Digital Signage in Food Services
Digital signage can be a boon to business in the food services industry.
The above statement is as vague as it is true. It’s one thing to claim digital signage can be helpful, it’s another to provide an in-depth guide to creating successful signage. Thankfully, several guides are available to business owners who want to implement digital signage but aren’t sure how to create it—or even why they need it. Here, we’ll look at one such guide: Dynamic Signage in Food Services, written by Lyle Bunn and released in conjunction with the recent Digital Signage Expo. (A link to the full guide can be found at the end of this article.)
First, a quick look at some of the ways digital signage can help your business by influencing revenue, cost, customer experience, and customer engagement. Let’s take these areas one by one:
Revenue. Digital signage can increase revenues in myriad ways, including by presenting products and menu combinations appropriate for the time of day; introducing new items; upselling; presenting specials; promoting events, gift cards, etc.
Cost. Digital signage can reduce costs by reducing your need for printing and disposal; increasing ease of compliance; promoting specific products based on inventory levels and accordingly reducing waste. For example, if you own a franchise that has to post nutritional information; it’s much easier—and in the long run cheaper—to do so digitally.
Visitor Experience. Digital signage can improve the visitor experience by reducing waiting time; providing “info-tainment”; modernizing and refreshing the restaurant environment; marking holidays and promoting special occasions; providing information or promotions specific to the local community.
Customer Engagement. If implemented well, digital signage can improve customer engagement across all media by incorporating Facebook, Twitter, etc; increasing online traffic; and motivating customers to engage in mobile communications and commerce.
What draws customers to digital signage? One key is movement. The human brain is prone to noting motion—an adaption that helped our ancestors avoid being eaten and can now help you attract customers to your restaurant to do some eating themselves. Chris Riegel, CEO of STRATACACHE, says “Video animated menu items on Digital Menu Boards have seen up to 65 percent increase in sales over static posters.” Customers are drawn to dynamic signage; clearly you want some motion in yours.
And where should you put your digital signage with all its attention-grabbing animation? Points of high traffic. Think points of purchase, points of transit, points of waiting and points of gathering. Basically, anywhere customers would naturally be gathering or passing through. An example from the guide: “the waiting area of a fast-casual establishment…can effectively promote products and specials while maximizing order value.” Or, you could incorporate trivia games into a dining area by encouraging mobile phone interaction. Or, providing a digital queue system can mitigate patron anxiety when they’re waiting for their names to be called for seating—while simultaneously suggesting drink specials or promoting an upcoming event.
One key to effective digital signage is to get customers engaged beyond a single meal, to make their visit fun or otherwise encourage a return visit. There is plenty of data suggesting that this works, and I can provide some anecdotal evidence as well: last year, my husband and I stumbled upon a new convenience store off a highway in New Jersey. The store was clean and spacious and had a nice variety of drinks and snacks—but none of these are the reasons why we consistently go out of our way to stop there when traveling. We stop there time and time again, eschewing dozens of similar stores, because of a single digital kiosk. The kiosk allows us to easily select pre-designed sandwiches or design our own—in either case, our selections are quickly made-to-order with fresh, tasty ingredients. There’s a disproportionate joy in getting to scroll through ingredients, choosing honey mustard over mayo and shredded lettuce over leaf. Whenever we leave this store and get back into our car with our breakfast, or lunch, or snack, we’re smiling—because we had fun in circumstances that are rarely fun: slogging through heavy traffic at the beginning of a long road trip.
But back to the guidebook. What have we established so far? Digital signage can work and should be implemented at points of high traffic. What about design? According to Bunn, there are three key elements to successful digital signage: reliability, availability and scalability. Choosing the right software is key. There are currently more than 250 different systems that can manage digital signage content, each of which has different benefits. When choosing software, make sure you select software that is flexible; you cannot have effective digital signage without effective software. Similarly, it is important to invest in quality displays that can handle heavy usage—decrepit-looking, broken signage is a guaranteed turn-off for customers.
Always keep the big picture in mind when designing signage—you want to be able to phase in new elements easily, rather than having to design the display from scratch every time you want to make a change. Having templates you can easily use for new content is always a good idea. Also, consider including NFC tags to encourage more interaction from customers. Finally, include a “call to action” by encouraging patrons to do something while at your restaurant. Some examples of calls to action: visit our website; register now; sign up for customer rewards; download our app; implement digital signage!
This is a lot of information, and we’re barely scratching the surface of Bunn’s in-depth guide. I’d like to leave you with a few warnings, however. Some things you should not do with your digital signage: infringe on copyrights; distribute the private information of third parties; defame or libel others; present unlawful information. This all seems commonsense, I’m sure—but it’s easy to get a bit overenthusiastic and lose sight of such seemingly obvious considerations. Enthusiasm is one thing, going overboard is another. Don’t go overboard.
You can find Bunn’s guidebook in its entirety at LyleBunn.com. Another guide to implementing digital signage is also available at digitalsignagetoday.com, free of charge for anyone who signs up for an account.
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