Everyone’s heard of the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but has anyone actually thought of that phrase when it came time to order their food at a quick service drive-thru? When your stomach is growling and you’ve reached the point of hangry, sifting through blocks of text on an outdated static menu board is the last thing on your mind. With drive-thrus accounting for nearly 70% of a location’s revenue (QSRWeb.com), quick service and fast casual restaurant operators are on the same page as their consumers and are ready to take the next step in the digital era.

According to Hospitality Leader’s website, in September 2014, Panasonic unveiled a fully-integrated digital drive-thru menu board “created to weather outdoor elements and eliminate the need for enclosures.” The price for many of the digital menu boards range from $10k to $40k with the outdoor menu boards costing much more than the indoor, but will continue to fall as technology becomes more common. The article continues to state that with all the benefits of using a digital menu board, the “system usually pays for itself in one year or less.”

So what can a digital signage system provide a restaurant operator and its customers other than a pretty picture?

Not only does it deliver improved efficiency with increased speed of service, the digital menu can adapt to the ever-changing minds of the consumer and keep up with new government nutrition labeling regulations. For example, Colorado-based MAD Greens can customize its menu’s content based on location. Lucas Clarke, Director of Marketing for MAD Greens, stated that digital menu boards allow each location to update and highlight local produce picks for the day. Additionally, a digital menu board can collaborate with the Point-of-Sale (POS) to insure that when inventory runs low/out, the menu board will automatically pull the item from the menu. This eliminates many frustrations we’ve all been privy to.

Another way to maximize the use of a digital menu board is to promote limited-time offers (LTOs), high inventory items, or promotional events. According to a Networld Media Group report, “restaurants typically see a 3%-5% increase in any digitally promoted item on menu boards.”  Ultimately, digital signage can help increase sales, decrease wastes, and increase the overall bottom line.

Recently, many restaurant operators have been combining their digital signage efforts with data analytics. Since digital menu boards essentially communicate with consumers, restaurant operators are able to collect and analyze information about purchasing habits, menu trends, and item preferences. Some restaurant operators are even going as far as adding beacons to their locations so that the menu board can communicate directly to a consumer’s cell phone once the consumer is in range.

So the next time you’re salivating at the new and improved digital menu board promoting that tantalizing spicy chicken sandwich or the enticing fruit smoothie, remember that a picture is worth a thousand words and I’m starting to get hangry in the car behind you.