By Peter Saunders
One of the fastest-growing markets for digital signage is the quick-service restaurant (QSR) industry, where customer-facing dynamic menus, touch-screen kiosks, drive-thru boards, window displays and infotainment screens can all communicate with back-office software for managing inventory, finances, scheduling and labour, so as to enable on-the-fly updates and richer data collection.
“Not since the computerized point-of-sale (POS) system started replacing the cash register in 1970s have we seen such changes in how orders are taken, processed and served,” says Che Baird, Panasonic Canada’s national business development manager for QSR and retail solutions, who has worked with franchised QSRs like Tim Hortons, Dairy Queen and McDonald’s.
One of the advantages of digital signage is the technology’s ability to unify a QSR’s in-store graphics through a single platform, for more seamless operations. High-definition liquid crystal displays (LCDs) have proven ideal for a range of digital menu boards and infotainment screens, such as Tim Hortons’ dining-area ‘TimsTV’ network, which Cineplex Digital Networks (CDN) deployed nationally after a successful pilot test in London, Ont.
The benefit of linking digital menu boards to POS systems is the opportunity to update the displayed food items throughout the day for different mealtimes and to remove or minimize them when there are shortages.
“They’re a great way to promote limited-time offers,” says Baird.
Studies show items promoted on indoor digital menu boards experience an average sales lift of three to five per cent.
Another digital signage technology that can prove useful is projection, which can work with special films to transform a QSR’s windows into dynamic screens, visible from outside. For this type of application, a digital projector—usually ceiling-mounted—throws the images onto an ultra-thin, semi-transparent window film.
Some shop windows even integrate a high-contrast light-control film between two sheets of glass, which changes to rear-projection screen mode with the application of voltage. Multiple adjacent windows can form a video wall.
Outdoors, meanwhile, drive-thru communications systems can integrate high-brightness digital signage—adequately ruggedized to resist weather damage and vandalism—with order processing and POS systems. This way, promotions can be modified in real time and errors reduced while customers are in audio contact with QSR employees.
Also, studies show digital menus move drive-thru customers along faster. “The vivid images on a screen help people choose and place their orders more quickly,” says Baird.
This speed is imperative, particularly for QSRs where 60 to 70 per cent of their business takes place at a drive-thru window where only one customer can be served at a time.