A Paper Printer For QR Code Menus

Do you miss the days of thumbing through a sticky, laminated booklet to order your food? Sick of restaurants and their frustrating electronic menus? Fear not, for [Guy Dupont] and his QR code menu printer are here to save the day.

Yes, that’s right — it’s a lunchbox-sized printer designed to spit out a paper version of a digital menu. Using a Tiny Code Reader from Useful Sensors, the device can scan a QR code at a restaurant to access its menu. A Seeed Studio XIAO ESP32 takes the link, and then passes it to a remote computer which accesses the menu online and screenshots it. The image is processed with TesseractOCR to extract food items and prices, and the data is then collated into a simple text-only format using ChatGPT. The simplified menu is finally sent to a thermal printer to be spat out on receipt paper for your casual perusal.

[Guy] was inspired to build the project after hating the experience of using QR code menus in restaurants and bars around town. It’s his latest project that solves an everyday problem, it makes a great sequel to his smart jeans that tell you when your fly is down.

24 thoughts on “A Paper Printer For QR Code Menus

      1. I personally love QR code menus, if they are just simple websites where I can order for the table.
        Everyone can look at the same time, you can order at any time whenever you want (less staff burden). And helps with my social anxiety because of that. Can think as long as you want, if you forget something, you can just order extra. It’s my favorite thing that came out of COVID.

        But, I also see that it’s not for everyone, and it should be optional, and not just for obvious technical reasons (like, phone being dead, no internet, QR not readable). But also for people that enjoy the human contact, need that physical menu, have a harder time reading due to lower vision, or just not being good with tech (like my parents)

      2. The local restaurant has one, but foolishly encoded a very large URL into such a small area making a dense QR that I doubt many phones under $1000 will be able to capture. Probably do better with OCR on a written out URL

        They needed a tiny URL link, or make a short URL on their webpage.

  1. I’m just on the far side of the digital divide. Going to a restaurant and looking around seeing a big group of people that should be chatting and looking at each other huddled over their phones is depressing.
    So the digital menu thing- ok so you go in, sit down, and have no choice but to immediately first thing take out your phone. What a buzzkill.
    This project is obviously useless but amazing too- imagine the conversation when you go in, get seated then whip casually whip this bad boy out on a first date. That’s gotta be 1000x better than showing someone a dumb picture you took or a meme you saw.

    1. Amen. QR code menus are awful. And I feel for those with social anxiety, (massive benefits to getting help with that BTW) but the antisocial nature of ordering at phones and kiosks is one of many tiny and insidious poisons to the human race. Go reclaim your place as a social creature.

      1. We’re not naturally supposed to see and interact with massive numbers of complete strangers every day, so it’s not any less natural to use the kiosk.

        As for social anxiety, it’s like most things. A lot of times the “help” available for someone depending on their specific challenges comes in the form of an accommodation. For instance, left-handed people, being less common, are accommodated by left-handed versions of some tools. They’re probably better with right-handed tools than right-handed people are with the reverse, but if they don’t manage to be as good with the right-handed tool as a right-handed person, this completely arbitrary thing is considered a deficiency.

        Now, this isn’t as arbitrary as handedness, because social anxiety is more of a mirror image of social dependence – someone who can’t stand to not be talking to someone for longer than a few moments, hypothetically. But someone’s not broken if they don’t need every single thing to be a face to face interaction and extroverts aren’t inherently better – but in some ways they’re even more favored than right-handed people since public places tend to do little to accommodate people who don’t want to be deprived of solitude without the benefit of company. And we certainly tend to act as if an introvert is a shy and meek homebody while an extrovert is the charismatic go-getter that everyone is supposed to be, which is a bit of a false comparison.

  2. “Do you miss the days of thumbing through a sticky, laminated booklet to order your food” … No, because every restaurant here still has the laminated paper menu or booklet. So…. No don’t miss it :) .

    Neat project though for fun.

    1. I have been abroad in a restaurant thad had no physicsl menus. I had to order food via their QR code site, which somehow didn’t work with my bank or creditcard.
      End of story: they weren’t able to serve me, I had to change to a friendlier restaurant.
      This was in september 2021, so still very Corona.

    2. I went to a few places in 2020 that used QR code menus, and invariably the PDF they loaded was in text too small for my no-longer-20-year-old eyes to read. It was awful. The places that had single-use paper menus–which, granted, are not as environmentally friendly–were a lot easier to use.

