As the digital revolution expands into the foodservice industry, many restaurant owners face the challenge of justifying the risk and expense of adopting new technologies. A big one: Digital signage (DS), used to replace menu boards, greets customers in waiting areas and provide restaurant-specific content in dining room settings.
Why all the interest? It's because restaurants have a captive audience. Quick-service and fast-casual customers stand in line for three to four minutes to order before sitting down for half an hour to eat. Full-service restaurant operators are finding valuable uses, too
Let's look at a no-frills installation. In Sunnyvale, CA, Dish 'n Dash, the “express” version of local favorite Dishdash, serves up fast and fresh Middle Eastern food. During the lunch rush, close to 200 people file through the location to order in or “to go,” and all of them find what they want on the three large digital menu boards above the counter. In this setting, static images provide concise, easily readable information to customers. Utilizing 46" displays and low-cost, robust media players, it's a clean and simple use of the technology. But much more can be done with digital signage to benefit restaurant operators.
It is important to have clear goals when planning to implement digital signage. Screen location, type of content and a call to action are imperative for the installation to generate your desired return on investment. Consider these seven elements of successful restaurant digital signage.
- Content plan
Based on the goals for the installation, an operator needs to create a plan for the types of content necessary to achieve those goals: menu items, specials, testimonials, streaming news or weather and perhaps vendor ads that can generate revenue. A “content calendar” makes it easy to plan for and coordinate content updates, and content that is consistent with a restaurant's branding reinforces that position in the mind of customers.
- Physical layout with a purpose
Screen placement and the number of screens deployed in a physical location should also support the goals for the installation. If the “content plan” requires up-sell segments, screens should replace all static menu displays. Advertising also works well on screens placed in the dining area.
- Accessible technology
Both screens and content players are available at price points from under $100 up to several thousand dollars. Installation objectives should guide technology choices to help achieve those goals and adhere to the content plan. If, for example, daily content updates are required, it's likely higher-end players with a strong user interface will be required. But if content changes only several times in a year, a low-cost looping player might be a better option.
- Strategic partnerships
Constant content development requires a dedicated marketing staff with the resources and expertise to support revisions and updates. Without such internal staff support, a relationship with a content provider is recommended. Such providers have the technology and skill to make your vision come to life and have the expertise to support a content plan.
Similarly, without the luxury of in-house staff dedicated to generating ad revenue, partnering with advertisers to help sell ad space on your signs could offset some, if not all, of the installation cost.
Screen size and content resolution must accommodate the customer viewing experience. Consider the appropriate font size for reading text at a distance, make the dwell time long enough for text to be read, and ensure the content and screen brightness fit the surroundings. For example, bright-and-flashy images work well in a quick-service restaurant, but would be distracting and annoying in an intimate full-service dining room. Readability is also a screen placement consideration. Position displays above the customers' heads, but angle them downward for easy viewing.
Content should match the character of the establishment and the expectations of its clientele. For example, in an upscale restaurant, content should reflect the audience's professionalism and socioeconomic status. Conversely, in a quick-service setting, content should reflect the affordability of the price point, or the ability to order and go.
To enhance customer engagement and keep the environment as fresh as the food, consider updating featured menu items or offering pricing specials. This can be done daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly. Regular content updates will ensure the usefulness of the information that customers see.
For more information, check out http://www.digitalsignagefederation.org/restaurantsguide.
Kirk Vanderleest is v.p., national accounts, for Oregon City, OR-based digital sign content company Flixio Studio (www.flixio.com).