Drive-thru digital signage is changing the drive-thru game. Restaurants can increase their customer turnover through efficient ordering and make their food look better than ever. Going digital in your drive-thru is the first step in supercharging the way your restaurant operates…
McDonald’s first brought the concept to the mainstream back in 1975, targeting high-traffic locations with speedy service. Since then, drive-thrus have popped up around the world with hundreds of fast-food restaurants serving customers on the go.
Here we take a look at what Drive-thru digital signage is, how you can use it at your restaurant, and what we can expect to see from digitalised drive-thrus in the future.
What Is Drive-thru Digital Signage?
Drive-thru digital signage is a sub-sector of digital signage used in the drive-thrus of restaurants. Drive-thru digital signage includes digital menus, drive-thru kiosks, video walls, and more. Put simply, it’s where digital screens are used to communicate or serve a restaurant’s customers who are using the drive-thru. This could be for ordering, collecting, paying, or even providing feedback.
Going digital in the drive-thru helps automate the ordering process for both staff and customers. This allows for faster, more efficient ordering. This means the restaurant can serve more food and increase sales. In addition, increasing customers satisfaction through a simplified process of getting their food.
The Emergence of the Drive-thru Kiosk
In the last decade, quick-service restaurants (QSRs) have increasingly gone digital at their drive-thru windows. Digital displays are an ideal medium for a menu as they can rotate the options on offer (including throughout the day), reducing the space that would have been required for static posters. They also improve service efficiency as drivers can preemptively decide on their order by looking at a menu screen before they arrive at the order window. The effect this has is a reduction in perceived waiting time. The frustration that attends sitting in a queue of traffic can be warded off by giving customers something to read and think about.
When it comes to advertising, a drive-thru kiosk is superior for engaging patrons. A study has shown that 4 times as many consumers would rather watch a video than read about a product. Even just animating text and images can have a huge impact on engagement. This is why huge franchises like McDonald’s incorporate their advertising campaigns into their digital signage, most famously, McDonald’s Monopoly which has been a family-favourite since 1987. Showing adverts or special offers to customers sat in the drive-thru provides huge ROI as this is precisely the time they are most attuned to such messaging. Promotions encouraging consumers to ‘go large’ or pick up a dessert, for example, can be highly effective and increase the value of each sale at the point of purchase.
The drive-thru kiosk has become a familiar sight to those of us who spend any time at service stations. Their popularity is only increasing with the cult bakery chain Greggs announcing this summer that they will be opening drive-thrus throughout the UK. So what is next for the drive-thru kiosk?
Why Should I Use Drive-thru Digital Signage?
1. Easy Viewing Day or Night
The drive-thru is a popular stop-off point at any time of the day. Whether it’s grabbing an early morning breakfast, a tasty lunch, or grabbing a coffee in the middle of the night, the drive-thru is a safe option. As business is conducted at all times of the day it is vital that your customers are able to clearly read your offerings no matter the weather or time of day.
High brightness, anti-glare displays ensure your digital drive-thru menu boards are easily readable even on the brightest of days. Smart light sensors automatically lower the brightness of your screens when night falls in to avoid dazzling your customers.
2. Cost Effective and Environmentally Friendly
A big pain point of traditional static or paper-based menus is the difficulty of constantly changing content. Each time there is a change to the menu, or a new promotion is available, content has to be designed, printed, shipped, and installed. In addition, the old menu needs to be disposed of. This process (especially if replicated across multiple sites) burdens a large cost in both time and money. But how does going digital help?
A digital drive-thru menu board or drive-thru kiosk is a one-off installation. Once in place, the restaurant is able to use digital signage software to change menus remotely at the click of a button. Thanks to screen-grouping, the restaurant is also able to make changes to menus for thousands of sites at the click of a button.
Thanks to being digital, drive-thru screens are helping restaurants operate more environmentally friendly. This can be achieved in the reduction of physical content distribution and the reduced paper usage from traditional menus.
3. Update Your Menus Easier Than Ever
In the hospitality industry, food and drink menus are being updated almost daily. New offers, and food items are being routinely introduced to help increase sales and entice customers. In the past, making these changes used to be a hassle. Each time a restaurant would want to make a menu change, new menus would need to be designed, printed, delivered and installed. This meant restaurants couldn’t take advantage of live events/trends and overall lead to low levels of operating efficiency.
Drive-thru digital signage changed the game. In a previous point, we touched on how easy content can be updated, but it gets much better! Through scheduling functionality, restaurants can pre-create special menus that sync up with different times of the day, year, or special events. This increased automation helps improve the efficiency of the restaurant, freeing up more time for other tasks.
