Digital menu boards have symbolized the future of Quick Service Restaurants or “QSR”
customer service and if you look around the next time you visit a fast food restaurant chain,
you’ll see that the future is here.
And we, as consumers, welcome them with open arms. We love walking into a QSR, short on
time, and looking up to see a bright and crisp digital menu board to display our options. It
somehow makes consumers feel hip, modern and more at ease spending hard earned money.
But behind the closed curtain, the digital menu board wave has been a tumultuous one.
Specifically for the larger chains, noticeably. But why?
Well, stepping back and taking a look from an insider’s perspective, it seems that there may be
a disparity in the actual utilization and execution of implementing a digital menu board system
into their operations.
Despite already being around for 25 years or so, it wasn’t until about 15 years ago that digital
menu boards entered the markets of, arguably, the 3 top QSR chains in the world. With an
estimated 1200 to 1800 boards installed, it was a new time for the QSR industry. Unfortunately,
the outcome wasn’t as bright as we had hoped. As with any new developing piece of
technology, the menu boards had not provided the revolutionary results that were anticipated
and consequently, all digital boards were removed and switched back to the old menu boards.
Millions of dollars were lost, on both sides, suppliers filed for bankruptcy and a high level job or
two was axed within the QSR industry.
Now, more recently, we’re seeing some of the higher ranked chains getting back into the digital
menu board business but with indoor menus this time. And depending on the chain, you’ll catch
a drive thru digital menu board here and there.
So what caused all the trouble back when QSRs were trying to roll out the digital menu boards
the first time around?
Well, here it is.
It seems that the larger the QSR chain was, the more red tape existed, naturally. And this
disconnect in between departments and teams may have been the reason for such a lack of
execution and the inability to fully utilize these new digital boards.
Generally, the marketing team of a business will take the lead in researching and developing a
customized digital menu boards to rollout for their restaurants. This takes time and research
seeing as how these menus come with a wide array of screen sizes, wireless content and
software and graphic content options. Not to mention having to decide how to stay ahead and
satisfy FDA mandated food labeling laws, along with displaying detailing calorie count
information. Needless to say, it’s a process.
So once selected and tailored to their standards and needs, this is where things became
complicated. Somewhere between purchasing and installations is where all the sizzle and
expectations of the digital boards was being watered down and lost completely.
It seems individual objectives tended to intercept the overall goals of the QSR, collectively.
Purchasing teams were taking what the marketing teams had created and inappropriately
dissecting the customized boards. Why? Well, to cut costs, because that’s the objective of the
purchasing team, save the company money. “Oh we don’t need this feature..” ….”This seems a
little over the top, we can do without that…” And before you know it, poof, your digital badge
certifying that you’re bringing the future to your customers is gutted and gone. Disappeared.
Purchasing stripped down marketing’s concepts and customizations and left nothing but an
inadequate piece of signage that is setup to disappoint.
So what’s the lesson we can take from this?
It’s this. When it comes to state of the art products, you simply can’t reduce the quality of
content or hardware and expect them to deliver as intended. Those bells and whistles are there
for a reason. And the bigger QSR chains were failing to understand this as a whole because
their size stopped them from executing shared goals and visions. Meanwhile, the smaller QSR
chains, those that ranked low in the Top 10 or not even in the Top 10 at all, were experiencing
great success with their digital menu board rollouts. They were keeping things simple and not
overcomplicating the process from marketing to purchasing to installation. Keeping
communication flowing and not allowing the company to get in the way of itself was the recipe
for success. And finally, understanding that in order to maximize your investment in technology,
you need to keep it as an investment and not try to nickel and dime the company to success.
Because it will backfire.
Luckily, now in 2016, there have been so many upgrades and improvements to digital menu
board equipment and systems. Prices are more affordable and performance and durability has
improved. The options are endless and any QSR Chain’s investment, in such menus, should be
secure. So choose a supplier wisely, invest appropriately in your equipment and software, hire a
qualified installer like CDMV Installations and watch your investment pay for itself,