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Digital Signage: Serving Up Success with Dynamic Digital Menu Boards

Aug 23, 2007
Successful restaurateurs know an important ingredient in marketing their establishment is whetting the appetites of possible patrons with the sights, sounds and aromas they can expect to experience inside their restaurant.

But how can they convey even a taste of what lies behind the doors and entice potential diners inside? Traditionally, many restaurants will post their menu in some sort of glassed frame beside the door. But honestly, how effective is that?

Poorly lit signs are tough to read, and besides, selecting a restaurant is as much an emotional experience as it is an intellectual one. Relying on a printed menu to convey the substance of the restaurant's fare puts an undue amount of faith in the ability of those reading the menu to connect the written word -say, Chicken Cordon Bleu- to a past memory of a personal experience with the dish, and under the best circumstances conjure up a pleasant memory of a satisfied palate. That's asking a lot of a few, dimly lit, words that are likely printed in a cursive font that's difficult to read even under good circumstances.

Why not set aside that tradition and consider a more effective approach? Why put digital signage tools to work to convey a glimpse of the cuisine on the menu? Even if there is no such thing as "smellovision" -negating using the digital sign to convey the aromas of the kitchen, watching video of steaks searing on a fiery grill or a chef assembling a delicate French pastry is far more powerful in winning customers than simply the printed page of a menu.

In these applications, digital signage becomes a dynamic digital menu board, not only capable of presenting text to convey the menu, but also a video display offering potential patrons a preview of what lies beyond the door. Just as a digital sign in other applications can be divided into zones to playback video and scroll text, dynamic digital menu boards can be divided into sections devoted to text to display menu lineups, video playback of food preparation, brand graphics and even scrolling text to promote special offers.

But that just scratches the surface of the true power of dynamic digital menu boards. Like other digital signs, these digital menu boards are easy to update, based on the time of day. Thus, breakfast displays give way to the lunch menu as the morning passes, which in turn is replaced with the dinner menu. Along the same lines, digital menu boards make it easy for restaurant managers to change the menu to promote the specials for the day.

Dynamic digital menu boards also offer another powerful tool: a newfound ability to direct customers towards higher margin items. Before a waiter or waitress ever greets a patron at the table and begins reciting the day's specials, digital menu boards have the ability to influence those patrons to begin thinking about specific menu items -i.e. those promoted with video- on the digital menu board. With the seed of a menu selection planted, the waiter or waitress can fill in the details and help the patron decide.

Another major advantage of dynamic digital menu boards is their ability to be controlled and monitored from a central location. While this many not be much of an advantage for a mom-and-pop operation, chain and franchise operations with hundreds or even thousands of individual restaurants can ensure consistency in their on-premise messaging and remotely monitor playback for quality control. They can even customize it to take advantage of local or regional opportunities.

Whether it's enticing patrons to choose to eat at a particular restaurant, dayparting messaging to reflect the appropriate meal of the day, promoting higher margin menu items or ensuring consistency of messaging around the country from a central location, dynamic digital menu boards offer significant advantages to restaurant managers over traditionally displayed menus. Perhaps now is the time to put those advantages to work at your restaurant before the establishment down the block does.
About the Author
David Little is a digital signage enthusiast with 20 years of experience helping professionals use technology to expand their marketing messages with alternative media . Visit http://www.keywesttechnology.com and find how you can expand your marketing horizons.
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