Handheld Digital Menu

Posted by on Jul 5, 2011 in Displays, DOOH, Hardware, Software

*Note: If you are looking for a tablet restaurant menu, please contact us for more information.

We get some interesting requests at times, which often force us to reach out to partners and resellers for help. An interesting request that came in recently had to do with the restaurant industry–more specifically digital menus. The gentleman was looking to do 50 digital menus for each of 150 restaurants he helped to manage. It was confusing at first. Who would need 50 digital menus per restaurant? It seemed silly to me, unless you wanted a Buffalo Wild Wings experience where you had an inundation of digital content. What he was asking for was a simple hand-held digital menu. 

Generally, when you walk into a restaurant you are handed a laminated menu–a piece of paper card stock or a small booklet that has all the menu items with the specific pricing of the entrees. But, what if the owner wanted something more dynamic for his patrons? This is what the request was all about. Let me describe what he was asking in further detail. He wanted a device as simple as an Amazon Kindle that would allow him to place digital content on a tablet-like PC where the restaurant goer could simply scroll forward and back. Additionally, they wanted to intersperse the content with dynamic advertisements for all the restaurant had to offer as well as possibly showcase other local events and businesses that were nearby and/or partnered with their restaurant.

Another couple of requirements for the project were also of interest to me. The first had to do with the customer’s ability to order and pay for their food directly from the menu. For instance, if the interface were created on a tablet type device (you know, like an iPad menu) with a limited access to only what the restaurant owner wanted seen, then a billing solution could be implemented into each digital menu. The ordering could be taken care of as well. Customer feedback, and tipping could be taken care of through the device as well. However, using Microsoft Surface for such a need would be much more efficient because the device would not be taken away before the meal began.

My question to our potential customer was, “where is your applicable return on investment?” If you are going to be dropping a significant amount of bread on a boat-load of handheld digital menus, you really should make sure they are going to have an ROI–that’s my opinion. Unless of course they fulfill some superfluous return on objective–which is the all-too-often desire of many–it’s not worth it. In this instance, we were looking at yet another case of the desire of advertising to support the technology.

When it comes to support via advertising, I am often more of a skeptical realist than a silver-lined optimist. Those wishing to work in the dimension of advertising need to know that supporting the hardware/software with ads requires an immense amount of effort and time. In my not-so-humble opinion, if you can justify the expense for “coolness” alone even if the advertising idea flops like a pancake, then your ROO can be met effectively without being troubled about whether or not you are making a return. An improvement in ambiance and experience often justifies such a purchase. In the case of the menus doing the ordering for the establishment, a company might well justify having less staff for fulfilling orders and have fewer individuals making sure the customer is happy once they receive their order. This could easily justify the move to digital. release could prove beneficial to this market potentiality.

In fact, it reminds me of CiCi’s Pizza (or any number of company’s who delved into the self-service kiosk arena). CiCi’s eliminated an entire employee at each location by installing a $10,000 self-service kiosk. The return on that investment was justified because it could be met within 8 to 10 months. Handheld digital menus could have a similar effect. It really depends whether all the functionality I’ve been rambling about here would be legit.

As for this customer, we are now working with one of our partners who holds OEM relationships in China for manufacturing custom hardware for digital signage and other projects. This particular project, while it is quite unique, is among the many niche areas which in which digital sign technology can flourish. It’s part of that long-tail that includes far more applications than a simple display screen.

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