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Digital Signage For Restaurants - Endless Possibilities

Tue 22, July 2014   AV News

Article by: David Little

The food and beverage market increasingly improves the customer experience by deploying POS digital signage, typically provided in the form of dynamic menu boards. Unless you live in a cave and hunt dinosaurs for your daily nourishment, you likely have been mesmerized by a dynamic menu board at some point in your search for food this week. However, this is just the beginning of the improved customer experience for restaurants—the possibilities are endless.

Let’s first consider the low-hanging fruit that makes dynamic menu boards so effective for restaurants. According to Nielsen’s third-quarter (2013) Digital Place-Based Video Report, ad recall for POS-type digital signage is typically in the 60% range, which is more than twice the average recall of static signs—menus or otherwise.

This is the reason you can so easily recall the rich color of a creamed latte topped with cinnamon spice at your local coffee shop. Or, depending on where you dine, maybe you can easily recall dynamic advertising for the most awesome, juiciest pub burger that can fit in the mouth of man. I saw such an ad not long ago and it just keeps playing in my memory like a favorite song.

Such recall makes it a natural choice for promoting those more seasonable and profitable food items at the right time and place. According to a Networld Media Group report, Digital Menu Boards and ROI, the average sales lift of any digitally promoted item on menu boards averages around 3-5%, which means that payoff for such a system most often occurs in one year or less.

The restaurant market definitely benefits from digital signage, although the possibilities only start with ROI and grow from there. Improving the customer experience is also about a return on objectives (ROO). Case in point: Medicine Eat Station in San Francisco. This upscale downtown tofu shop is using digital signage for ambience. The integrated sign system creates the atmospherics of “living in harmony with nature” that is accentuated by 4 vertically rotated 42” plasma panels built into the wall of the eating gallery. To accomplish this, high-definition video footage of the Sierra Nevada mountainscape is used for real-time imagery. The programming lasts for about an hour before it repeats. At first glance, it appears to be a still image. But wait, this is real-time imagery, meaning that the clouds slowly cross the screen. A 4,000-year-old Bristle Cone Pine occasionally wavers in the Sierra wind. Light and shadows change constantly, as if you are really there.

This is a great example of ROO, but unfortunately digital signage used as a canvas for art really hasn’t caught on yet. It is by no accident that Medicine Eat Station built this to look like one giant window. It is very cool to experience, meaning that it adds to the purpose of customer satisfaction, just like ambient music, lighting, colors, etc.

Money managers are already pounding their fists, shouting, “Where’s the ROI!” Of course, it’s possible to occasionally slip in an advertisement on the example above, but this might be detrimental to the return on objectives and may compromise the result. Digital signage is not just about sales lift; it’s also about creating a return on objectives. ROO creates a value that cannot be counted in terms of dollars and cents directly. However, ROO leveraged wisely does produce ROI.

Many more POS digital signage opportunities are possible for food and beverage venues. Imagine if you will these scenarios:

  • A sports bar with digital screens showing “this week’s sports highlights” via pictures, video replays, etc., is a natural place to present promotions to a viewing audience already buying food and beverage. This kind of content adds to customer satisfaction and experience and is available through readily available prepackaged syndication.
  • Engage patrons with an on-screen sports trivia experience (or any other trivia for that matter) that encourages participation by offering a coupon for the right answer. This can be done by using a QR code to facilitate the “answer” to the on-screen question.
  • In a QSR setting people are often interested in news, sports, and weather. These interests can be satisfied with existing TV programming and mixed with on-screen ticker announcements, such as today’s special, menu promotions, seasonal sales, etc.
  • How about a trendy restaurant that displays works from local artist. The LCD monitors hang on the wall with picture frames wrapping them. Maybe patrons vote on the best art. Owners could join forces with local art schools, art societies, and public support groups. Ultimately, this could tie-in to customer satisfaction and experience. Who is not uplifted by good art, and for that matter, good food?
  • In downtown districts, many restaurants depend on people walking buy. Instead of using posters turning yellow on windows, why not project clear and crisp digital images directly on the window! The technology exists but hardly anyone uses it. The projector cost is about the same as a large LCD screen, although projector bulb replacement would add to maintenance costs. If that’s a major concern, then laser projectors are an alternative with much longer maintenance cycles. These images could be today’s menu special, happy hour enticements, a new menu item that you can almost taste, a soothing cup of fresh ground coffee on a chilly morning, or just good old branding that reinforces quality services, etc.
  • Now let’s turn to the nightclub scene where people are hopping and bopping on the dance floor. Bizarre curved screens are splashed like clouds above them with computer-controlled graphics flashing to the beat. During breaks, projectors are switched over to digital signage where various branding and POS offers are made.

I hope you thought of at least one example to add to this list. Please comment and share your example of ROO on Facebook or the comments section if you are reading this on social media. When it comes to creativity and return of objectives forrestaurant digital signage, the possibilities are endless.


David Little is a charter member of the Digital Screenmedia Association with over 20 years of experience helping professionals use technology to effectively communicate their unique marketing messages. For many more helpful digital signage tips, examples and solutions, keep in touch with Little at KeywestTechnology.com.

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