat.
The flavors come in three varieties, “A Cloud of Cocoa”, “A Swoon of Citrus”, and “A Plume of Blooms”, and are available at Salt & Straw boutiques for 50 cents a spritz.
Salt & Straw specializes in offbeat ice cream flavors such as pear and blue cheese, cold brew coffee cashew praline, and deviled egg custard with smoky black tea.
Culinary flavors can be ordered from the Salt & Straw website, saltandstraw.com.
Valley View Farm in Haydenville will host a Farm Bar on Sunday, July 31 from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Farm Bar was created last summer when Valley View Farm, which also functions as a reception venue, hosted an all-day “pop-up” featuring craft cocktails, several local food trucks, and live music.
This year, the Farm Bar returns with cocktails and cider. West Springfield’s Lattitude restaurant will be on site with its portable wood-fired pizza oven. Local food truck Burgy will also set up shop to serve burgers and hot dogs.
Valley View Farm answers at (917) 592-4999. They maintain a social media presence at facebook.com/valleyviewfarmhaydenville/.
The second annual Christmas in July Vendor and Food Truck Show will be held at the Orange Municipal Airport in Orange on Saturday, July 30 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
A variety of food truck operators will participate, including Shane’s Hot Dogs, Kona Ice, and more. House fruit wine and Honest Weight craft beer will also be available.
The event will include entertainment for attendees of all ages as well as a visit from a certain special visitor straight from the North Pole.
For event details, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (978) 798-0794.
Canta Gallo Food Truck will be at Fieldcrest Brewing Company in Wilbraham on Friday, July 29 from 4-8 p.m.
The locally based Canto Gallo specializes in Hispanic cuisine. their menu includes chicken chimi, steak chimi, and various Latin-inspired snacks. During their last visit to Fieldcrest, they also made steamed mussels in Fieldcrest’s own ESB.
The full Canta Gallo menu is posted on facebook.com/Canta-Gallo.
Fieldcrest Brewing Company, located at 2343 Boston Road in Wilbraham, answers at (413) 596-3632.
Restaurant foot traffic data collected by Placer.ai, the Los Altos, Calif. company that tracks, collects and analyzes smartphone location data, indicates that inflation is beginning to suppress the number of customer visits in parts of the restaurant market
June 2022 data from Placer shows that foot traffic to coffee chains fell by more than 5%, with a similar but smaller decrease (2.5%) in foot traffic to quick service restaurants. Starbucks traffic decreased 6.6% compared to June 2019; Dunkin’s numbers were flat.
The report speculates that this drop in traffic in the cafe segment could reflect inflation-influenced reductions in consumer spending for restaurants.
Hugh Robert is a faculty member of the Hospitality and Culinary Arts program at Holyoke Community College and has over 45 years of experience in the restaurant and education sectors. Robert can be reached online at OffTheMenuGuy@aol.com.