I was walking into my office away from my office (the local Panera bread) the other day I looked up and saw something different about their menu boards. They had taken out two of the traditional corragated cardboard static signs and replaced them with flat screen TVs.
Of course, one of them was black and had the dancing Windows XP logo on it, but the other was transitioning between sweet treats and coffee drinks with a simple little slideshow. Then it occurred to me, why don’t all Panera’s have these? They come across as a forward, technology friendly company (free wi-fi, except the limited access during lunch, a new & very savvy customer rewards program, etc) but they are still relying on the printed sign to promote their products – having to change with the seasons, or cover up an item with a piece of paper when it is out of stock and having to pay a designer & printer several times a year to come up with a new look for their menu boards.
I’ll give credit where credit is due – their signs have always looked great, but nothing looks as cool as a transitioning 47″ LED TV.
I helped my family’s business, Young’s Jersey Dairy (who had wi-fi before Panera) installed their first digital menu board in 2008. Our intial idea was to use one screen as a scrolling deal of specials. We loved it so much that we installed 2 more in the Dairy Bar (ice cream side). Having the ability to change a flavor of the week, change the price of an item, remove an item (can’t make a banana split without bananas!) was invaluable.
We used Samsung 46″ LCD TVs as the displays and used a combination of MacMini’s and Keynote to power the back end. The MacMinis are networked with the multitude of computers at the farm, so getting in and editing a screen is a breeze.
Less than a year later, Young’s has 9 TVs running in their Dairy Store lobby. 3 screens are on the bakery side displaying the menus for breakfast & lunch. 5 screens are now brightly shining with all of the ice cream flavors, specials and treats that Young’s has to offer in the Dairy Bar. The remaining screen is using ‘old school’ technology of a DVD player. I created a scrolling 4:30 minute video of delicious-looking images, mostly for use when people are standing in line.
Using my learned information about digital menus – here is a short list of why you should give some serious thought to installing them in your storefront:
I know what you’re thinking – cost is probably the number one reason NOT to install digital signage. But take a minute to think about how many times you’ve wanted to change your prices but couldn’t, how many times when enough change was needed to replace the sign then had your graphic design department create a new sign and getting it printed? Not cheap either. The upfront cost of installing one digital menu board can be daunting, but if evaluate the long term cost and you’ll probably come to the same conclusion that Young’s did, it’s very cost effective.
#2 Accessiblity to Change
Let’s stay on Young’s an example. In a hot sticky July afternoon, if you are at all familiar with Young’s – they’ll be busy, especially for ice cream. A bus load of kids goes on a banana split run and “UH OH!”, they’re out of bananas. As any restaurant owner can agree, an item never gets ordered more than when you are out of stock. So, to solve that problem, quickly log into the screen, remove Banana Split from the menu and it’s like it never existed. Also, envision making price changes on the fly. Say if you Mondays Young’s wanted to make a two dip cone $1.50 (they don’t, so don’t ask!) It’s easy enough to make the change without ‘uglying’ up the sign with a handwritten post-it note over the price.
#3 Aesthetically Pleasing
Next time you are in a McDonalds, look at how beautiful their screens for their McCafe’s, etc are. The coffee might be no different, but it sure looks better. Having well taken pictures, with great graphics (stationary or in motion) is a fantastic way to sell or feature a product. The way that McDonald’s has their digital menu boards intermixed with the stationary traditional boards is an interesting mix as well. It brings more natural attention to the digital boards without even trying.
#4 There’s An App for That – Can your traditional board do this?
Imagine a board that displays the weather, a scrolling list of tweets from your Twitter feed, a live photo stream from your customers. Digital menu boards don’t just have to display your menu items and their prices, be creative. If you make your digital menu boards a prettier version of your old menu board, you haven’t gone far enough.
#5 Not Just for Food Service
There are many practical uses for digital signage outside of the food service industry. If you have any sort of store front, there can be a place for some sort of digital signage. Do you have an event to promote, a special to push or some sort of message that you need to get across to your customers – think about utilizing the customizability (big word!) of digital signage.
If you need more reasons to install some digital signage in your business, give me a call – I’ve got enough hands on experience to give you a hand, and help you with the planning & installation. It’s not as expensive as you’d think and the options are nearly endless for what you can accomplish.