July 14, 2024

You’re the Boss: Cracking the Q.R. Code

Tech Support

Vanda Asapahu was living in Bangkok working in public health with the United Nations until two years ago. That’s when her parents back in Los Angeles told her they were planning to retire from the Thai restaurant they had been running for six years and asked her to come home to take over the business with her brother.

She obliged and soon found herself strategizing with her brother about how to build the business. Not that the restaurant wasn’t modestly successful. Though Ayara Thai Cuisine is tucked away in an unglamorous neighborhood by the airport, it had built a good word-of-mouth reputation among foodies. And now its good reviews on Yelp were increasingly bringing in an additional stream of younger, tech-savvy customers. But could the younger Asapahus do something to leverage that trend and take the business to the next level?

Ms. Asapahu had an idea: quick response codes. These postage-stamp-like printed codes — they look a bit like complex mazes — can be read by just about any camera-equipped smartphone supplemented with one of many freely available apps. When you point your phone’s camera at a quick response (or Q.R.) code, your phone’s browser comes up and whisks you a to Web page linked to that code. (Here’s a guide to some other high-tech customer-service tools).

Q.R. codes are still something of a novelty in the United States, but in parts of Asia and especially Japan they’re a common promotional tool found everywhere on posters, fliers and ads of all sorts, offering more information about a political candidate or an opportunity to subscribe to an organization’s newsletter or a look at a store’s online catalog. Ms. Asapahu, a foodie herself, had seen the way restaurants and clubs employed them and had used them herself.

Often the code rewarded the phone’s owner with news of a special dish or a drink unavailable to other customers or a coupon for a freebie or a discount or a riddle that if solved would lead to a reward. “Sometimes the codes in one club led you to another club, so it was kind of like a scavenger-hunt version of a bar crawl,” Ms. Asapahu said. Such Q.R.-guided nights on the town aren’t common here, but why not have Ayara Thai take a first step in that direction?

Ms. Asapahu’s parents weren’t impressed, expressing doubt that the codes would bring in money. But Ms. Asapahu pointed out that it wouldn’t cost much, either. There are plenty of Web sites that generate Q.R. codes for free, and once you have your code you can print and post it anywhere. But when Ms. Asapahu checked out Ayara Thai’s Web site on her cellphone, she realized it was hard to read on the small screen and that nothing compelling jumped out. So, for an annual fee of about $300, she signed up with Paperlinks, a Q.R.-code oriented online service that provides a simple tool for creating a cellphone-optimized Web page that can be set up easily and updated constantly with promotions and information. (A stripped-down version of the service is available for free.)

“It’s sort of like a Facebook of Q.R. codes,” said Ms. Asapahu. Paperlinks also generated a customized Q.R. code that incorporates the restaurant’s logo, an elephant. (You can see, and if you’re properly equipped try out, the restaurant’s Q.R. code here.)

Ms. Asapahu has started with the simple step of placing the Q.R. code on the front and back of the restaurant’s menu. The code links to a Web page displaying a set of large buttons that can provide the history of the restaurant and the origins of its cuisine, photos of dishes, links to Facebook, Yelp, Twitter and more. (If you don’t have a Q.R.-code-reading phone handy, you can see the cellphone-optimized Web page the code brings you to here.)

It’s been a small hit at the restaurant. “We constantly see customers holding up their phones to the menu, and then talking about what they see,” said Ms. Asapahu. “People don’t choose a restaurant just because of the food and service. They want a good total experience, and this adds another dimension to the experience. Customers tell me they think it’s neat.” She intends to make it neater, by beefing up the Q.R.-linked Web page with videos, the restaurant’s loyalty program, an invitation to receive special offers by e-mail, and riddles — and eventually the sorts of promotional, night-on-the-town treats that Q.R. codes gave her in Asia.

After talking with Ms. Asapahu, I loaded a Q.R.-code-reading app onto my phone, figuring I’d eventually run into a code that would allow me to test it out. Ten minutes later, I was walking down the street and noticed that one of the first storefronts I came to, that of a real-estate firm, had a Q.R. code pasted up on the front window. I pointed my phone, and three seconds later I was looking at the firm’s latest listings and an invitation to sign up for e-mail. Kind of cool, actually. A few minutes after that, I ran into one at the local train station that pointed me to updated information about the train line — news I could use. I ran into several more over the next few hours, and now I see them all the time and can rarely resist aiming my phone at them to see what they lead to. (Q.R. codes are increasingly showing up on business cards, too.)

Have you tried out Q.R. codes in your business?

You can follow David H. Freedman on Twitter and on Facebook.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=7307c4857d2a72cf0ec21427b75e7619

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