Traceability in the Seafood Industry

The Black Restaurant Group’s sustainable seafood program allows customers to see where their food is coming from by scanning QR codes located on the restaurants’ menus and seafood cases.

Where Does Your Seafood Come From?
Growing up in Baltimore, MD, where Barcoding, Inc. headquarters is located, means that seafood is a staple in your diet. And with a long weekend about to commence, who doesn’t want to sink their teeth into some crabs, shrimp, oysters or other delicacies of the sea?

But have you stopped to wonder exactly where your seafood is coming from? As Marylanders, we like to think all of our crabs and oysters are local, but that’s not always the case—there seems to be a cloud of ambiguity around where our seafood is actually coming from.

QR Codes Can Help
Restaurateurs of The Black Restaurant Group plan to shed some light on the mystery behind their seafood by using QR codes.

At the BlackSalt Fish Market in Northwest Washington, there is a large variety of seafood to choose from, but each type of seafood has a correlating QR code on the market’s case and menus.

Customers are able to get a behind-the-scenes look at where, how and when their seafood was caught, shedding light on an industry that has fallen victim to mislabeling, fraud and, as a result, consumer suspicion.

The Problem with QR Codes
The BlackSalt Fish Market kicked off its QR code traceability program a year ago and at first, it was a huge hit, receiving national coverage and thus over 300 scans a day! However, with time, interest in scanning the codes faded, receiving maybe 50 scans a day at best.

“In the world of technology, there’s a very short attention span,” said Fishmonger for Black Restaurant Group, MJ Gimbar. In addition, “The problem is that QR codes are ugly,” he said. “We sell to high-end restaurants and country clubs, and they’re having a hard time incorporating this little block of digital information onto their chic and sexy menus.”

Experimenting with QR Codes
Recently, Black Restaurant Group has been experimenting with how they display their QR codes. Rather than having a different code for each type of seafood, the restaurant began using one code that takes customers to a central page where users can then click on individual links for information about a specific type of seafood, such as descriptions, origins and how to cook them. In addition, QR codes adorn posters, window clings and signs that restaurant owners can keep on tables and bars.

While QR codes have yet to make their way to Baltimore seafood markets and restaurants, hopefully the success of The Black Restaurant Group will encourage other local markets to create transparency in an often murky industry.

Learn more about how The Black Restaurant is using QR codes.