The Papa Murphy's take-and-bake pizza chain currently is testing a new store prototype, one that specifically features digital menu boards. The new store prototype, called "CREATE," is first going in the Austin, Texas, market, with plans to add two more locations in October.
The design features an open layout, a grab-and-go "market" section and messaging such as "Always Fresh." It also includes digital menu boards, which Papa Murphy's Chief Development Officer Kevin King called a "key feature."
Digital menu boards are becoming more common in the quick-service and fast casual spaces, but remain a rarity at pizza concepts. Papa Murphy's carryout business model, however, better lends itself to having a digital presence.
"Everybody has to walk into Papa Murphy's. People are going in and making decisions live, so it makes a lot of sense from an investment perspective to have digital here than it would at a delivery brand," said Tré Musco, president and chief creative officer at Tesser, the brand strategy/design firm behind the prototype.
"Enthralled with digital"
Tesser also conceived new restaurant images for brands such as Wendy's and Ben & Jerry's. Musco said that, while digital menu boards aren't quite the standard in the industry yet, they are moving in that direction.
Cost and drive-thru-heavy business models are two roadblocks in the way of that standardization, he said. The majority of work Tesser does combines digital and static, which appeases operators across an entire system.
"Digital is growing in popularity," Musco said. "Operators are looking into it, trying it, testing it, evaluating the cost, all of those things. As the cost of the technology comes down, and it becomes easier to use, more people will adopt it."
Which, from a design perspective, is a good thing. "The design world is enthralled with digital," he said.
The appeal comes with the digital's flexibility and ability to change when the menu changes, as well as its ability to translate food imagery with "vibrancy," he said.
"Also, digital just says 'modern' to people. There is something about the desirability of large, flat-panel displays that says 'contemporary,'" Musco said.
Digital has to fit
Although there are many benefits to digital, its adoption has to be consistent with the brand. For example, Tesser recently worked with Ben & Jerry's redesign and wanted to incorporate digital menu boards, but the look didn't make sense.
"There are challenges. When you look at a brand like Ben & Jerry's, that is so entrenched in local, artistic, artisanal, funky, you can't just start throwing a bunch of TVs on the wall. The look is a detriment," Musco said. "A high-tech big-city look doesn't fit with a rural dairy farm brand."
Tesser worked around the inconsistency by creating custom framing for the boards, featuring wood and rustic metal.
"Digital has to be integrated into the design so it feels like it's part of the brand," Musco said. "All of your work needs to be unique to your particular brand. Consumers are savvy and can weed out stuff that's not authentic."
Learn more about digital menu boards.