Panel: Thoughtful use of digital menu, marketing boards will pay dividends

Panel: Thoughtful use of digital menu, marketing boards will pay dividends

ORLANDO Fla. —Falling hardware prices are spurring trial, but restaurateurs should clearly understand how they want to use digital menu and marketing boards before they invest, operators on an FS/TEC 2009 educational panel here advised their peers.

Though sounding a note of caution, participants in the presentation “Digital Menu Boards: Bigger, Better, Wider, Faster, Cheaper, Cooler,” nevertheless praised the merchandising power and flexibility of the emerging technology. —Falling hardware prices are spurring trial, but restaurateurs should clearly understand how they want to use digital menu and marketing boards before they invest, operators on an FS/TEC 2009 educational panel here advised their peers.

Toby Malbec, director of point-of-sale systems for the Subway [3] franchisee-owned Independent Purchasing Cooperative, said digital menu boards can be used to distract customers while they’re waiting on peak-hour lines. They also can be used as suggestive selling tools, to disseminate educational information like nutritional data or possibly a combination of those things, he said. —Falling hardware prices are spurring trial, but restaurateurs should clearly understand how they want to use digital menu and marketing boards before they invest, operators on an FS/TEC 2009 educational panel here advised their peers.

But, Malbec advised, “you should decide ahead of time what problem you are trying to solve with them.” —Falling hardware prices are spurring trial, but restaurateurs should clearly understand how they want to use digital menu and marketing boards before they invest, operators on an FS/TEC 2009 educational panel here advised their peers.

When selecting hardware, Malbec said, the choice comes down to either using a plasma screen or an LCD screen. The plasma type tends to be more costly, but has better dynamics, while an LCD will last longer and use less power, he said. —Falling hardware prices are spurring trial, but restaurateurs should clearly understand how they want to use digital menu and marketing boards before they invest, operators on an FS/TEC 2009 educational panel here advised their peers.

Software, Malbec explained, must allow the operator to change or update the screen regularly. —Falling hardware prices are spurring trial, but restaurateurs should clearly understand how they want to use digital menu and marketing boards before they invest, operators on an FS/TEC 2009 educational panel here advised their peers.

“You can’t have static signage,” he added. —Falling hardware prices are spurring trial, but restaurateurs should clearly understand how they want to use digital menu and marketing boards before they invest, operators on an FS/TEC 2009 educational panel here advised their peers.

Rob Ireland, information technology director for Tar Heel Capital in Boone, N.C., said about 10 of the company’s 76 Wendy’s [4] locations employ digital menu boards displaying all of the brand’s selections. The configuration includes an animated panel he calls “the magic square” that is used to promote specific items. —Falling hardware prices are spurring trial, but restaurateurs should clearly understand how they want to use digital menu and marketing boards before they invest, operators on an FS/TEC 2009 educational panel here advised their peers.

Ireland estimated that magic-square-promoted items enjoy sales bumps of from 1 percent to 20 percent. —Falling hardware prices are spurring trial, but restaurateurs should clearly understand how they want to use digital menu and marketing boards before they invest, operators on an FS/TEC 2009 educational panel here advised their peers.

“Take a less-is-more approach on videos and starbursts,” he said about the use of flashy marketing content. “Sometimes it can just be too much.” —Falling hardware prices are spurring trial, but restaurateurs should clearly understand how they want to use digital menu and marketing boards before they invest, operators on an FS/TEC 2009 educational panel here advised their peers.

In addition to upselling items, Tar Heel uses its digital displays to promote regional items, like Wendy’s North Carolina Classic, he said. —Falling hardware prices are spurring trial, but restaurateurs should clearly understand how they want to use digital menu and marketing boards before they invest, operators on an FS/TEC 2009 educational panel here advised their peers.

Ireland said Tar Heel uses commercial-grade LCDs powered by a microcontroller. He estimated that a digital menu board system costs about $19,000 to install in a single location. —Falling hardware prices are spurring trial, but restaurateurs should clearly understand how they want to use digital menu and marketing boards before they invest, operators on an FS/TEC 2009 educational panel here advised their peers.

Operators looking to implement digital menu and marketing boards should choose vendor partners who understand their content and technology footprint, Ireland advised. —Falling hardware prices are spurring trial, but restaurateurs should clearly understand how they want to use digital menu and marketing boards before they invest, operators on an FS/TEC 2009 educational panel here advised their peers.

Andy Abbajay, president and chief executive of Restaurant Growth Brands Inc. in Atlanta, which operates such nontraditional concepts as La Petite Bistro and Bear Rock Café, said his company finds digital menu boards useful in food courts. —Falling hardware prices are spurring trial, but restaurateurs should clearly understand how they want to use digital menu and marketing boards before they invest, operators on an FS/TEC 2009 educational panel here advised their peers.

“We can control the content easily,” he said, “and it can be customized for each franchisee.” —Falling hardware prices are spurring trial, but restaurateurs should clearly understand how they want to use digital menu and marketing boards before they invest, operators on an FS/TEC 2009 educational panel here advised their peers.

He said individual promotions are effortlessly changeable based on inventory conditions. —Falling hardware prices are spurring trial, but restaurateurs should clearly understand how they want to use digital menu and marketing boards before they invest, operators on an FS/TEC 2009 educational panel here advised their peers.

RGB in each unit uses three or four 42-inch LCD displays powered by Web-based enterprise software, Abbajay said. He noted that mounting height is critical, as “people have to be able to read them from 15 to 30 feet away.” —Falling hardware prices are spurring trial, but restaurateurs should clearly understand how they want to use digital menu and marketing boards before they invest, operators on an FS/TEC 2009 educational panel here advised their peers.