Empty tables inside a restaurant.
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It has never been more important for restaurants to host their own online ordering

What Exactly is Contactless Dining?

The concept goes far beyond a simple online menu or QR code.

"Contactless dining” has become one of the buzziest terms around restaurants after COVID-19 turned the whole industry on its head in 2020. You’ve probably heard it thrown around at your favorite restaurant or bar. You’ve probably also heard that it’s the “new normal.”

But what is contactless dining exactly? What does that umbrella term actually entail?

Suffice it to say, the concept goes far beyond a simple online menu or QR code. “Contactless dining” really has three core pillars. Let’s break them down:


Every dine-in experience starts with a menu, so having yours available online is the first step to going contactless. Restaurants have discovered that not all online menus are made the same.

Some PDFs are hard to find or open on phones. Others can’t be zoomed in on or expanded. Some are near impossible to update, and require the help of the original programmer or designer, a cost that can add up quickly.

So what makes a good contactless menu? Here are three defining traits:

  • A good mobile experience
  • The ability to update it frequently
  • An easily shareable link or QR code

The good news is that it’s never been easier for restaurants to design professional-looking, state-of-the-art online menus. Several solutions have popped up over the past year that allow you to customize menu templates and share them online in minutes.


It has never been more important for restaurants to host their own online ordering. Why? Because relying on third-party delivery services for your online orders is the equivalent of flushing 15–30 percent of each sale down the drain. While you may have to rely on these services for their delivery infrastructure, no one should need to rely on them for pickup and takeout orders.

Every restaurant should host its own online ordering. POS and restaurant management softwares have made it easier than ever to set up your own system, and cut out the greed third-party services leaching from your hard-won commission sales.


The final step to contactless dining, and one that restaurants were already adopting en masse before the pandemic changed everything: cashless payments. This allows customers to pay in the safest, most convenient way possible. Whether that’s credit card, Paypal, Apple Pay, or another service, customers expect to be able to pay their way. Contactless payment simply eliminates a potential hurdle between you and more sales.

How can you enhance your contactless dining?

Here are the notable tech solutions to help build your contactless dining experience.

QR codes

The QR code renaissance proved to be one of the more unexpected subplots to 2020. This once-forgotten piece of technology has been adopted by restaurants around the world to help facilitate their contactless dining.

The whole point of a QR code is simplifying the mobile experience for your customers. Rather than taking the time to find your website on Google, mess around with your online reviews, or find your app in the App store, customers can simply scan your QR code and be instantly redirected to wherever you choose to send them.

Landing Pages

This past year, restaurants have discovered that they don’t need big, bulky, multi-page websites. What they need is a simple, streamlined web presence that can fit in the palm of their customer’s hands. Enter: landing pages.

What’s a landing page? A landing page is a branded website that only displays your most important links. It’s designed specifically for mobile usage, can be updated easily at any point, and can be linked directly to a QR code.

Mark Plumlee is the senior editor for MustHaveMenus, a menu template design service. He writes about restaurant marketing and design.

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