Outdoor Digital Menu Boards: How They Work
In the fast-food sector, the share of revenue from drive-through sales now dominates for most restaurant chains. The arrival of Covid-19 further accentuated this phenomenon, with drive-through business now accounting for over 70% of some restaurants’ transactions.
An outdoor menu board has certain specific operational requirements, which we explore below. The equipment must be designed specifically for outdoor use. The distance between customers and the digital menu is greater and the exposure time shorter compared with indoors, given the nature of ordering from a vehicle.
What re the specific features of an outdoor menu board?
The screens used are designed specifically for outdoor use in order to withstand any weather conditions. They are 5 to 10 times brighter, up to 7,000 nits, while the brightness of screens used indoors is generally 500 nits. The material used in most cases is watertight, ultra-ventilated on the inside and meets IEC 60529 ingress protection (IP) standards for waterproofing. Outdoor screens are generally displayed in portrait mode to make them easier to read with a more restricted field of vision.
Another characteristic is that the distance between customers in their vehicle and the digital menu board is greater than indoors. Screens are therefore bigger: at least twice the size. Images and text are also larger, so that they are visible to passengers in both the front and rear of the vehicle. The content displayed is generally specifically designed for drive-through settings.
In terms of content and the speed of scrolling, visitors are exposed to outdoor digital menu boards for less time than indoors. Each screen must show the products available in a maximum of two views, while keeping the main products on display without scrolling.
Outdoor menu boards in drive-through settings can do more than simply display products as a printed poster does. The outdoor digital menu board offers intelligence, versatility, and much better performance. We set out below the types of interactivity that are most commonly used with Navori QL software.
The displaying of content on screens is often linked to a motion detector in the ground, which restarts the content shown on the outdoor menu board when a new vehicle arrives. For users with ecological concerns, the screens are only illuminated if a vehicle is detected.
Computer vision software such as Aquaji reads the numbers on vehicle registration plates and links them to the items ordered. The products displayed when the vehicle next visits can therefore be customized automatically. Aquaji can also measure the number of visits at different times and on different days of the week and calculate how often people come back and how long they must wait.
Analysis of waiting times allows the restaurant to assign staff depending on the number of customers, to limit how long they wait and thus improve their experience. Too short a waiting time can mean too many staff have been assigned, and vice versa. Computer vision also offers the possibility of assigning vouchers or gifts based on vehicle registration plates.
A screen inside the restaurant for the staff responsible for the drive-through shows their KPIs in real time: Number of vehicles served, waiting time etc. Navori QL digital signage and Aquaji computer vision software communicate natively, which means KPIs can be shown on a digital signage screen in real time, with data from Aquaji computer vision.
Finally, vehicle tracking means staff can easily identify vehicles parked to one side waiting for a delivery.
Most drive-throughs have several lanes for placing orders, which then converge at a single delivery point. Computer vision software such as Aquaji tells staff which order to deliver, based on the vehicle approaching the delivery point.
Most fast-food restaurant staff are not desk-based. Navori QL digital signage software allows them to interact with the content shown on the screens from a smartphone, to deactivate a product, post an express message or take a photo of the day’s menu and publish it instantly.
The content shown on outdoor menu boards is also customized automatically, depending on the time and the day of the week. Breakfast items are shown in the morning, sandwiches and salads at lunchtime and full meals at dinner times.
The outdoor digital menu board is generally connected to the restaurant’s cash register and inventory management system. Products that are out of stock are no longer shown, and products with excess stock are promoted based on pre-established rules.
Menu design is done using a content editor, such as QL Template Designer. The list of products sold by the restaurant, prices and calorific values are picked up by the software directly from the restaurant’s point of sale or inventory management software. Product photos are then inserted with the transparency tool. Animations are defined along with the various scenarios for when to display a product or not, based on dayparting and stock levels.
With Navori QL, creating content for an outdoor digital menu board is quick and easy. Dynamically integrating previously created content into QL Designer will take less than an hour.
The Customer Journey
On arrival, the vehicle follows a route to the ordering point. Screens are positioned along the route to that point, generally offering additional products for impulse purchases.
External Media Player or System on Chip Displays (SoC)?
The Samsung OH46FS or the equivalent from other manufacturers offers a media player that is integrated into the screen. This is the most economical solution and is designed to last, regardless of the weather conditions. However, the maintenance company must dismantle the screen if a problem occurs, creating additional costs and a longer resolution time. The advantage of using an integrated media player is that the likelihood of several screens failing at once is almost non-existent. This is important, since most fast-food restaurants operate 24×7.
If the outdoor menu board consists of several screens, each showing complementary content, the use of an external Windows 10 PC is recommended. The transition from one set of content to the next is perfectly synchronized between the screens visible to the customer. A back-up system is set up in case the PC crashes. Any screen that fails can be easily replaced. A PC is strongly recommended if a ground sensor is used, as it is natively compatible with the products available.
There are also other external media players on the market, such as the StiX 3700. One player is used per screen, with synchronized content distribution. The advantage compared with an SoC is that the players are interchangeable without having to dismantle the screens to replace them.