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Ordering up digital signage benefits at the drive-thru

While many QSRs have seen the light in digital signage inside the restaurant, some operators are still slow to think outside the box when it comes to digital menu boards in the drive-thru.

Ordering up digital signage benefits at the drive-thru

By Jeffery Pinc, Director of Food Service, Panasonic System Communications Co. of North America

While many quick-service restaurants have recognized the value in digital signage within restaurant walls, operators are still hesitant to think outside the box, literally, when it comes to digital menu boards in the drive-thru. Although an average of 60-70 percent of sales stem from the drive-thru¹, widespread adoption of outdoor digital menu boards is still limited. But as operators recognize that the addition of outdoor digital menu boards quickly translate to higher profits in the drive-thru, adoption rates will continue to increase.

Prior to the implementation of digital menu boards, static boards had proven to be expensive and difficult to update. Additionally, brands are unable to confirm implementation of new static menu boards while also limiting upselling opportunities. Operators have found solutions to these issues by adopting indoor digital menu boards and are beginning to understand the opportunities for similar success in the drive-thru.

While the initial investment in an outdoor menu board solution can often seem steep, our studies have shown a quick ROI following the installation. QSRs that have installed indoor digital signage have seen anywhere from a 5-8 percent increase in revenue on average² — a similar uptick can be expected in the drive-thru. In addition to focusing on the bottom line, QSRs must listen to what their customers want from their dining experience; 74 percent of customers have stated that an easy-to-read menu is their top priority². Digital menu boards can also provide increased efficiency with centralized control of menu board content and improved order accuracy while easily complying with new Food Products Association nutrition labeling laws.

While the digital menu boards alone are important, QSRs also should look for solutions that offer an integrated solution with support from a fully-functioning network to optimize the system's capabilities. Many QSRs currently piecemeal their drive-thru solutions from multiple vendors that offer no guarantee of interoperability with operators using separate consultants, integrators and contractors. When additional services such as content creation, audio/video, order confirmation screens, content distribution and analytics are added into the equation, digital menu boards can be difficult to maintain properly. With a fully integrated solution, one vendor can provide both the hardware installation and ancillary services, limiting overall costs and potential for complications.

Outdoor digital menu boards in tandem with integrated digital drive-thru technology offer a unique customer experience in the drive thru. Currently, 80 percent of adults have seen digital signage in the past month and 70 percent have subsequently made an unplanned purchase as a result.³ The potential to capture customer attention and sales based on promoted items is limitless.

In addition to capitalizing on impulse purchases and influencing consumer behavior dynamic digital signage can improve the overall customer experience. Decreased wait times, improved order accuracy and accurate menu depictions all become possible with the addition of high quality digital displays. Order confirmation screens are especially important for customer engagement and satisfaction as customers can see food and drink images tied to their order. Additionally, operators with digital signage solutions have the ability to upsell certain items based on items already ordered by the customer, promotional events and inventory levels, further involving the consumer, reducing waste and increasing the bottom line. Factors such as weather conditions and vandalism also have restaurant owners considering enhanced options for their outdoor displays.

While most QSRs have not invested heavily in outdoor digital signage yet, studies predict that QSRs will soon begin to capitalize on the benefits of the technology. We are already seeing brands prepare to install digital signage at their respective restaurants, with even more looking into purchasing digital signage with plans to install. The tipping point of digital signage has already arrived, and adoption rates will only continue to grow as operators see the increased benefits for their business and customers.

With all these factors in mind, digital signage ROI has become more than a simple calculation. Restaurateurs must consider the use of a digital drive-thru solution in terms of order accuracy, increased sales opportunities, staff productivity and customer retention. In today's world, QSRs have to be more than just fast; patrons want affordability, order accuracy and to dine at restaurants that are as tech savvy as they are.

(Be sure to check out the DST/Panasonic infographic on trends driving drive-thru digital signage into the mainstream.)

Author Jeff Pinc will be leading a roundtable discussion, "Maximizing QSR Digital Signage Investments in the Drive-thru," at Digital Signage Expo 2015 on Wednesday, March 11 from 11 a.m. to noon at the Las Vegas Convention Center.  For more information about DSE or to register for this or any other educational seminar or workshop and learn about digital signage go to

Pinc is director of food service, for Panasonic System Communications Co. of North America, a division of Panasonic Corp. of North America. PSCNA delivers content creation, collaboration, information-sharing and decision-support solutions for customers in foodservice, retail, government, health care and education, as well as a wide variety of commercial enterprises.

1. USA Today; 2. Viewsonic; 3. QSRWeb


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