By Stuart Armstrong/ ComQi Group President
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Menu Labeling Requirement Act goes into effect May 5, promising to put huge pressures on restaurants with 20 or more locations, who must comply with federal rules to feature both calorie counts and other nutritional information on their menus. But the good news is that digital signage is made for this kind of regulatory mandate.
"Digital signage is not the only way to meet the regulations set forth by the FDA, but it is the most efficient and effective," said CEO Ifti Ifhar, who leads the digital signage software firm, ComQi.
"Be careful. Don't trade one issue for another. Make sure when it's done it's backed by a strong Content Management System (CMS). The demand for digital signage is on the rise and, since it takes time to roll-out, food service operators should be starting now to select a solution and get it properly deployed."
But, maybe you have yet to commit to digital signage. After all, it is an investment like all the others made in this business, but it's an investment that can really pay off. In fact, a comprehensive digital system, selected in an informed manner, can yield a bevy of advantages, including the following:
- Vastly reduced printing costs: Digital removes the costs of printing paper menus, both in-store and for delivery. Likewise, this communication medium eliminates recurring print or labor costs since digital menu changes, like nutritional, caloric and allergen information, are easily made with a few strokes of the keyboard, as well as the addition of LTOs.
- Increased impulse sales: One in five people make an unplanned purchase after seeing items featured on digital screens. This can result in a 2.5 to 3 percent increase on margin, per transaction.
- Higher total sales: Research indicates that 29.5 percent of diners say digital menus swayed their purchase decisions, directly resulting in 3 to 5 percent increases in sales.
- Improved menu day-parting: Items only sold at certain times of day, like breakfast or late-night snacks, can be programmed to appear and disappear on schedules. Digital allows different menus based on time, day and season. In fact, some more sophisticated systems can be programmed to base content and scheduling on back-office information, like out-of-stocks and low performers.
- More targeted promotional messaging: Digital systems allot for individual menu item promotion, from the very specific, like special pizza or dessert LTOs, to more generalized brand building.
- Better social media alignment: Digital can easily promote a restaurant's Twitter, Facebook or Instagram feeds, while sharing customer interaction and engagement.
- All systems are not alike: In theory, just about any content management system can execute the basics of getting a menu up on a digital display. In practice though, the range of solutions narrows quickly when real features and requirements are taken into account.
There is, after all, a big difference between doing something, and doing it well. A system that's going to meet the needs of even a small restaurant group needs to be networked, built for scale, and equipped with an appropriate approval workflow and operating efficiencies.
"A strong solution has the ability to handle needs that can change by location, store type, geography, local preferences, local taxes … the list goes on and on," said Ifhar. "And very few solutions are built with the Internet of Things in mind — the ability to not only offer a great solution, but to integrate and interact with other solutions — like Point of Sale systems, order confirmation, or even drive-thru sensors."
Tomorrow, we'll review five must-have features to look for in whatever system your brand ultimately chooses.