Friday, October 28, 2016

Digital Menu Boards -- The Future is Now

We’ve covered a number of areas concerning the implementation of digital menu boards in QSR and Fast Casual dining environments over the last few weeks. Something we’ve neglected to cover, though, is that much like self-driving cars, no matter how hard it may be to accept they are the future, they are, in fact, an inevitability, with digital expected to become the norm within three to five years. Almost any expert would agree that static menu boards are on the way out, and the future is already here. Digital menu boards are here to stay.

That being said, we’re witnessing an interesting trend when customers begin to consider upgrading from a traditional static board, and that’s requests for combination boards. It’s a reasonable request in a way, and probably feels to them like “dipping a toe” into the digital waters, rather than diving in like an Olympic medalist. However, the instinct to look for a hybrid, or in-between solution, while natural, is unlikely to be the best solution for any business, and there are multiple reasons why that’s true. One is that most of the cutting-edge technologies that make digital menu boards so useful are not available for integration into a hybrid board. Another is that, while it may be easier now, combination boards to not allow for the flexibility that a pure digital board does. It’s incredibly important to remember that a business’ needs in 2016 are likely to change dramatically by 2020, given the speed at which technology changes and improves. Why delay the inevitable by making a sizable investment in combination menu boards now, only to have to update them again in five years? The tight margins of the food service industry simply do not allow for that kind of unnecessary expenditure; taking the plunge into a fully digital menu board solution makes the most sense, financially and otherwise.

Opportunity costs are another factor to consider when weighing the pros and cons of an upgrade to digital from static boards. In other words, how many opportunities may potentially be missed in several different areas. This includes during the wait for new static menu boards to be updated and created regularly, but it also alludes to the missed chances to generate revenue via digital boards that stems from their incredible flexibility and the multiple available integrations, from tracking inventory to changing specials on the fly when an item or ingredient surplus occurs. Finally, digital menu boards offer many more ways than static boards to engage or connect with customers while they wait, ultimately enhancing their experience by reducing the perception of wait times during peak times and generating more opportunities to up- or cross-sell.

While there are clearly challenges to planning and deploying a new digital menu board program, the process does not need to be as difficult or complicated as it may first seem. The key to success is partnering with an experienced, vertically-integrated manufacturer like RedyRef. Contact us today at (800) 628-3603 today or request a quote online and we’ll be with you every step of the way to ensure that your program meets every one of your business’ unique needs, from digital boards to dynamic displays.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Implementing Digital Menu Boards in QSR Environments: Content Best practices

Last week, we discussed best practices in digital menu board implementation. After all, there’s little doubt that rolling out a dynamic display program in QSR and fast casual environments is a big investment in both time and money, so it’s clearly important to get it right the big things right -- hardware and software in particular -- the first time. That conversation leads us to today’s blog, which is what to do with all of those screens once they’ve been ordered, programmed and installed. Basically, what are the best practices in terms of content generation for restaurants utilizing digital displays?

It’s important to understand the incredible range of opportunity that opens up once dynamic digital menu boards are implemented. Although it may seem alien at first to operators or management, once the initial “getting to know you” period has passed, an entirely new world opens up, allowing restaurants to interact with customers in completely new and imaginative ways. In an industry where maintaining brand loyalty is essential to success, finding new ways to connect with diners can be the difference between turning a profit or taking a loss. For instance:

  • If your company is involved in charitable work, creating videos that showcase that effort can increase positive perception of its brand. Consumers want to feel good about what they’re buying. While it may not result in them spending more on each visit, it is likely to impact the chance and rate of return visits when the playing field is otherwise level.
  • Put aside budget for creating visually-engaging images of menu items, including both videos and photography. Seeing bacon sizzling on a grill or cold, sparkling soda being poured into a tall glass can go a long way toward both creating demand and increasing total ticket values, as well as emphasizing items that are most profitable (like that sparkling soda, for one).
  • Many customers will stare at their phones when lines are long, but dynamic content is an opportunity to catch and refocus their attention where you want it (your menu!) while decreasing the perception of wait times during peak times of day when done right. This is the perfect time to create a positive experience for a captive audience, while ultimately driving sales. Alternate between interesting (but relevant) videos and menu promotions spotlighting new items, specials or menu highlights. 

But wait -- there’s more! Come back next week to find out how to create world-class content for dynamic menu boards in QSR and fast casual environments. And if you’ve already decided that digital menu boards are right for your business, simply request a quote online or call (800) 628-3603 today and RedyRef will be there every step of the way to ensure your company’s unique signage needs and goals are met.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Implementing Digital Menu Boards in Restaurant Environments: Best Practices

Last week, we discussed one of the biggest barriers to the adoption of digital menu boards -- their seemingly-high cost -- and debunked some of the most common beliefs around making an investment in these types of digital displays. This week, we’ll examine best practices for their implementation in quick-service and fast-casual restaurant environments.

Considering an investment in digital menu boards can be more than a little overwhelming, and knowing where to even begin to start is often part of the problem. But to paraphrase Shel Silverstein, the only way to devour a whale is by taking one bite at a time. And so it goes with rolling out a dynamic menu board program:

  1. Starting with a single location is not an unreasonable choice to make. On the contrary, for those interested in closely analyzing ROI (and who isn’t, in food service?), it is often the best option. Test, test and then test again.
  2. Consider all of the necessary hardware components required for an effective digital menu board implementation, but know that the most important factor is the purchase of commercial-grade equipment and screens -- the best ones that are still within your project’s budget. Failing to do so can end up costing you all over again when a unit fails and must be repurchased as it wasn’t intended to withstand heavy use. Additionally, commercial displays offer more security features and generally include warranties that would not apply to consumer displays if they were to be used in commercial environments. Commercial-grade LCD displays are the most popular as of this writing.
  3. Software is almost equal in importance to hardware and the good news is that it has come down in price significantly over the last few years. Be sure to contract with a company who is able to help create custom software solutions as required for your situation. Even if the program is based on a template, an experienced manufacturer -- especially those like RedyRef that offer vertically-integrated service -- should be able to develop custom software integrations that are best suited for your business’ needs. 
  4. We touched on installation a bit in our previous blog, but know that while it used to be enormously expensive to install digital menu boards, the costs have fallen massively as demand has grown. The key is to hire a company that can safely and effectively manage the installation process. While that may sound obvious, it is surprising how many installers understand one type of technology very well, but have no real experience in the installation of digital signage. Considering that an incorrectly installed dynamic display can be a safety hazard to both employees and the general public, this is definitely not the place to try and cut corners.

While there are clearly challenges when rolling out any new technology or program, by consulting with a company experienced in digital menu board design and implementation like RedyRef, “eating the whale” of dynamic displays is not nearly as difficult a task as it may at first seem. Come back next week when we’ll talk more about digital signage in QSR and fast casual environments. And if you’ve already decided that implementing such a program is right for your business, simply request a quote online or call (800) 628-3603 today and RedyRef will be there every step of the way to ensure you unique display needs and goals are met.