AR continues to prove itself as a brand marketing medium. There, it has the unique ability to demonstrate products in their full 3D glory, which has proven effective in categories from furniture to footwear and cosmetics to cars. It’s all about dimensional confidence for shoppers.

Joining that list of AR marketing’s fitting, but underrepresented, verticals is food. So on this Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., what better thread to pull? Examples include Snap’s partnership with Allrecipes to identify items in your fridge and fitting recipes, using Snap Scan.

Another food-based AR experience was recently launched by Denny’s. Working with QReal it uses AR to bring more dimension to its iconic colorful menu. Specifically, diners can visualize their Grand Slam breakfast in 3D, which offers a more complete sense of a given dish before ordering.

“We’ve been dreaming of bringing menus to life in this manner for six years,” QReal general manager Mike Cadoux told AR Insider. “That 3D and AR food increases craveability has been demonstrated in multiple studies, including one by Oxford University in conjunction with QReal.”

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Steaming & Sizzling

Going deeper into QReal’s work with Denny’s, diners can activate AR through QR codes on printed menus. Once scanned, they can swipe through menus and activate their camera to place 3D dishes in their immediate space. Food can be spun, panned, and zoomed for greater detail.

As an additional enticement, special deals are available through the AR menu. The goal is to give diners an economic incentive to try it out. From there, the hope is that they can gain greater comfort levels with AR – for some, it may be their first time – and develop new habits.

In addition to dimensional understanding, the goal is to instill craveability, as Cadoux notes. This is all about evoking mouth-watering moments, which is a North Star for the fashion and food-focused QReal. Using photogrammetry, it works with brands to bring products to life.

This level of detail is particularly additive for food, similar to the ways that surface detail is important for high-end jewelry, as Snap has demonstrated. The more the soup is steaming and the fajita is sizzling, the greater the craveability. QReal has built a business on this principle.

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Panning back, AR-enabled menus are part of Denny’s broader “It’s Dinner Time” program. Aligned with the chain restaurant’s 70th anniversary, it includes tech integrations such as AR menus and a $25 million upgrade to modernize kitchens with new equipment and ordering logistics.

This notably involves a cloud-based point-of-sale (POS) system that expedites orders and lets Denny’s extract analytics from aggregate patterns. That includes everything from seasonal trends to complimentary menu items and other insights that can drive product strategy.

AR is a key component of that overall effort in that getting users to try it feeds into (excuse the pun) the cloud-based POS. Once users have their phones out for AR, it’s a natural handoff to a mobile order. AR menus also boost tech-forward and environmentally-friendly PR for Denny’s.

To be fair, Denny’s isn’t the first company to use AR as a food visualization tool. Others such as Panera have done similar (also powered by QReal), but more in the context of marketing campaigns. Bringing AR to restaurant menus could unlock an even bigger addressable market.

“It took the intrepid team at Denny’s to pull the trigger and bring it to life and we couldn’t be happier with the result,” said Cadoux.

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