A Digital Menu Board solution (DMB) is usually sold as an innovative hardware and software combination, designed to uplift sales through a simple, yet effective advertising platform.
The offered product range in the store naturally expands over time and is increasingly difficult to display in its entirety on the traditional menu boards. The Digital Menu Board is a new way of presenting your products and provide customers the impression of renewed choice on each visit.
Aahh, got it: a tool for marketing – but what about Operations? No advantages?
A wise selection of a Digital Menu Board solution is able to add a lot of advantages for the day to day Operations in the store. To give you an idea how this can be achieved, I like to provide some examples which I have recently implemented at some customers:
The automized handling of different day parts (breakfast, lunch, dinner, happy hour, etc.) is supported by most of the DMB software solutions. To support Operations in the QSR perfectly, I see a need for additional day part features, which are not necessarily support by all systems available.
Different day parts for different screens
One of the things valuable for Operations, is the feature of having different day parts for different screens or different sets of screens. This feature allows Operations to flexible react on changing processes and to increase sales, by perfectly addressing the actual needs of the customers.
An example is that Operations is able to define the system to run two day parts (breakfast and lunch/dinner) on the inside screens, three day parts on the outside screens (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and maybe only one day part for a entertainment screen. This feature allows Operations to have special drive offers in the evening hours, or to support 24/7 stores where only the drive is open during the night hours.
Manual override of day parts in the store
Day parts change automatically, controlled by the DMB software. In the day to day operations, this is not always highly appreciated by Operations.
Operations need to be able to override the defined day parts locally in the store, as they do naturally with the traditional Menu Board. The reasons are almost self explaining: if you have still customers, lining up for breakfast, the Digital Menu Board should not change to the lunch part automatically. On the other hand, if you have no guests on the counter and it is three minutes before the lunch day part, you should be able to switch to the lunch day part immediately. A good, QSR orientated, software should provide the feature of pushing, delaying or activating day parts manually in the store.
Products are sold out / not available
If products are sold out or temporarily not available, Operations should be able to change the status of the product locally in the store, with an immediate effect on the Digital Menu Board.
Mark it and forget it
The Digital Menu Board system should be based on a (local) database, where the products and their item codes / PLUs, are stored. All item codes should be connected to the price lists on the menu board as well as to the pictures, referring to the products on the Digital Menu Board.
The reason is simple: if you change a product status to sold out or not available, this should be immediately reflected on each of the screens where the product is shown, and of course in future day parts as well. This can only be done, if the DMB solution is based on a (kind of) database, ensuring the integrity of the data of all screens in the store. Some systems run synchronized and small databases on each of the players, other DMB solution rely on a database server in the store. There a lot pros and cons for each of the mentioned solutions, but it would go beyond the scope of this blog article.
The product unavailability status
In addition to this feature, Operations should be able to handle different statuses of a product, like not available or sold out. This can be important, if you see it thru the eyes of your customers.
I describe the difference between these product status as follows:
- Sold out means sold out by purpose like an promotional item – this event can be planned by Marketing and Operations e.g. a promotion and allow to define a fixed behavior if it happens. The product or media can disappear from the screen, or you can have product replacing the sold out one.
- Not available is a not plan-able event, like a temporarily out of stock situation or a broken piece of equipment. Marketing and Operations can hardly create a backup plan for all possible situations. Therefore the system need to react automatically, by e.g. greying the product out or putting a banner over the affected product.
An example: If you have a promotional item and you mark it as sold out, it can disappear from the screen or be replaced by another product (planned). Whereas a standard product which is temporarily not available, e.g. the shake machine is broken, could be only greyed out and get a banner saying „back soon“ – not planed, but upfront defined. This gives the customer a clear signal, that his loved shake is not taken off the standard menu and will be back soon.
Store based pricing
If you run a chain of stores and/or a franchised business, you will sooner or later face the challenge of local and/or store based pricing. A smart and QSR orientated software is able to help Operations to handle this challenge smoothly. The perfect DMB solution will even make your live easier and offer additional advantages to Operations.
Dynamic or store based pricing allows Marketing to create the content of the DMB without fixed prices. Marketing only creates content with placeholders. The placeholders are filled with the local store prices dynamically, when the digital menu board is displayed. This allows Marketing to define generic POP content, not taking care about the different pricing.
Most of the DMB solutions offer additional dynamic content, like product labels, origin, calories, etc.. As these information follow the same logic as dynamic pricing, this it not discussed separately.
Where are the prices coming from?
Usually the DMB system offer a local or at least a store based database, to hold the local pricing information. As already discussed within the the sold out chapter, the database should be based on item codes / PLUs. This allows Operations to change the price of a product once, and it will be reflected on all screens.
An enhanced feature is to get the pricing from an external source like the POS or a BackOffice system. This usually requires the development of an IT interface, but is a very good solution for synchronized pricing on the POS as well as the DMB solution.
Ho to prepare the content for dynamic pricing?
Technically there a several ways, how the placeholders for dynamic content need to be prepared for the various DMB solutions. The most usual ones are:
- A price layer over fixed images to show the prices in the defined placeholders
- A program, replacing images or videos – e.g. a flash file to hand over prices as parameters
- A smart website, replacing images or video – to hand over prices as parameters
I personally prefer the solution over a program like flash or a website logic, to hand over parameters. Even if this requires small programming effort to create the content, the result is much better and nicer. This allows you as well to add animations like smoking coffee or flipping burgers, ect..
An price overlay for a provided fixed picture will add a lot of challenges, like different results with different fonts, difficult programming of the price position in the price layer or no seamless look and feel for the customers.
Reacting on events
It is a huge advantage for Operations, if the Digital Menu Board solution is able to react on events. But, what do I mean with events?
An event is a special situation (similar to sold out) which is anticipated and pre-defined by Operations and Marketing and allows the store manager to easily initiate changes on the Digital Menu Board.
Maybe the most practical example I’ve prepared is, an overstock of some products. Your Digital Menu Board solution should allow the store manager to boost these products on the Digital Menu Board. Boost means, that Operations can decide to change one ore more screens to highlight and promote the overstocked product(s). This is done only in this specific store and should take affect immediately. The duration (how long these screens are shown) of this override, can be upfront defined by Marketing or Operations. Usually it is something between 10 and 30 minutes. The DMB switch back automatically to the normal content loop, after the defined time.
A more rarely occurring example is, if you own a highway or Autobahn store and the store is prepared and staffed for a average hour. Surprisingly two busses stop at your store and about 90 people enter the store within 5 minutes. Wouldn’t it be great if the store manager would be able to react immediately on this event and change the whole Digital Menu Board solution in a more simplified version, focussing on core products?
Another example for an event could be that the outside temperature changes. A pre-defined event like changing the dessert screen from ice cream to coffee automatically when the temperature is lower than 15 degrees celsius could be a good way to increase business?
That’s it for part #1, with part #2 I’ll try to discuss the Digital Menu Board and it’s necessary features more in general.
I hope you liked it. Feel free to comment. Thanks a lot for reading.