While digital menu boards are the norm in most restaurants, there are still some who are hesitant to make the transition from static to digital.
Is this fear of digital menu boards legitimate?
Let’s look at several reasons why these restaurants are stagnating in static.
The Tech is Expensive
A reliable and coherent digital menu board estate requires different tech components: commercial-grade screens, media players, content management, internet connection, networking, etc. The cost of these components have reduced significantly over the years, but it still represents a substantial investment for both mom-and-pop establishments who typically have limited resources, and big chains as well with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of sites.
Yes the CAPEX is not insignificant but these digitally immature restaurants are falling into this trap of focusing on technology over strategy. They are leading with technology instead of strategy. They lack the ability to conceptualize how digital technologies can impact the business.
The proper path to take is develop strategies to transform the business and then fulfill those strategies with technology. Technology then becomes a means to an end, and not the main strategy. Once this viewpoint is adapted, then it becomes easy to overcome the technology hurdles.
Content Is Expensive
Once the restaurant gets the tech components ready, they have to generate relevant content for their audience. The same pdf used for menu printouts, on the website and on social media will not suffice for digital menu boards. Content for digital menu boards is unique and has to be produced specifically for digital signage. Also, a certain level of technological proficiency is required to create engaging digital menu board content. Again, this is true for mom-and-pop establishments who might not be as tech-savvy, and big chains who have to consider creating content for multiple sites.
As digital menu boards become more prevalent, the tools and cost of generating and managing content have evolved to be easier and more accessible.
More and more digital menu board vendors are providing complimentary professionally designed menu templates that are easy to customize.
These turnkey providers are also providing subsidized training on their content creation software in order to make restaurant managers comfortable with the technology and eliminate this barrier to digital transformation.
The internet is also flooded with free blogs, white papers, video tutorials and infographics on effective content strategies. With such vast resources readily available at minimal cost, if any, restaurants are easily positioned to overcome the content hurdle.
To make a case against static menu boards, managing menu changes can put lots of strain on time and resource. Print costs are high and workflows are severely affected. Restaurants are also unable to react in realtime e.g. they can’t remove an item from the menu when they run out of an ingredient. With a digital menu board, this can be achieved with just a few clicks.
Maintenance and Installation is Too Complicated
Just like with any other technology product, digital signage installation requires a specific set of skills which cost a considerable amount of money. There is also mounting equipment, connectivity (wired, wireless, cellular), and cabling. Many restaurant owners also believe that implementing a digital menu board signage may be disruptive to the store and complex to set up.
As digital signage has evolved, so have the installation techniques. As the technology becomes prevalent, A/V providers are adding digital signage skill sets to their services at competitive rates – this means restaurants have a competitive menu of installers to choose from.
Most providers also offer turnkey solutions that include installation and maintenance at reduced costs. Their cloud-based technologies offer an easy configuration process with a very low learning curve. Media players are also less complicated — most are small and compact, and come preconfigured with management software.
Media players are also being substituted with devices such as the Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast — devices that most consumers are already familiar with.
Mounting options have also evolved. They are now less complicated and less expensive, and allow easy serviceability. Popout mounts are a great example – they allow easy access to the back of screens and media players which makes maintenance fast and easy.
Just like with any technology product, digital signage will require tech support every now and then. And just like with any skilled profession, tech costs a substantial amount of money.
The answer to the support fear is in the evolved nature of the technology product itself. Most digital menu board providers offer free software upgrades so it’s always up to date. In other words, the technology is evergreen which offsets maintenance and support.
And just like with the three aforementioned factors, most providers offer turnkey solutions that include comprehensive support with lifetime warranties, ongoing training, 24/7 support, etc. Such a dedicated support structure from a turnkey provider not only secures your digital menu board investment, but also provides someone that is familiar with the history of your restaurant. So support need not be outsourced to costly independent technicians.
So while digital menu boards have more components, have higher CapEx and seem more complicated, they add many huge advantages and if used properly, their ROI is much greater than for static boards. So the fear of digital menu boards is basically unsubstantiated.