Digital signage can help break customers' 'meal monotony'

By Lyle Bunn, digital signage industry advisor

There is a "bliss point" when restaurants that use digital menu boards and their patrons gain the highest possible benefit. As the constraints of static signage are lifted and digital flat panels are used for dynamic signage, this bliss point can be realized.

The establishment hits "bliss" when menu items are presented to achieve their revenue goals while the patron simultaneously experiences excitement for the fulfillment of their need for food as fuel, comfort or as an agent for their lifestyle needs and wants. Dynamic signage enables this bliss point.

Foodservices account for 47 percent of food spending in North America, according to the National Restaurant Association. Industry revenues of $660 billion across 980,000 locations are largely dependent on the ability of menu and promotion boards to gain on-site revenues.

The approach to menu and promotion boards is as old as foodservice itself. A filibuster approach of constantly presenting the same static messaging is commonly used, where static signage simply presents always-on product and price information, often lacking any commentary or product purchase inspiration.

The menu and promotion boards of restaurants, bars, cafeterias, food courts and take out locations can deliver higher value to the establishment and its patrons. "Content" — the messages presented — primarily fulfills this goal based on suitable messaging technologies being in place.

Maximizing digital menu boards
Menu boards typically include a product name, its image and multiple prices based on size. Product and meal bundles typically follow this same construct. Caloric information may be included to comply with new food labeling regulations. A promotional message or tagline may support product promotion or branding.

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The establishment expects patrons to buy when they enter the facility, but the signage must maximize order value and contribute to gaining revisit(s).

Patrons base their menu selection on a combination of past experience, current appetite and the ability to spend, along with health-related factors such as calories, ingredients and allergens. They can become increasingly habitual in selecting from a limited range of menu items, which over time, contributes to "meal monotony" and the loss of location revisit and patron-ship.

Dynamic signage overcomes the constraints of static signage, channel letters and chalkboards. This is at a time when consumer choices and their foodservices experience are increasing and new food menu labeling requirements are emerging. New approaches to menu presentation are needed to keep them coming back and eating heartily.

Static menu and promotion boards are blunt communications instruments, while dynamic signage can be the sharpest instrument in the revenue achievement tool chest.

LCD flat panels enable the establishment to present video, animated product photos, logos, graphics and text in any combination or layout. The marketer's dream of being able to present whatever best speaks to the patron in order to achieve the objective can now be fulfilled through dynamic signage.

Business goals such as increasing revenue, upsell, cross-sell and revisit frequency are achieved at the order counter through content designed to achieve the "bliss point" at which content speaks powerfully to the patron.

At the "bliss point," the product is optimally presented AND the patrons are excited for the fulfillment of their need for food as fuel, comfort or as an agent for their lifestyle needs and wants.

Shaping content
Content needs to be shaped scientifically or sculpted artistically to optimally achieve the restaurant revenue goals and appeal to the patron's sensibilities. The current purchase can be maximized for the benefit of the establishment and a joyful patron order experience can motivate future visit intent.

The term "bliss point" has been a central theme in food and beverage engineering, denoting the optimal level of ingredients required to produce product appeal and magnetism. Consumption gratification that also triggers desire in an ongoing consumption cycle is a primary tool for food company revenues.

This same practice of food design toward a bliss point can now be transposed to point of purchase messaging and easily applied through dynamic signage.

The messaging ingredients can be crafted in such a way as to present the promise of the food product, while maximizing its perceived value on the part of the patron by illustrating how it can meet their needs.

Content design elements include dayparting, audience targeting, product views, text animation, color pallet, call to action, data integration and message layering are but a few of the content message designers' tools.

Where the promotion and presentation of a product that fulfills the need of the foodservice establishment intersects with the patron's view of the perceived value of these products, digital menu and promotion boards reflect the "bliss point" in food and beverage marketing at the point of purchase.

Lyle Bunn is an adviser and educator in North America's dynamic signage industry, who has assisted hundreds of firms to gain advantage from dynamic place-based media and published more 250 articles and whitepapers on the subject. (

Read more about digital signs.

Cover photo: Mirada Media

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