One display to go please: Digital signage at the drive thru
Digital signage has already made a big impact on restaurants, with large companies from Subway to McDonald's deploying menu boards in mass. Self-service kiosks are also starting to take off, as they enable customers to customize their orders. Digital signage is also paving the way for better customer experience in the drive thru.
For many QSR restaurants, the drive thru makes up the vast majority of their sales. Almost three-quarters of all McDonald's sales come through the drive thru, so there are real benefits to upgrading old static signs with digital signage.
Using digital signage at the drive thru provides restaurants a variety of benefits, including menu flexibility, target and mobile marketing and enhancing the customer experience.
With static signs, there's no real easy way to update it, other than to manually send someone to switch it out before a big meal rush. The only other option is to keep all the menu items up at all times, which can become confusing for guests. With digital signage, however, if the content management system works properly, a manager can easily update the menu based on the time of day, popular regional items and more.
Targeting and mobile marketing
Dunkin' Donuts recently saw the benefits of using digital signage to reach customers at unusual times. For example, if a location has unseasonably warm or cold temperatures, it can easily take advantage of this oddity by marketing weather-specific foods such as hot or cold drinks, according to Paul Murray, director of digital innovation at Dunkin' Brands.
Another innovative way outdoor menu boards can adjust to customer's needs is through mobile interoperability, according to Murray. If a customer used a mobile app to identify their key wants and desires, the menu board could update itself to match a customer's preference, thus directly targeting customers.
Other benefits include services such as cameras so the customer can see the employee taking their order. Restaurants can also use digital confirmation boards so that customers can instantly see if their order was entered correctly, according to Frank Amoruso, managing director of Acrelec.
"Restaurants can integrate mobile solutions with tools such as self-ordering kiosks which further integrates to the POS and Table Locator tools, to complete the customer experience," he said. It's integration such as this that meets the customer desire for using mobile technology to order and pay, with on-site digital solutions to service."
The key element tying all the benefits together is customer experience. If it can boost customer experience, then it can boost reviews, loyalty and sales.
"If this was a drinking game I would be drunk by now with every time I say experience," Murray said jokingly during a presentation. "Anywhere you go you are getting a more curated version of the role you expect and want. Those expectations are spilling over into the physical realm."
Richard Ventura, vice president of business development and solutions at NEC Display Solutions emphasized in an interview that "Engagement is one of the first things you have to do. The more you engage with the audience the more you become memorable."
That being said, there are still some real challenges to outdoor menu boards
Challenges and solutions
It is always challenging to deploy complex tools such as digital signage, especially outdoors. Key challenges for digital signage at the drive thru include finding the right provider and handling the elements, such as heat, cold and sunlight.
The right provider
One challenge is finding the right provider, as well as the right hardware and software.
"The biggest is to find a quality solution at an affordable price. Equipment placed outdoors must be durable, yet appealing to assimilate into the brand’s look and feel. Software must be reliable and responsive, as well as easily maintained," Amoruso said in an email. "Finding all of this in a solution that fits within the budget is a challenge."
One solution is to look for an all-in-one provider that will stick around to train staff on how to properly manage the digital signage.
Many of outdoor digital signage's problems come down to the fact that they are outdoors. They will have to withstand bright sunshine, blizzards and scorching days. Daniel Waldron, head of content for Armagard, recommends a variety of tools to keep your menu board alive and kicking in a previous blog.
This includes simple thing such as AC units and fans, which help reduce humidity and airflow throughout the enclosure. It's easy for a menu board to develop a lot of heat, not just due to the sunlight but also its bright screen, so it needs these tools to force the warm air out. Waldron also recommends using plenum chambers.
"In layman's terms, plenum chambers allow filtered air to flow through an enclosure, dispersing any heat. They eliminate the need for alternative ventilation systems, which are likely to be more expensive," Waldron said. "Equally, plenum chambers protect against water penetration, keeping the rain out and they require very little maintenance."
End users should also consider other tools such anti-glare or anti-reflective glass. If customers have to squint to see the menu, they will likely take their dollars elsewhere.
Is it worth it?
The key element here behind all this is to ensure the technology boosts the overall experience, and that you minimize any possible downsides. If it succeeds in this regard, it is worth the investment.
"Generally speaking, drive-thru digital signage enhances the customer experiences and provides operational efficiencies," Amoruso said. "Operationally, the technology can steer the customer experience through the most efficient process, reducing resource requirements and customer wait times."