Digital display technology: Transforming the outdoor experience at today’s quick service restaurants
This article appeared in the April 2021 issue of Sign Media
Between lockdowns, shifts in consumer habits, and disrupted supply chains, quick service restaurants (QSRs) and other businesses have had to make dramatic adjustments as to how they operate—and digital signage technology has played a huge role in enabling positive change. As businesses continue adapting to the new normal, they need to communicate in meaningful ways with their customers. Digital signage solutions allow for real-time updates so businesses can arm customers with the most up-to-date messaging. Thanks to the latest innovations in technology, today’s businesses can inform customers about social distancing measures, business hours, and other relevant updates, while at the same time keeping staff safe.
The benefits of digital displays are well-established, with their impact seen across a variety of businesses, including retail and QSRs. In the restaurant space, digital displays can deliver improved visibility and an elevated customer experience compared to static displays, in addition to reducing costs for businesses.
To remain relevant and meet consumer expectations, operators in the food service industry will need to increasingly rely on technologies like digital and interactive signage. In recent years, QSRs have adopted digital signage management systems and display technology to:
- Communicate menu items, new products, and promotions;
- Provide nutritional information;
- Pre-sell and promote specials;
- Highlight customer rewards programs;
- Raise awareness of the business’ community contributions and philanthropy; and
- Recruit new staff members.
Going digital at the drive-thru
Bright, vivid outdoor digital displays are increasingly common in QSR drive-thrus because they attract customers, promote offers, speed up orders, and boost sales. Drive-thru sales represent a major portion of many restaurants’ business. Operators who were previously focused on walk-in traffic are now adjusting, where possible, to drive-thru options. While customers move through the drive-thru lane, marketing and upselling opportunities are passing them by. As outdoor signage continues to evolve, restaurants are seeking digital technology to engage this captive audience and capitalize on new opportunities to increase customer loyalty.
Positioned along the drive-thru lane, outdoor digital displays for pre-selling can raise greater awareness of new items on the menu that might otherwise be lost among a variety of options at the order station. Moreover, with many QSRs operating late into the night or 24-7, having the ability to easily update menus by time of day ensures customers are viewing the most up-to-date menu options when ordering.
With more and more people taking out rather than dining in, tools that influence and speed up ordering are big wins for QSRs. That said, digital signs in the outdoor environment must be bright enough to handle the glare of the sun as they can both inform and pre-sell to customers as they approach the ordering position. Beyond drive-thru digital menu boards, outdoor signage also offers an effective, hard-to-miss way to communicate business changes, such as operating hours, dine-in reopening, or other topical messaging. Optimal outdoor displays for drive-thrus are those that have a slim-depth design with the added convenience of an embedded power box. They should also be ruggedized to withstand elements from weather to vandalism, and be durable, flexible, and offer 24-7 performance—even in extreme temperatures. By effectively protecting outdoor displays, QSRs can reduce repair costs and avoid risking lost sales opportunities resulting from inclement weather or environmental conditions.
Display solutions are a key driver for accelerating the digitalization of today’s businesses. QSRs need to improve how to present and highlight their menu and services to stand out from the competition as well as create an enriching customer experience. With digital signage solutions, businesses can meet these needs with vivid imagery and accurate information.
Driving positive business impact
When comparing the use of static and digital menu boards at restaurants, it becomes clear how using digital signage provides a significant advantage over the use of static menus. While installing digital signage causes companies to initially incur slightly higher upfront costs, businesses are likely to receive a higher return on investment (ROI). The use of digital menu boards immediately eliminates maintenance costs as well as the expenses related to creating new printouts for static menus.
Further, digital displays can provide other measurable financial benefits by providing engaging promotional content, driving increased sales. In an industry like QSRs, most purchase decisions are made on the spot, as customers are looking at the menu. Digital signage allows for dynamic effects, providing additional bundling opportunities, such as take-over images that show graphics across multiple screens, driving focus to seasonal and the most valuable promotions.
Delivering a versatile solution
QSRs have faced several challenges where outdoor digital signage has helped this market overcome. This signage will also play a pivotal role in how consumers engage with these businesses moving forward.
Digital signage can deliver a variety of content from images to dynamic videos, all in vivid, vibrant colours. It is engineered to operate 24-7, providing night and day visibility that is unmatched by static displays and ensuring customers are deeply engaged with the content. Increased flexibility allows businesses to quickly and conveniently update promotions, offerings, and messages to reflect consumer trends and important events, alleviating the slowdowns and missed sales opportunities these businesses may face by having its static assets made and delivered.
Bright window displays also drive awareness of order-ahead options as operators are opting for double-sided displays, which allow restaurants to maximize messaging. The outward-facing screen handles ordering, while the inward-facing screen promotes special offers and helps recruit new staff members. A digital screen with a brightness rating of 3000 nits that faces the street will be bright enough to win any battle against ambient or direct sunlight to ensure messages are visible to viewers even on the brightest day. The reverse side, facing into the store, does not need the same level of brightness; however, a brightness rating of 1000 nits will certainly overpower any potential glare from restaurant lighting.
Elevating the customer experience
The benefits of digital signage go far beyond just savings and stylish menus. Digital displays equip a business to evolve and create opportunities that are not possible with static alternatives. Consumers are constantly looking for the most up-to-date information and promotions, and the ability of digital menu boards to be updated in real-time to reflect demand, trends, and unexpected events allows businesses to act quickly and efficiently.
Additionally, the time required to update menus and other forms of content is drastically reduced with digital signage. The time between starting design planning for content and actually seeing it displayed to customers can realistically be as short as two weeks, while simpler modifications such as updating product information or complying with new calorie count posting requirements can be made in as little as two hours. Once these changes are finalized, they can be distributed across the entire signage network instantaneously.
This dynamic approach provides more engaging experiences for customers and drives both satisfaction and sales. For QSRs, purchasing decisions are often made on the spot; therefore, customers in this environment must be equipped with the most up-to-date and accurate information to ensure they make purchasing decisions they are happy with. Digital signage allows them to do just this.
The benefits of digital displays go far beyond better looking signage. By harnessing the ability to relay information in a creative manner than is both easy-to-read and current, outdoor digital displays are adding customer engagement and operator ease into the drive-thru equation. Overall, digital signage is an efficient and effective solution when it comes to saving on costs, introducing versatility into signage, and fostering genuine and mutually beneficial relationships with consumers.
Vice President, IT and Enterprise Solutions at Samsung Electronics Canada
Products > B2B Display