A digital window display (right panel) shows passerby what's going on inside this Starbucks store.
Full-service restaurant operators are aware that societal and technological changes are affecting the way people communicate and interact. We’ve become more visual than we have ever been before, helped along by sites like Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.
That’s why deploying digital signage (DS) to help evolve your restaurant’s brand and tell a visual story about who you are and how and what you serve makes sense. It’s not only a smart move; it brings you closer to the way people communicate with each other today.
Tapping into DS is an opportunity to create revolutionary messaging for your restaurant. Customers today have to be “wowed” and impressed when they order. They are anticipating two major emotions: satisfying their appetite and cravings, and feeling good from being empowered with a pleasant experience.
Traditionally, eliciting those two responses was enough. But today’s consumers look for novelty and enjoyment. You need to capture their attention while you can. If your restaurant misses that small window of opportunity, you may leave customers feeling that their choices are limited and that they might have ordered something that may not satisfy them.
That why quick-service and fast-casual establishments are adopting digital signage at a rapid pace. This is happening in the form of preorder boards, menu boards, dining room communication and more.
So how does DS translate into a tool full-service restaurants can use? One lesson full service might be able to take from QSR’s digital usage relates to decreasing perceived wait times.
Imagine you have a very busy Saturday night and there are multiple customers waiting to be seated. A digital sign could be positioned in your waiting area (or lobby, bar or patio) to display the following:
• brand messages about your business (forming a stronger bond with the customer);
• footage of how your products are prepared (bringing them into the preparation process);
• images of your high-margin menu items (helping to drive your restaurant’s check average higher); and higher ticket averages); and
• lists all of your menu offerings (helping speed up service times at the table).
By providing this content, you haven’t actually decreased the time a customer is waiting for a table. But you have decreased the perception of the length of their wait.
You can also expand beyond a single screen and really bring digital signage into the design of your restaurant by using a full wall as the screen. And maybe that wall is integrated with gestural interactive technology that allows customers to interact and choose their content, place their order or even build their own meal. (Think of the Domino’s build-your-own pizza website). You can take that personalized meal idea one step further and allow guests to share it on their Facebook page. Now each customer’s friends will see the great meal he or she has just “designed” at your restaurant.
What you can do with digital signage technology today is very exciting, but there is much more to come. One example is the technology being developed that will allow touch-screen digital signage to be built into tabletops. This technology will truly revolutionize the restaurant industry.
The uses of this are almost too numerous to list, but I am going to try. The digital content could:
• replace your printed menus;
• promote your specials and high-margin items;
• supply interactive games and trivia to decrease perceived wait times;
• promote your dessert menu during meals; and
• alert your waitstaff about customer needs.
Digital signage is coming to many retail venues and it’s coming fast. The applications available for your full-service restaurant are numerous and the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. I encourage you to take some time and explore the possibilities.
Janna Rider, director of digital marketing for American Dairy Queen Corp., will be among the presenters at the Digital Signage Expo set for Feb. 26-28 in Las Vegas. For more information on this event, go to www.digitalsignageexpo.net.