QSRs driving digital menu boards 'like the Ferrari they are'

March 20, 2014

Digital menu boards are more than a road map to the future for Tim Hortons, already Canada's largest foodservice operator and with a growing U.S. presence — they're the vehicle to get it there.

The chain is deploying DMBs to speed up service, help introduce new products and influence promotions, and it's not alone, according to DigitalSignageToday.com sister site QSRWeb.com.

DMBs = speed

"It's about taking these menu boards and driving them like the Ferrari they are," Tims COO David Clanahan said during a recent investor day call. "These give us the ability to take new product introductions to a new level. Our restaurants, on a regular basis, but not intrusive or distracting, will be able to introduce new products and focus on quality and say 'buy me now.' They can also influence promotions. They are literally talking to our guests while they're in our restaurants."

During the call, Clanahan talked DMBS as he outlined some of his department's strategies to deliver "the ultimate guest experience" to customers.

New menu boards have simplified the ordering process for both customers and staff, Clanahan said, and the chain also has added express beverage lines in some restaurants, as well as mobile-payment capabilities and additional drive-thru lanes, to speed up service.

"The gift of time is one of the most valued commodities today," he said.

Tims introduced digital menu boards via its breakfast menu in the fall. Clanahan said the change made ordering simpler for guests and for staff, and allowed operators to push the right products. Digital menu boards for the lunch daypart will roll out this spring.

But Tim Hortons isn't the only quick-service or fast casual restaurant jumping on the DMB bandwagon.

Around the world

KFC's South Africa system, in partnership with One Digital Media, is on track to complete what One Digital Media calls "one of the largest DMB networks in the world."

There are currently more than 5,000 DMBs in the KFC South Africa system, with 1,200 more installations planned in the next year.

The network includes up to nine screens in each restaurant. Each screen serves as a menu board and can be changed within minutes. One Digital Media provides a turnkey solution to KFC, with services such as procurement, warranty management, installation and maintenance.

Here in the U.S., Dunkin' Donuts has moved into a full systemwide DMB deployment that should see some 3,000 Dunkin' locations outfitted with the dynamic menu technology by the end of the year. After an initial pilot comprising 100 locations, the chain's DMB rollout is now up to 2,000 with a target of 3,000 by the end of the year, according to a Dunkin' exec.

In addition to increased sales lift and soft ROI targets like getting ready for impending menu labeling regulations, the move to digital also was just about staying brand relevant in the competitive and ever-evolving restaurant space, according to Jason Stuehmer, IT product manager for Dunkin' Brands. "It's keeping up with the Joneses."

And McDonald's restaurants in the U.K. have been steadily testing and expanding the use of customer-facing digital signage solutions, with hundreds of locations already deployed, according to a recent case study from digital signage provider ComQi.

With the quick-service restaurant giant looking for new ways to increase foot traffic, communicate broader menu options and boost average customer spends, hundreds of U.K. McDonald's locations are using digital signage guided by The Linney Group and using ComQi's cloud-based digital content and campaign management platform. Based on clearly identified positive sales impacts, the digital signage pilot continues to grow in scope, the companies said.

The McDonald's U.K. digital signage displays have been shown to lift sales by as much as 11 percent on some items, and have helped increase average transaction amounts, according to the case study.

And those are just a sampling of what's going on in the market around the world.

A "new era" for QSRs

Tim Hortons executives spent much of the chain's February investor day talking about the "new era," or the "new reality" of the QSR industry that has been created by a confluence of trends driven largely by consumer demand and technology, according to QSRWeb.com.

CEO Marc Caira put in a new 5-year strategy to navigate this new era when he joined the company about nine months ago. The main themes of that plan include being bold, simplifying the business and executing flawlessly.

In the call Caira defined this new era by heightened consumer demands, changing demographics (both aging and diversified), low growth environment, evolving market forces, sweeping technology changes and intensified competition, all of which is "unlike anything I've seen in 40 years in this industry," he said.

"There is no such thing as a global consumer; consumers are local," Caira said. "In the new era, if we sit on our laurels, if we become complacent and don't change, we will lose. There are no miracles, just hard work and rigor and discipline."

Topics: Menu Boards , Restaurants , Trends / Statistics

Companies: ComQi, Inc.

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