Digital menu board tsunami, part II

 | by Scott Sharon
Digital menu board tsunami, part II

I hear some rumbling in the distance! Could it be the start of that digital menu board tsunami I predicted two years ago (blush)? I’ll tell you some of what has happened and you can decide for yourself.

McDonald’s installed DMBs in all their McCafe units a couple years ago. That was a surprise to many of us because of the horrible experience they (and a couple other chains) had with a DMB rollout they did in a large number of restaurants several years ago. The prior rollout was a failure because DMBs had not yet been fully developed. However, they did learn the value of DMBs. Many new concepts are using digital menu boards and several small chains have made the switch.

Recently three major QSR chains issued orders for indoor DMBs. The order sizes range from 1,000 screens to 32,000 screens. Is this enough of a shock to start the tsunami?

On the flip side, one major QSR chain decided to remove indoor digital menu boards at all the 150 sites they had been testing for several years. They did not have more than a couple with drive-thru DMBs.

All three of the chains mentioned above have drive-thru service yet none ordered digital drive-thru menu boards. If 70 percent of sales at two of the large chains and approximately 50 percent from the third (and the chain that removed the 150 test units) comes from their drive-thru, why do you think they are not ordering DMBs for their drive-thru? They cannot take advantage of many of the most valuable benefits of DMBs without a complete system including both indoor and outdoor boards.

Still to this date no major QSR chain with drive-thru service except for Tim Horton’s in Canada has rolled out a complete system with both indoor and drive-thru. Although they had some problems with their digital drive-thru boards Tim Horton’s loves their DMB system and are totally committed to it.

If you attended the DSE in Las Vegas this year you saw evidence of some significant investment in outdoor digital menu board development by several companies, including one major screen manufacturer. You also saw evidence of this at the recent NRA show. Do you think these companies would be investing in outdoor boards if they did not think something big was about to happen (more rumbling)?

Still, I frankly don’t think you will see a DMB tsunami happen until a better outdoor board is developed.


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