In the early years of digital signage, the purpose of using images and video in the retail space was to share information and alert customers of sales or promotions. It worked.

As the industry grew, so did the concept of marketing. Digital signage began to show up in other industries, like the automotive, healthcare, and restaurant industries. Hardware graduated from the VHS to the various media players we see today.

Software also matured to meet the specific needs of retailers and restaurateurs.

As the digital signage industry boomed, so did the voices of digital signage users everywhere.
They wanted more options.
More choices.
More solutions.

They wanted more bang for their buck.
And based on the number of digital signs and kiosks we see on any given day, it’s safe to say those voices were heard.

There’s only one problem: Some of the solutions and options built into the hardware and software go underutilized, especially in the restaurant sector. If explored further, restaurateurs could get that bang for their buck that they so desire.

Having said that, let’s dive into 4 under-used digital restaurant menu board and kiosk strategies you should really know about; strategies that could increase your ROI and make you a happier business owner.

1. Incorporating Applications

For the most part, we see the same “kind” of digital sign deployment strategy at most restaurants. Basically, their new digital signs are really no different from their old, static signs. To stand out in the crowd and really take advantage of digital innovation, consider using applications that make the user experience unique.

Take AppSuite for example. AppSuite is a loyalty and reward program application that offers specials and discounts based on a customer’s order history and behavior.

Let’s say a regular customer orders a particular menu item often. Because his behavior and order history is stored, the app can generate a reward to this customer in the form of a discount on that particular dinner item.

I know if I continually get discounts or other specials sent to me from a restaurant, I would keep showing up to buy.

Maybe even bring a friend.

Panera Bread uses this kind of app to track the buying history of customers. As a MyPanera rewards member, you can save your modifications and order history to use again. This makes ordering the same lunch option a snap the next time around.

This strategy not only makes things faster for the customer, but it makes things faster for the restaurant, too. Quicker turnover means more customers, and more customers mean more revenue.

The customer can easily find his history, order a favorite meal again, and be out of the way of the kiosk so the next customer can place their order.

The app also allows for complete and total control. The customizations and meal modifications are plentiful. There’s even clear and easy access to nutrition information, a must-have option for many patrons.

Other apps can help your hardware (like cameras or scanners within the kiosk) talk to your software so that membership photos can be taken and loyalty cards can be personalized.

Making your customer feel important by personalizing their experience can be the difference between an average customer visit and an outstanding customer visit that patrons will tell their friends and family about.

2. Mobile Ordering

Speaking of apps, if you’ve got digital menus connected to your POS system, incorporating an app that allows hungry people to order from their phone can help increase your sales exponentially.

This concept is showing up more and more in restaurants everywhere. With so many cell phone users on this planet, it goes without saying that when it comes to picking up the phone to order, there should be “an app for that.”

I mean who wants to have a conversation anymore?

Actually, I do. I prefer the phone. But not everyone does, especially those with social anxiety disorders.

There are lots of people out there who are grateful for mobile ordering apps. They have anxiety ordering at the drive-thru or in person. Knowing they have a silent option that will get them what they want is a pleasant bonus for them.

We still have a ways to go to get mobile app users on board. In a survey conducted by OpenTable in 2015, 56 percent of those surveyed said they were unlikely to download an app for a restaurant.

But the more mobile ordering is utilized, the more that user number will change. If restaurants encouraged use and integrated that use into their digital marketing concepts, they would see an upswing in sales.

Take Starbucks, for example.

Starbucks is at the forefront of the digital app innovation. In September of 2015, the Seattle-based coffeehouse chain finished its deployment of an order-ahead and payment feature for coffee lovers in all 7,400 locations.

By giving consumers another way to order, they not only shortened lines and quickened service in all locations, they’ve seen an incredible increase of $9 million dollars in sales a week.

The mobile ordering option accounted for 20% of the stores transactions. If that number seems small, I invite you to say out loud with me what I said 5 seconds ago: “They’ve seen an incredible increase of $9 million dollars in sales a week.”

I’d say that’s a huge increase, wouldn’t you?

3. Beacons

When I say beacon, I mean a digital transmitter (or tracking device) that communicates with a shopper’s smartphone in an effort to improve their shopping experience.

Placed anywhere you deem suitable in your restaurant, the transmitter communicates with a smartphone’s Bluetooth and transmits information directly to anyone that has installed the stores app.

So when Mr. Joe Customer enters the store, armed with a smartphone that has the stores app downloaded, the beacon will alert his phone of some discount or special, and he’ll get a notification. That notification can come in the form of a coupon, a bargain, or a simple hello.

Beacons placed near digital menu boards can alert restaurant employees when a loyalty customer has come in. Specials can come up on those boards that appeal to that customer, giving the establishment the opportunity to personally cater to the customer without saying a word.

This incredible transmitter can also alert users on table wait times. Beacons placed in restaurant parking lots will tell customers when a table is available. Some will go elsewhere, some won’t. No matter. Those that come in to wait appreciate the digital experience before they even walk through the door.

4. Facial Recognition Software

Facial recognition software isn’t new. We know that. But we don’t see it very often, especially in the restaurant sector. When used, however, it’s quite effective.

At the O.R. Tambo International Airport in South Africa, the Douwe Egberts coffee company decided to target new customers by using this technology. They set up a large, dispensable coffee machine in the airport. When a traveler stood in front of the machine to buy a coffee, nothing happened unless they yawned.

When they did yawn, a small cup would drop from the dispenser and fill with fresh coffee. The really great part is that it was free.

The machine dispensed 210 fresh coffees that day, and earned a slew of new customers, too.

The marketing strategy made for a fun, interactive experience that “wowed” travelers. And really, that’s all we as consumers ever want.

To be wowed.

In 2012, facial recognition technology was deployed at a bar in San Francisco called SceneTap. Cameras installed in the watering hole gathered pictures of patrons and analyzed their facial characteristics as the came in.

The images were not made public in any way, but were used to determine the age and gender of patrons so that management could be advised of what kind of crowd they had at any given moment.

“It’s an algorithm behind the scenes that’s trying to figure out what you look like,” SceneTap CEO Cole Harper said of the technology.

Drinks and food specials commonly ordered by a particular demographic can then be shared on digital screens, increasing sales. When the crowd changes, the special changes.

Because the technology appears intrusive, facial recognition software has its share of skeptics, which is probably why it gets a bad rap. But when used in a fun, open, non-intrusive way, it can change the landscape of your restaurant or coffeehouse, much like it did for Douwe Egberts.

Conclusion

Various applications that mesh with your digital menu boards and kiosks are really what set you apart from the rest. Apps that allow mobile ordering give hungry patrons more options. More options make hungry patrons happy.

By integrating apps that talk to your digital menu boards, you can welcome customers and give them special discounts or coupons. The board or kiosk they stand in front of will show them what they love, and then some.

You can take it a step further by incorporating facial recognition. If not, the beacon is an option that alerts customers of any specials or promotions the second they approach the store.

Changing from a static menu board to a digital menu board is only the first step in upping the game with digital marketing. Using different software, technologies, and applications can take your restaurant to a whole new level.

Which of these options would you consider integrating into your current digital menu strategy? Which would you shy away from and why?