The restaurant trade is a highly competitive one, which is why it is not unusual for new ones to struggle. To the point where 60% of them close within a year of opening.
In most places, there is a lot of competition, so to stand a chance of staying open restaurant owners have to do everything they can to work efficiently. As a result, when they see an innovation that they think can help, they quickly adopt it.
That is certainly what has happened with digital menus. They have been adopted by fast-food chains, cafes, pubs, and restaurants, across the world. In this article, we look at why that is, how their use has spread and how digital screens are likely to be used by the restaurant industry in the future.
It is impossible to say for sure which restaurant owner first realized that they could display their menu on a screen. Making it super easy to change what was on offer or how much they charged. Something that had the potential to help them to sell more and save money.
But Mcdonalds is one of the early innovators. They started with the menus behind the serving counter and in 2010 began experimenting with self-service kiosks in some markets.
In 2019, they took the next step and started to install AI-powered digital menu boards. Initially, they will simply gather data about how customers browse their menus and respond to their offers. However, in the future, it is expected that the screens will recognize the customer. Then, display a menu and offers that are tailored to fit in with their tastes and dietary needs.
Why do smaller restaurants like digital menus?
Most other restaurants have not gone as far. But they are increasingly using them. Doing so brings many benefits.
It costs less to use digital menus
It saves a lot of money. The cost of printing menus is surprisingly high. Particularly for those restaurants that change what they have on offer daily. Even those that don´t will typically have to have their menus reprinted several times per year. For example, when they change prices, add new items, or update their branding. Plus, of course, it does not take long for menus to start to look dogeared. All of this means that around a third of restaurants recoup the cost of using a digital screen, within a year.
Digital menu boards offer restaurant owners more flexibility
Restaurant owners like the flexibility too. If the price of fish goes up, they can simply put the price up. Then, edit the menu file and drop the price of the relevant dishes when the cost of fish goes down so that they can remain profitable and competitive.
It speeds up the ordering process
Customers seem to like them too because they can speed up the ordering process. Provided the screens are placed somewhere everyone can see them, people can make their choice. Often, by the time the server arrives to take their drinks order they are ready to order their food too.
How coronavirus accelerated the use of digital menus
Although, despite all of this, in some places, there has still been some resistance to their introduction. For example, in America, when dining in a restaurant people like the ceremony of ordering from an at the table menu. So, they resisted the use of digital menus.
But the CoVid pandemic changed that. Because contact with servers had to be limited and handheld menus were hard to keep hygienically clean, people had no choice but to order from electronic ones. In many cases, they got used to it and many restaurants have continued to use them.
The future of digital signage in the catering industry
There is little doubt that digital signage for fast food restaurants is here to stay. What will be interesting is to see how the way they are used evolves, which is what happens with all new technology. In some parts of the world, the industry is having problems recruiting enough people. So, many are having to automate their operations. Digital screens are sure to play a role in making this happen. Customers will increasingly be asked to order using a table-mounted touch screen or an ordering kiosk at the entranceway.
Once the order has been placed, the screens can be used to deliver details of future events or offers. As well as used to entertain diners while they wait for their food. Be that be by a human server or a robot one.
If you want to find out more, you can access a full report that looks at the future of digital signage, including its use in the catering industry by clicking this link. You can also read more about the different types of digital menus here.Infographic created by Clover Network – a leader in helping businesses accept credit card payments
Peter has been a keen blogger and amateur food critic for over 20 years. When eating and drink Peter loves spending time with his family and friends.