Restaurant Digital Menus: Apps & Interactions

Posted by on Oct 18, 2013 in Digital Menu Boards, Displays, Interactive

We’ve always been advocates of public display control. Touchscreen, SMS and even Twitter/Facebook interactions can help to create a more engaging experience for bystanders of a digital display. Thanks to today’s technology integrators, many such interactions are coming to life. Nowhere are they more prevalent than in the digital menu space. Here are a few reasons why.

Not unlike their retail or grocery store counterparts, digital displays in restaurants typically serve a multi-pronged purpose–ambiance and advertising being just a small portion of the entire ecosystem. Direct ordering, customer feedback and queue management can all play a roll in the amount customers interact with digital displays.

Without delving into the interactions themselves, it is important to note that the hardware used in these types of settings can assist in encouraging or discouraging engagement. Let me paint a real-life scenario. A recent restaurant digital menu board installation, included the need for some touchscreen digital displays. The physical placement of the displays was performed properly, but the choice of hardware became a deterrent from actually using the displays as an interactive touch-point with patrons. Instead of installing the suggested tablets or iPads as we initially suggested, the local restaurant installed a very large-format touchscreen display. Instead of interacting with the signage, patrons simply ignored it. They treated it as they would any typical LCD mounted in a public area–as a static digital sign with no real purpose other than to display messages.

In fact, even when a fairly obvious paper sign was placed in proximity to the sign indicating it was to be used as a touchscreen, less interactions took place than were expected. To supplement, the restaurant finally decided on a few iPads and the interactions went through the roof. Now they’re wishing they would have splurged for the tablets at each table like we suggested at the outset.

Effectively answering the “how do we get them to interact?” question is sometimes just as important as why do we get them to interact. One of the biggest reasons why allowing interactions in a retail or restaurant setting can be so important is because of customer perceptions. Those who’re interacting tend to have a much lower perceived wait time in the store. This alone can be a huge boon for getting people to stay longer and buy more.

Today’s digital signage applications are certainly providing more “power to the people” with increased interactivity, but they’re also playing directly into the hands of “big data” and customer analytics-obsessing marketing folks who want to measure the customers’ every move. While there is a place for both, sometimes I fear we make things a bit too complex. Signage should be simple. Make a good sign, get people’s attention and your ROI will be positive. That’s the most simple store that can be told and one which we’re constantly preaching.

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