Digital signage taking a big bite out of the restaurant space

At this year's Fast Casual Executive Summit, a gathering of restaurant industry leaders, Digital Signage Today participated in a panel discussion on digital displays and digital menu boards in the restaurant space.

Along with Patrick Renna, the COO/CFO of fast casual burrito concept Boloco, and moderator Craig Rathbun, the managing director at Philips, DST Editor Christopher Hall discussed the ways in which more and more restaurants are coming to rely on digital technology to enhance the guest experience. The panel also looked at trends in digital signage and digital menu board adoption across the quick-service and fast casual restaurant sectors.

Rathbun led off the discussion, talking about what his company sees across the restaurant space as a panel provider and as a partner who works with content and software providers in the space.

Hall — (Editor's note: This is the same Christopher Hall who wrote this article.) — talked about the digital menu board trends he sees as an observer of the digital signage space. Digital signage has become more than just a system for replacing static menu boards – a point both he and Rathbun made – and has spread throughout the restaurant, from the drive-thru to the dining room, offering entertainment and information as well as providing menu information.

Deploying digital menu boards also provides significant sales lift to deployers; Hall reported about 5 percent as an average industry figure, with even higher numbers for limited-time offers and special promotions. Digital menu boards also have been shown to increase the average margin per transaction and the sale of higher margin items to also benefit a restaurant's bottom line.

But the highlight of the presentation was Renna's discussion of what his growing chain has done with digital signage. Boloco has integrated social media such as Twitter and YouTube into its digital menu boards, but also has incorporated digital signage throughout the restaurant in some of its locations. It's also deployed self-order kiosks in some locations, and has seen a range of 30 to 50 percent of some locations' order volume coming through the kiosks.

"It's not just about digital menu boards for Boloco; it's about digital," he said.

Boloco also has started experimenting with "gamification," or using its digital signage for interactive games that can engage customers and further the brand relationship, he said.

About half of Boloco's locations still have static menu boards, he said, but the chain has found that having the old-style boards is actually a hindrance when it comes to experimenting with new menu items or new promotions, given the expense of printing new static signage.

"It created this barrier to innovation," he said. "So we removed that barrier by diving into digital."

Read more about digital menu boards.

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