Quick service restaurants revolutionized the American dining out experience with the introduction of White Castle in 1921 (pictured above, from White Castle). Technology didn’t move as fast then as it does now in the QSR space. We’ve come a long way from the two-way speaker box used in the drive-thru of In-N-Out Burger in 1948!
Today, digital menu boards, ordering kiosks, and apps where customers can track an order for pickup, show technology is moving quickly in how QSR’s are transforming the customer experience.
Front and center in investing in new technology is the promise of appearing more modern to today's connected customers. Increasing profit potential by reducing costs and throughput time is another bonus. The possibilities that implementing technology like digital signage brings from a marketing perspective is perhaps one of the lesser discussed benefits, but it can provide for excellent business partnership opportunities.
Burkhart, a brand strategy agency based in Indianapolis whose client list includes Arby's, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Fresh to Order, touts marketing benefits for the modern quick service environment derived from the installation of digital menu boards including: minimizing perceived wait times, the ability to run time-sensitive ads, the opportunity to refresh signage at a reduced cost to the business, and the opportunity to create interactive experiences with customers.
"Driven by demand, opportunity and the dropping cost of digital screens, it's an increasingly popular option for franchise owners," the agency wrote in a May 2017 blog post.
Recognizable quick service chains like McDonald's and Subway have recently traded in traditional print menus for digital menu boards. Making changes like this allows for more flexibility in menu changes, promotional strategies, and improved content.
For example, these organizations run breakfast ads early in the day; dinner ads later in the day. There is also the ability to run local content tied to events, sports teams, and more. Menu board space can also feature customer engagement from social media channels like Instagram and Twitter.
To fully take advantage of digital capabilities, a true partnership is needed across the organization. According to Deloitte's 2017 Restaurant of the Future report, it is important that "digital strategy doesn't happen in a vacuum." The consulting company advises that business functions like IT and marketing collaborate at a higher level and include field partners as well.
"More than ever, marketing needs to be connected to menu development, supply chain, suppliers, store operations, employee training, research and analytics—a restaurant executive team needs to become an insights-driven organization that collaborates to delight the customer," the report said.
During implementation, communication is key. Take it from Rick Cook, senior manager of U.S. IT restaurant solutions at McDonald's, who told Digital Signage Today in a 2017 interview, that most problems that arise with new technologies are really "communication problems."
"You have to communicate to thousands of business owners," he said referring to its network of franchisees. "You have to make sure the content managers are on board with the message."
With successful implementation comes endless opportunity to engage with customers, promote brand loyalty, and utilize data collection to create successful marketing campaigns that drive business goals.
Whatever direction the new frontier of restaurants takes you, Bailiwick knows upgrading technology can help you differentiate your restaurant and reach desired business goals in the areas of profit, growth, and engaging your customers. Bailiwick specializes in working with quick-service and fast-casual restaurants in the design and deployment of IT solutions, including digital menu boards and touch-screen ordering technology, customized to help you meet your business goals.