The latest issue of QSR Magazine features a Smart Chain cover story that takes a deep dive into the importance of technology in the restaurant customer experience. “Sign of the Times: Digital Signage Rises to Mission-Critical Status in 2022” explains how the move from print to digital menu boards not only modernizes the brand experience, but also allows for agility, more effective promotions and — for today’s customer-centric, forward thinking brands — drives a relevant, personalized (and ultimately more profitable) restaurant visit.
The QSR Magazine article quotes STRATACACHE CEO Chris Riegel about how smart signage throughout the restaurant has a huge impact on customer experience and loyalty, as well as efficiency and operations. While digital menu boards are the juggernaut in restaurant tech adoption, at the core of this smart signage is a triad of technology: digital display, sensors and artificial intelligence. In this blog, Chris weighs in on why digital menu boards are table stakes in delivering on customer experience, how technology is vital to solving daily challenges, and why the future of the customer experience centers around personalization.
What are the major benefits of restaurant digital signage, specifically in terms of accuracy and convenience for customer experience?
In a COVID-impacted business world, operators are facing significant labor and supply chain disruptions and accuracy and convenience go hand in hand. Digital menu boards allow you to react in real time to disruptions and current conditions. Accuracy — an accurate menu keeps the line moving inside and outside the restaurant. Convenience — only show the menu items you can serve, and serve quickly. If you’re short handed on staff, the digital menu board allows you to remove items that are more labor intensive, but maintain or promote easier-to-make items that have higher margins, leading to increased profitability.
The accuracy and convenience of smart signage and digital menu boards begins before the customer even places their order. Taking into account real-time, conditional insights, digital menu boards deliver a relevant, customized experience for the consumer. This is particularly true in the drive thru where there is an opportunity for one-to-one personalization. By recognizing “known” customers when they enter the drive thru, rules on the backend can trigger the digital menu board to update in real time, promoting items that appeal to that customer, or highlighting higher margin menu items.
What are some things operators should consider when thinking about implementing/upgrading their restaurant digital signage? What questions should they ask suppliers?
Implementing and upgrading digital signage and digital menu board technology should be done by a trusted partner, not just a hardware or software vendor. There are vital questions that help navigate how digital signage will optimize operations and efficiency. How are you integrating live data? How many crew do you have? For back of house product, what’s the overage and what’s short in supply? How are you integrating loyalty and pickup? This live data and real time conditions can and should influence what’s shown on the digital signage. Digital menu boards can move product, speed up lines and increase loyalty.
From a tactical and future growth perspective, operators should ask questions around ability to scale and support, as well as the knowledge and capability to grow into advanced technology, such as sensors and AI, that customize the consumer experience. “Smart” digital solutions — ones that are combining digital display, sensors and AI — are going to grow revenue and limit missteps in the customer journey.
How can digital signage and digital menu boards help restaurant operators save money? What can they expect in terms of ROI?
Smart digital signage and digital menu boards are an investment in customer experience and operational efficiency. For cost savings, digital menu boards help to ensure the least possible amount of food waste, promoting the right menu items at the right time to use up product. Digital menu boards are going to drive significant incremental sales growth of 1-3% by highlighting what customers want and need. Digital menu boards operationally make available labor and staffing as efficient as possible.
In terms of ROI, operators are facing serious labor challenges and stiff competition. Technology is going to have an impact throughout the whole customer experience — increasing value of the experience through improved ordering flexibility; faster, higher-accuracy order pickup; and most importantly for ROI, hyper-relevant menu personalization and suggestive selling.
What does the future look like for smart signage?
Personalization of the consumer experience is the biggest opportunity for operators to increase sales and loyalty. Conditional inputs and rules on the back end system allow the “smart” digital menu board and menu offering to be optimized, and customized, in real time. There are influencing conditions in and around the physical space, including weather, traffic, events, queue length and time. Using this data combined with guest insights, you can have complete awareness of your customer. Every visit to your restaurant, every experience, is unique and tailored — the brand knows the customer, the customer knows and is loyal to the brand. Your customers know they will be served an experience that’s relevant, and this relevance is driven by data and insights. The “smart” digital menu board intelligently informs suggestive selling, increasing profit margins and customer loyalty.
How is restaurant digital signage or restaurant technology a long term solution to delivering on guest experience?
Technology can appear at first as a shiny object solution. But tactically speaking, there are labor and supply challenges that make day-to-day operations and efficiency a big question mark. In an ideal world, every day there is a full crew on hand with a fully stocked kitchen and smoothly operating kitchen equipment. Technology is an investment in customer experience and operational efficiency. Realistically, challenges arise, and a solid tech stack and strategy can ensure that operations not only continue to run smoothly, but the guest experience continues to be fast, accurate and valuable. And although there has been the start of a bounce-back in labor, “the industry is still about 900,000 short of where it was in February 2020, just prior to the pandemic,” according to QSR Magazine. Additionally, hiring and retaining labor has long been a perennial challenge in the restaurant industry.
There are additional conditional considerations that directly impact what should be shown on your digital menu boards. Data and inputs give you a complete picture of the guest and exactly where they are in the ordering and pickup journey. While this is forward thinking, there is proven, mature technology that can be implemented today to begin personalization, and with the right opt-ins and data, that personalization can include one-to-one customization down to a single guest. The drive thru is such an important part of QSR revenue streams, and technology presents the biggest opportunity to increase long term profitability.