Customers returning to restaurants amid the COVID-19 pandemic may find themselves warily eyeing seemingly harmless surfaces. A doorknob might be a bacterial hotbed. The back of a chair could be a potential infection point. And a menu, no matter how recently cleaned, could have been touched by dozens of germy strangers. That’s where Touchless Menu comes in.
The product is a sleek, waterproof rectangle about the size of a deck of cards. With Touchless Menu, customers can pull up a restaurant or bar’s menu by either scanning a QR code or simply tapping the Touchless Menu device with their phone to utilize Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology. Both options automatically direct users to the establishment’s online menu, totally eliminating the need for printed menus. Even better: The service is highly affordable for hospitality professionals, at just $10 per Touchless Menu device with an optional $10 monthly website hosting fee.
Touchless Menu co-founders Dylan Rauhoff and John McQueary are both hospitality industry veterans, having met at Hotel Vandivort, McQueary’s boutique hotel in downtown Springfield, Missouri. Rauhoff served as the hotel’s director of food and beverage before taking the leap into entrepreneurship, and Touchless Menu seemed like a natural way for the two to continue working together. “The idea started as a response to COVID 19 – at its core, it’s a way to keep guests safe,” Rauhoff says. “But as we looked at what online menus can offer the industry as a whole moving forward, we realized this was an opportunity to help create that change.”
Rauhoff explains that online menus have the potential to revolutionize the way the hospitality industry operates. “Right now, if an item on your menu is not selling well or if a purveyor is out of an ingredient you need, you have to wait until your next menu run or completely reprint your menus,” Rauhoff says. “That’s not cost-effective.” Instead, Touchless Menu allows hospitality professionals to update their menus instantly. “A lot of restaurants and bars are managing these extensive spirit and wine lists,” Rauhoff says. “To be able to change your menu immediately so you have an up-to-the-minute representation of your product list is huge. It allows restaurants and bars to save so much money on printing costs, but it also gives people the flexibility to make decisions on the fly that are better for their businesses.”
McQueary agrees that products like Touchless Menu represent a permanent shift in the industry. “Some of the habits we’re developing right now will stick around after the pandemic is managed,” McQueary says. “People will come to expect things like simple hygiene practices and social distancing. Plus, our product isn’t just a sanitary thing – it’s a convenience thing.”
Eleven establishments across the country currently use Touchless Menu, and Rauhoff and McQueary hope to grow that number while improving the system to benefit restaurateurs. “We want to continue to build upon our online menu options,” McQueary says. “That means building in features that take advantage of what online menus can really do, like asking guests to sign up for email lists or allowing users to filter menus based on dietary restrictions.”
The co-founders also hope to unroll an automatic menu change feature for restaurants that offer different breakfast, lunch or dinner menus. For Rauhoff, it’s all about giving back to the industry. “Having worked in the industry for so long, a lot of people think restaurants are printing money,” Rauhoff says, laughing. “So we want to provide restaurants and bars the opportunity to make this transition and keep up with the industry-wide culture shift in an efficient, affordable way.”
Touchless Menu, touchlessmenu.com