With sales of $783 billon US*, the restaurant industry represents one of the largest potential market for digital signage. There are many reasons why digital displays are becoming commonplace in restaurants.
Here are a few:
- Digital displays are great for displaying information that needs to change periodically. In fact, they are so popular that the industry now refers to these as digital menu boards.
- Digital displays can display a wide range of information such as pricing, nutritional information, promotions and other advertising content.
- The use of video, animation, and other multimedia content has been proven to increase sales and enhance the dining experience.
Here are some interesting statistics from the National Restaurant Association:
- There are more than 1 million restaurant locations in the United States.
- 81 percent of restaurants use some type of POS or electronic register system.
- 68 percent of restaurants offer Wi-Fi for guests.
- 37 percent of restaurant operators believe the most important area of technology development in the next five years is customer ordering.
- 36 percent of restaurant operators would implement automatic menu-price adjustment based on demand if it were available to them.
- 4 in 5 restaurants operators in the US agree that technology helps increase sales.
- 7 in 10 restaurants are single-unit operations.
Consider this. Independent restaurants operating in rural areas are already deploying digital menu boards that are managed through hosted service providers. We predict this trend will accelerate as the next generation in wireless technology (5G) brings high-speed internet access to the most remote areas in the country. Soon, all restaurant menu boards will be digital, regardless of the location.
It’s interesting to note the biggest challenge facing restaurant operators is profitability. It’s the one thing that will make or break these businesses, so let’s look at what digital signage brings to the industry:
Displaying accurate information
Digital signage based menu boards can retrieve information stored in databases. This can be in the form of data stored in the restaurant’s point-of-sale system (POS) or created externally and stored in the digital signage CMS software. Information can be updated automatically or manually depending on the technology and staff available. Medium sized restaurant operators often have in-house IT expertise to manage their POS and electronic register systems. IT staff members can interface these systems with the digital signage software to ensure all information displayed on the menus is accurate and current.
Smaller operations that lack the proper IT support staff can use a “spreadsheet” data format to maintain their menu information.
Reinforcing the brand
Digital signage is an excellent platform to promote the brand. Menu boards can display bright, bold graphics and accurately reproduce corporate colors ensuring the brand is always represented in the best possible way. Now even small restaurant chains can compete with the big boys. They can present a consistent image across every location and improve customer’s perception of the brand.
Providing an entertaining experience
Social media and restaurant rating web sites have raised customer’s expectations. People expect a certain type of dining experience and restaurants have been experimenting with new ways to improve how they communicate with diners. We’ve seen many different approaches, from displaying social media comments on digital menu boards to providing interactive ordering via touch-enabled displays.
The idea is to reduce perceived dwell times for people who are waiting in line and help process orders more quickly to reduce lineups. These high-tech solutions were first adopted by many national chains. More recently, these options have becoming accessible to small and medium sized restaurant chains. There are now more software options available and content management solutions keep getting easier to install and use.
Increasing sales through targeted promotions
Digital signage systems have specific features that let restaurant operators run ads and modify content, based on external triggers and rules. Digital menu boards can automatically substitute products as per product availability, time of day, specific holidays, special events, outside weather, or any other criteria. Changes can be scheduled ahead of time or performed on-the-fly as required. For example, slow turning items can be promoted to reduce loss or prices can be altered instantly to match competitors. These features are specifically designed to increase sales and improve the bottom line.
Improving your restaurant’s image
Many of today’s digital signage software supports multimedia content so operators can display high quality videos and photographs. This has led to very creative content choices that can help improve the image of any restaurant or chain. Content can move or extend across screens and then switch to individual display programming. Multi-screen and videowall installations are used to augment the décor and provide the “wow” factor that makes every visit more memorable.
Simplifying the deployment process
Digital signage used to be expensive and complicated to deploy. Operators now have access to a range of hardware and software options that can fit any budget and any level of expertise. Take for example “smart displays”, also known as System on Chip displays (or SoC, for short). Smart displays have become an essential component for many menu board deployments because all the necessary hardware is integrated in the display itself. There is no additional device to buy or install, and since all the components are internal to the display itself, nothing to steal or tamper with. There are no wires hanging behind the display which also makes for a much cleaner and professional installation. SoC displays cost a bit more than your typical “dumb” display, but it’s no longer the case when you factor in the media player device and cabling required to turn these displays into a viable digital menu board.
SoC displays are great for single screen installations but PCs still rule the multi-screen and videowall market. PCs can be equipped with video cards that can drive discrete multimedia programming on each display, or run content across all the displays at once.
A solution for every location
There are digital menu board options for any type of deployment, and budget. For example, digital signage CMS products are usually available in two versions. They are, on premise, and cloud-hosted.
On premise solutions offer more control but also have higher technical support requirements. You need to purchase the hardware and software up front. You host and maintain the system on your own equipment. This requires knowledgeable staff that most small and medium restaurant chain owners may not have access to. Technical services can be outsourced but it’s often not worth doing when hosted solutions exist.
Cloud hosted digital signage
Most small and medium sized businesses opt for cloud hosted solutions. These solutions require less upfront capital since there is no server software and hardware to buy. There is no “back-end” server to manage so cloud hosted software requires no permanent technical staff. Also, Cloud solutions scale very easily so adding new locations requires very little effort.
On the Player front you will find software that is compatible with Windows PCs, Android media players and tablets, SoC displays and more. In fact, the list keeps getting longer every year as more and more hardware choices become available.
These are some of the reasons why digital signage will continue to grow in popularity. Digital signage offers greater flexibility, lower cost and ease of use when compared with other forms of signage.