A picture is worth a thousand words. Isn’t that how the phrase goes?
The idiom refers to the idea that a complex concept can be conveyed with a single image. The phrase was used to describe the effectiveness of graphics in advertising in the early 1900’s.
Here we are, over a century later, and the expression still holds true.
As digital signage continues to enhance marketing strategies in various industries across the globe, the restaurant industry is boasting impressive financial results with eye-popping digital menus.
Many restaurateurs in the QSR/Fast Casual arena agree that digital menus are a worthwhile investment.
Yet some establishments can’t justify spending money to make money.
In 2011, a survey of 200 restaurant owners revealed that roughly 21% had intention to implement digital menu signage in the near future. And while many certainly have, it still leaves many more wondering if the investment is worth it.
Before we dive into various ways you can benefit from digital menu boards, let’s talk a bit about the results Taco John’s saw in a menu board test they conducted in 2014.
Seven months into the test, the restaurant saw a 12% increase in sales. Based on these results, the chain decided to add digital menus to 100 more locations that same year. Over the moon with continued results, the remaining restaurants were upgraded in 2015 and continue to be into 2016.
Based on similar results throughout the industry, there is no denying that when done right, the menu boards and supporting technologies have helped increase sales.
Let’s dive deeper into the various ways digital menus can help you boost sales and improve your overall financial strategy.
1. Control the Content on Your Digital Menu Board
As the proud owner of digital menus, you get to choose what to display and when to display it. Unlike old school static menus, digital menus allow you the flexibility to change images, update promotions, and incorporate video on demand.
This is especially handy for the corporate offices that cater to more than one franchise.
With pre-approved promotional content, sign owners can quickly and efficiently roll out displays to meet the changing needs of specific locations.
The content displayed, however, should be impactful and meaningful. Overpopulating a board with too many motion images will only distract the customer.
A single image of a fresh burger coming of the grill, and then topped with crisp lettuce and a ripe, red tomato will go further flying solo.
2. Upsell Messaging
Upselling is the not-so-secret weapon of marketing that is often disregarded as a true means of profit increase. Yet when used properly, it can work wonders.
Offering meal deals with the help of colorful images or mouth-watering videos can actually help customers overcome menu board anxiety.
Static boards often leave customers standing in line, undecided, before finally stepping forward to give their order.
Even then, they still may stammer.
But with digital visuals, the customer’s eyes are driven to signature items and highly profitable sweet treats, moving them to make quicker decisions. The bonus here is that they buy the more profitable items, which is exactly what you wanted to accomplish by upselling visually.
Placing upsells on the right side of the menu board can also help. Studies show that consumers are more apt to order items listed on the right side of the board than anywhere else.
That’s not to say the rest of the board goes with out attention. The consumers’ eyes will certainly peruse the entire menu.
But when upsell items are featured on the right of an outdoor menu board, registered sales at the end of the day often show those features sold the most.
3. Change Advertising to Match Inventory
Inventory is the foundation of a solid restaurant business. Look at inventor like the bricks that build the building.
Without inventory, there would be no food. If there’s no food, there’s no menu.
It goes without saying that it costs money to buy inventory. That’s why tracking sales in any business is crucial. By monitoring profit loss, a business owner can determine what sells like hot cakes, and what sits in the freezer and burns.
To avoid losing out on product that isn’t moving very quickly, digital menus boards can help. Based on quantity, users have the ability to change promotions to match inventory levels and help move product.
On the other end of the spectrum, users can drop a promotion when stock is exhausted.
By changing advertising to match inventory, restaurateurs can avoid losing money on unused stock while offering different options and specials to customers.
4. Limited Time Offers
Limited time offers, even limited editions, create a sense of excitement for buyers. They look forward to the offer with great anticipation.
We see examples of this quite often during holidays.
For Starbucks, it’s a series of holiday drinks at Christmastime.
For McDonald’s, it’s the Shamrock shake at St. Patrick’s Day.
Even before these items are released, regular customers are ready to buy, in part because they know it’s coming. But also, because the digital signs in those establishments further plant anticipation with teaser images or videos.
The beauty of an LTO is that it further creates brand loyalty for many consumers.
The Shamrock Shake is a perfect example. First rolled out in 1970 as a green colored vanilla milkshake, the now minty treat is an expected staple for millions of shake lovers everywhere.
It also has an incredible back-story. Not only does the history give millions of consumers a reason to buy, it also gives them a reason to tell others to buy.
How’s that for brand loyalty?
5. Reduce Wait Time
Have you ever walked into a QSR minutes after a busload of the men’s basketball team walked in, hungry after an all-state victory?
I have. And waiting behind them in line is the last thing I want to do.
Many feel this way.
But losing business during busy times can be avoided by offering digital distractions.
Studies have shown that digital signage helps to mentally reduce wait time in long lines.
During lunch rushes and other anticipated meal times, users can mix in content like trivia, fun facts, or short videos to lower a customer’s perceived wait time. It gives them a reason to stay and buy from your establishment, instead of your competitor down the road.
6. Make Price Changes
With digital menus, gone are the days of climbing up a ladder to change prices or remove outdated menu items.
In utilizing digital menus, price changes based on supply and demand can be made in mere seconds from a cushy back office chair.
If a product is in high demand, a slight price increase can beef up your bottom line fairly quickly.
On the other end of the spectrum, if a product has worn out it’s welcome, the price can just as easily be reduced for quick sales. Buy One Get One promotions can help achieve this.
Boloco, a fast casual restaurant based in Boston, operates 22 locations in the Northeast. They use digital menus in eight of these locations, primarily for the expediency factor.
Alexandra Dunk, Boloco’s director of marketing said, “The ability to change content at a moment’s notice, as well as potentially minimizing future costs by not having to replace menu boards on an on-going basis, were both factors in our decision. We have the ability to not only change our permanent menu itself, but to also feature content about our limited-time offers or other Boloco happenings.”
7. Share Nutrition Information
With so many health conscious people counting calories and watching what they eat, offering nutrition information can be the deciding factor for many consumers.
That, and the FDA now requires it.
Displaying calorie counts on digital menu boards will not only satisfy the FDA mandate, it will also make your customers happy.
When a consumer is able to look over different menu items with calorie count information, it gives them the opportunity to review the digital menus longer. This review keeps them engaged, and can equate to an upsell or faster decision to buy.
Promoting items based on limited calories and healthier ingredients can be a big seller when done right. Enticing images and attractive video just might be the final push to buy for health conscious customers.
Caloric displays also bring customers back to your establishment more often. They know you offer the information, so why go somewhere else when they know they can count on you?
Many restaurateurs are still on the fence about moving in the digital direction.
The primary concern? How quickly can the investment can pay for itself?
If you are still working to determine if, how, and when you’ll begin incorporating digital signage into your marketing strategy, consider conducting basic tests.
Compare a restaurant outfitted with digital menu boards with one using static menu boards. The menu user can promote a particular item on the digital menu board over a period of time, and then compare sales with a store that uses static menu boards.
What is the primary difference? What are the trends? What sells and what doesn’t?
Understanding what you consumers want and expect is the first step in determining a solid digital menu marketing strategy.
Considering all of the ways other QSR/Fast Casual restaurants are benefiting, which ways do you see your establishment benefiting by using digital menu boards?