Top tips for digital signage deployments

| by Bradley Cooper
Top tips for digital signage deployments

When it comes to a QSR's effective implementation and ongoing use of digital signage, pre-deployment planning and execution are keys to success. Brand leadership must know going in that everybody's not often on the same page, with corporate personnel and franchisees typically at very different places when it comes to the acceptance, use and significance of this type of technology.

At this spring's  Restaurant Franchising and Innovation Summit, in Louisville, several break-out groups tackled this subject in an effort for participating restaurant leaders to help each others' brands tackle this task more effectively for maximum impact and minimum pre-deployment resistance. Here are some of their top tips

Understand your customer

In order to have a successful deployment of digital signage, your brand must first understand your customers. During a panel entitled, "Is your franchise ready for the tech revolution," KFC CIO Chris Caldwell and Long John Silver's Vice President of IT Brad Gardone, joined with Papa John's CIO Mike Nettles, to illustrate the many  ways customer expectations around restaurants and the services they provide are changing faster than ever.

For instance, Nettles said customers not only expect a seamless experience in-store to online, but they expect brands to keep up with their expectations -- nearly in real time -- as time moves forward.

"The real disruption is that customers are changing their expectations," Nettles said during the panel. 

In order to meet these expectations, restaurants need to do a lot of research to truly understand trends, ranging from customers' favorite beverages to their communication preferences. Likewise, he said that if your restaurant engages on particular social media platforms, it will need to clearly understand the culture of that platform.

Reddit, for example, is more cynical than Facebook. You will also need to "ditch the suit and tie," and be prepared for negative feedback, he said.

On the menu side of things, your restaurant needs to understand what customers expect from your menu boards. Michelle Davis, senior director of sales, F'real Foods, moderated a panel about using mixology to liven up your menu without confusing your customers on this topic. She said that 52 percent of consumers want photos of drinks on the menu and 50 percent want more specific details on the menu board, like ingredients, brands, flavors and price. Customers are also demanding more specialty drinks on the menu, she said, underlining the fact that a brand's tech is only as effective as its customer knowledge.

Be patient

While technology moves rapidly, panelists urged restaurants to slow down. This might seem counter-intuitive, but individual technologies such as apps, menu boards and other tools can really add up.

For instance, 4 Top Hospitality Partner Doug Hogrefe said during a panel entitled, "Conquering the Industry's Top 5 Revenue Drainers" that restaurant leadership can be "blinded" by all the cool tools out there, which can easily lead to spending more than wanted or needed on technology. In reality, restaurants need to determine that the tool is right for their customers and their customer experience.

"Patience is key," Melt Shop founder and Managing Partner Spencer Rubin,  said during the panel. "Don't make the mistake of jumping in too early."

Restaurants should consider running tests to make sure the technology, such as a menu board, actually works and that it offers a real benefit to customers.

Get franchisees on board

Even if you have the greatest technology in the world, it can be difficult to get all of your individual franchisees on board, but it remains critically important that brands work closely with franchisees to deploy this technology. At a panel entitled"Franchisees Tell All: Are You Listening?" Daven Acker of Pizza Inn, Mike Monson of Sub Station II and Julie North of Chicken Salad Chick discussed the challenges franchisees run into with tech adoption.

Acker, for example, pointed out how many franchisees are still running way behind on tech and aren't prepared for a big deployment.

"We are a 60-plus year-old business, and many franchisees still use cash registers," Acker said, by way of example.

The panelists recommended that brands start franchisees slowly on technology like digital signage and other techy tools. This is where and when a solid franchisee relationship can go many miles toward selling them on the brand's overall vision behind such a tech deployment.

"Instead of trying to sell them on new technologies, the first thing I'd want to do is re-sell them into the brand," Monson said.

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Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability

Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper is a Technology Editor for and His background is in information technology, advertising, and writing.

wwwView Bradley Cooper's profile on LinkedIn

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