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Digital signage engaging customers in growing foodservice landscape

Customers are putting a high premium on digital signage in the QSR and fast casual spaces, and from the operator perspective, sales results are already proving its value.

Digital signage engaging customers in growing foodservice landscape

By Jeff Pinc, Director, Food Services, Panasonic System Communications Company North America

While indoor digital menu boards have become increasingly common in the QSR and fast casual spaces, digital signage is expanding outdoors as well. While it is important for digital signage to become a staple for any outdoor operation, as 60-70 percent of QSR business takes place there, it's more crucial for there to be synergy across all platforms. Uniformity across both content and hardware ensures customers receive an ideal brand experience and that operators are getting the most bang for their buck.

For some background on digital signage in these spaces, customers have put a high premium on it — with 74 percent of customers saying they prefer an easy-to-read menu, while 70 percent have made an unplanned purchase as a result, according to Digital Signage Today. From the operator perspective, ROI has become a major factor for the restaurants we speak with on a regular basis. Restaurants typically see a 3-5 percent increase in any digitally promoted item on menu boards, suggesting that the digital signage system usually pays for itself in one year or less.

Currently, most QSRs and fast casuals piecemeal their digital signage solutions, if they have one in place, which can lead to operability issues. Operators without centralized operations for digital menu board management find themselves not maximizing efficiencies and creating unnecessary technical problems. To ensure this doesn't happen, we recommend an integrated approach that features single-source digital signage solutions both indoors and outdoors. They need to be interconnected, which can save operators time and money both inside the store and with drive-thru traffic.

Menus, promotions and advertising can be managed and updated instantly, allowing operators to be more responsive to market conditions, simplifying brand compliance and messaging rollouts. Digital signage should be wired into every aspect of the restaurant operation from pre-sell boards to engaging the customer at the counter followed by order confirmation for accuracy. Digital signage can also be integrated into the payment process through self-ordering technology, kiosks and mobile applications.

Another important facet of the digital signage operation is maintenance, especially in an outdoor environment. Most outdoor digital menu boards on the market today require enclosed displays to withstand weather elements, but restaurants are looking for displays that do not require them and can be seen in direct sunlight. Not only does this improve the customer experience with digital screens, but it saves operators time and money with enterprise-grade displays that are certified for 24/7 operation.

With the benefits of digital menu boards for customer engagement, companies such as Dunkin Donuts, KFC and Canadian food chain Tim Hortons all began ditching "old school" plastic-lit menu boards and adopted digital menu boards last year in order to simplify the ordering process and provide a level of engagement previously unavailable to their customer base. From the operator perspective, digital menu boards are already seeing dividends as they become a larger part of the QSR and fast casual base. Some brands have already seen a 12 percent lift in sales after installation both indoors and at the drive-thru.

According to Transparency Market Research, a leading U.S.-based market research and intelligence firm, the U.S. QSR ecosystem market was valued at over $3 billion and is expected to increase to over $7 billion by 2019. Contained in that same report, digital signage accounted for 45.6 percent of the total revenue generated by the hardware segment in 2012. Given the expected rise in the value of the QSR market and the share digital signage has held, proper investments in digital signage are becoming increasingly important to take full advantage of the revenue opportunities. Digital signage is one of a QSR operator's greatest tools in regards to customer engagement and provides all sorts of benefits for the operator as well as the market continues to change.


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