JUST before the second wave of the pandemic ensued and lockdown restrictions precluded outdoor dining, we ventured out for a family dinner. My daughter and son-in-law, who were visiting us, selected a restaurant. It turned out to be a funky one playing heavy metal music. My instinct was to walk out as the decibel level was unbearable. However, I suppressed my rebellion as I thought that was the privilege of the younger generation. We were ushered to a table. The staff was polite and prompt.
Settled on comfortable chairs, I summoned a waiter and asked for the menu. He informed us that as a Covid-preventive measure, the menu cards had been discontinued. Further, pointing his finger towards a QR code on a small display stand on the table, he told us to scan the same with our mobile camera to get the menu on the screen. My daughter did the honours and showed me the menu.
Thirsty as I was, I hastily scrolled down to the bar section and asked him to bring whiskey first. ‘Sorry, sir,’ he muttered, ‘you have to place the order online through an on-screen menu.’ In wonderment, I ticked the box for whiskey and pressed the order button. The order was delivered promptly. We all scanned the QR code on our devices enthusiastically and placed orders for beverages and snacks to kick off the party.
A question popped up in my mind which I directed towards my son-in-law. How do they know that the order has emanated from our table without knowing our numbers? He revealed the simple secret. Every table has a unique QR code.
As we placed the orders, the bill also appeared on our screens. At the end of it, I pressed the pay button on my screen to make a digital payment. I got so involved in the entire process — from browsing the menu, placing the orders to making the payment, all from my screen, that the decibel level of metal music didn’t ruffle my nerves.
On the way back home, I recounted the benefits of a new experience. We were saved from holding and leafing through the traditional menu in a physical form which is usually soiled and stained, touched by a multitude of hands. Waiters didn’t hover over our heads to take orders. We were also spared the trouble of scrutinising the paper bill which is mostly in small print. Rather, every time we added an order, we also knew the cumulative amount spent so far.
After the ‘digital dinner’, I googled to discover that QR stands for ‘Quick Response’. It contains data for a locator, identifier or tracker that points to a website or application.
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