QR codes boost seafood sales

Published on
May 19, 2014

More customers at a chain of five restaurants are utilizing QR codes leading to information on where seafood was caught and its sustainability status.

Black Salt Restaurant Group in Washington, D.C., utilizes a QR code on its menu that customers can scan to view its dedicated seafood sourcing web site, which includes links to all the species, along with the fishermen and farms the fish was purchased from.

“There is so much misinformation out there, such as when people say ‘I don’t like to eat farmed fish’. These codes enable us to talk intelligently and point people to something they can read, instead of speaking in generalities,” MJ Gimbar, fishmonger and director of purchasing for Black Restaurant Group, who developed the program with Washington, D.C.-based distributor Congressional Seafood, told SeafoodSource.

“We get questions every day, so this is easier on the wait staff. They can show people where to go, and they can get immediate answers at the table,” Gimbar added.

On average, more than 300 customers per month click on the QR code that is on its menus and on the fresh seafood cases at its BlackSalt Fish Market, a combination fish market and restaurant, and at the fresh seafood cases in Black’s other restaurants. “This has really helped out our sales at the market,” Gimbar said.

Congressional Seafood started gathering information on all of its fishermen and farms around two years ago and developed the QR code program for restaurants. However, only a couple other small restaurants have utilized the QR codes. “We offered it to all of our customers, but no one has been as passionate as Black’s has been,” said Jonathan Pearlman, VP and director of operations for Congressional Seafood.

Pearlman speculates that the reason more restaurants have not implemented QR codes with sustainability information is that it is difficult to place them on menus. “High-end restaurants don’t want to muck up their menus with this digital square. It has to be ½ inch x ½ inch,” Pearlman said. To that end, Congressional has also developed table tents and server cards, and Black’s has used window clings on the retail case.

“We get more scans at the fish counter than in the restaurant, but we have more [seafood species] available there,” Gimbar says. In addition, Black Restaurant Group has had much more success with QR codes on its menu since the menus have been revised to include only one QR code.

“At first, we tried to create a separate menu book of codes, but people weren’t interested in going through a book while at they were at dinner, so we just created one code for our menu,” Gimbar said.

Congressional has also seen high usage of QR codes on its Facebook page. “People are doing more research at their desks, and it can get a little impersonal to pull out your phone and scan something at dinner,” Pearlman said.

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