The ability to quickly update menu boards is more powerful than you might think. It opens doors to all kinds of opportunities such as reactive marketing. For example, when Ronaldo proudly promoted drinking water in a Euro 2020 press conference, marketing teams from companies such as Ikea were quick to jump on the trend. If your marketing team is quick enough the same concept could be applied to your menus. Update content in seconds and create a special deal for “Ronaldo Water 50% OFF”. Reactive menus can be a great way to increase your sales.
4. Higher Engagement
One of the biggest draws of digital drive-thru menu boards is their ability to engage and capture the attention of customers. Thanks to the potential of dynamic content such as videos and animations, there are many ways users can draw attention to their food offerings. High brightness displays ensure your menus don’t fade into the background and remain front and centre when customers are using the drive-thru.
Other features of drive-thru digital signage are sure to boost engagement too. Number plate recognition can be synched to your screen network and show custom content based on a customer’s number plate.
How Can Drive-thru Digital Signage Be Used?
1. Digital Drive-Thu Menu Board
In popular restaurants, it is now common to see digital drive-thru menu boards displaying everything the restaurant has to offer. These are an engaging way of bringing attention to promotional offers and deals. But why don’t we see this as often in the outside drive-thru? Until recently, many restaurants have avoided using digital screens in outdoor environments for fear of them getting stolen, vandalised, or damaged by poor weather conditions. In recent times, however, outdoor digital signage has become more robust, and design innovation means they are fully vandal and weatherproof.
This vast improvement from outdoor screen technology has allowed restaurants to expand their indoor marketing efforts to their drive-thrus. Through outdoor digital drive-thru menu boards, restaurants can transform their menu items with videos and animations.
With digital signage scheduling, outdoor displays allow you to schedule different menus to display at different times of the day. For example, if you have a breakfast menu that’s available from 4am to 11:30am, you can schedule the menu to play within these times. When the clock reaches 11:30am, your regular menu will be displayed. This added bonus means that staff can focus their time elsewhere, comfortable in the knowledge their menus have updated.
2. Drive-Thru Kiosks
Drive-thru kiosks have played a huge role in the digitalisation of restaurants.
In the past, restaurants may have only been able to take 2-3 orders at a time, but with the introduction of 6-8 self-ordering kiosks, twice the number of customers can request their order which is sent directly to the kitchen. But what are the benefits of taking this technology outside?
When you visit a drive-thru, you are likely to place your order by speaking into a microphone. The cashier on the receiving end takes your order and sends it to the kitchen. Unfortunately, this method has left many customers frustrated with wrong orders, or not being able to hear operators. This causes many customers to drive back through the drive-thru to amend their order. Not only can this result in an unhappy customer, but it also takes up space in the queue that could be used by a new customer. So what’s the solution?
Through drive-thru kiosks, customers can use the same interface they use in the restaurant from their car window. The customer can browse the menu and chose items before confirming. The customer’s exact order will be sent straight to the kitchen resulting in less chance of the order being wrong.
3. Number Plate Recognition and Personalised Content
An extremely smart innovation from restaurants is providing customers with personalised content on their digital signage. This is done through the partnership between digital signage software and number plates. The advantage of choosing a smart platform is introducing a level of measurability and personalisation. Unlike traditional posters and billboards, digital displays that are embedded with a camera or recording device can gather information about their audience. Number plate recognition software is becoming popular in a number of applications for gaining information about a vehicle’s user in a less intrusive way.
For the purposes of a drive-thru, the technology exists where a QSR can log the previous orders of a customer through their number plate. This information then enables highly targeted marketing. A special promotion might be triggered on a drive-thru kiosk that offers patrons deals targeted to their previous buying history. Alternatively, regular customers might be rewarded for their loyalty and thanked for repeat business.
A restaurant can start by displaying welcome messages to cars of regular customers. Once a car has been through the drive-thru several times, there will be sufficient previous order information to target promotions more efficiently.
A great way to harness this technology is to provide personalised deals to upsell certain customers. For example, if the customer with the number plate “A1B2C3” usually gets a medium burger meal with a drink. You can display a custom offer that allows them to add another side for 50% cheaper than usual. Alternatively, the order process can be sped up by letting customers repeat their orders.
The Future Of The Digital Drive-thru
As always with digital signage, there are countless uses for the technology that can increase sales and reduce labour costs. The same can be said for the hospitality industry, where R&D teams work tirelessly to create unique experiences for their customers. But when the digital signage and the food world collide, what can we expect to see in the future?
Firstly, mass-scale automation. With self-serve kiosks and apps that allow you to order, restaurants are clearly looking for fully automated solutions that increase revenue. Digital signage is already a vital marketing tool in the industry and this is set to continue with the exciting developments in outdoor menu boards.