      This is an interesting idea, in a “problem in search of a solution” kind of way, as someone else mentioned. To be fair, he admits it’s not “a real project”, and even identifies places where it wouldn’t work–one of which is obviously going to be places where the fonts aren’t readable by whatever OCR process he’s using.

  3. A QR code is the only way I can read your menu? Sorry, I’m not your customer and never will be. My phone is for MY convenience, not yours – and squinting at my small screen to read your menu is not convenient in the least. The purpose of my phone is not to allow some restaurant to track me and violate my privacy while simultaneously making my buying experience more difficult. So no, I don’t miss those paper menus, because I only patronize restaurants with menus I can either hold, or read on a poster or monitor.

    1. my feerlings exactly, jenningthecat. I wasn’t tickled to discover that I couldn’t attend a Red Sox game without installing and enabling the MLB app in a phone that was too old to load it without going to the Russian archive to get an earlier version which did. We caved and bought a newer phone, and loaded it and use it for Tampa Bay Rays games. At least the gatekeepers are very helpful in extracting the ticket info from it.

      but I still hate the idea.

  4. In civilized countries, presenting a written/printed menu containing description, price and information on allergens and certain additives before taking an order is usually mandated by law. In Austria (and probably anywhere in the EU) a QR-only menu would be illegal in a restaurant or coffee house. Besides that, requesting patrons to bring their own order entry devices would be immediately answered by flipping the bird.

    1. Even fast food I roll my eyes at people using their phones to order (no way would I install a McD app for example) … Or using a kiosk to put in their order and pay with the ‘card’ … instead of just telling the server at counter what they want and then pay with cash. Of course on upside, this usually means we are almost first in line which is a plus :) and have set down to our meal before they have pushed all the buttons and made up their minds…

      Not only that, but who always carries a phone around in the first place?

      1. I like to go to McD’s every once in a while for an Egg McMuffin for breakfast. One problem is I don’t like the fried[1] egg. No problem! You can ask them to substitute a folded egg. But you can’t do that at the kiosks. Still. Even though they have been around for 4 or 5 years now.

        This makes it really difficult at some local stores, where management pushes the kiosks so hard they tell the employees to ignore people at the register. I’ve seen 4 or 5 people, myself included, walk out as one after being ignored for 10 minutes, while Door Dashers and drive-through people get served. Incredibly annoying.

        [1] I know.

      2. I disagree but the comment glitched, you can ctrl-f for #290348758. Basically, electronic can be cheaper and faster. And phones are just little pda/cameras that have a sim card.

  5. I like to see a proper paper menu, where I don’t have to navigate back and forth between webpages on my 5” screen. Reaching the point where I may leave a restaurant if they don’t have such minor convenience. Where else are they cutting costs? Sanitation? Ew!

  6. Many times, ordering or paying electronically is incentivized by sometimes substantial discounts/rewards – at minimum, since the prices are generally the same, you can pay a couple percent less by using an appropriate card instead of cash. Naturally ordering online gives the ability to order ahead at places that generally wouldn’t let you order by phone. It also grants the ability to find out what you can get that isn’t spelled out in detail on the menu – e.g. substitutions – without being a nuisance at the counter. Or, if for example you sometimes order pizza to pick up on the way home instead of cooking, you can save your order with everyone’s toppings already selected. I don’t do it everywhere, but when I do use a kiosk or phone it often ends up getting me my food sooner than at the counter, even if there’s no line either way.

    It’s the grocery store self-checkouts that bother me; they’re much less practical than the simple ones at fast food places. And a lot of the apps I’d only install on a sacrificial device that doesn’t have anything but shitty apps. Not carrying a phone though, that’s an odd one. It’s a PDA and a camera too, you know, if you don’t want the phone service.

  7. I want a full-size menu, and prefer if it’s not electronic so I can look around the pages, instead of zooming into one at a time. This is sort of neat but not really better than the electronic one that hopefully is laid out well with color. At least it’s not a chalkboard where half the options aren’t listed. :D

  8. Most people complaining about QR code menus here don’t actually complain about them (save for one person who thinks carrying a phone with them is weird).

    They complain about the low effort implementations. I can’t understand why some restaurants think replacing a paper menu with a link to a shitty PDF instead of a proper lightweight mobile-first website is a good idea. You don’t have to squint and zoom when everything is properly sized.

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