Digital menu boards showing up on food trucks

Digital signage and digital menu boards are going mobile with food trucks.

Food trucks are one of the fastest-growing dining trends spreading to cities across the country, with delivery trucks, wagons and even old school buses re-purposed as foodie havens. And some of them are taking digital signage on the road with them to display their menus in a dynamic and fluid fashion, or even to help entertain diners.

The trend isn't limited to gourmet entrepreneurs, though, as quick-service chain Jack in the Box also has gotten on board the food truck bus — as have Fazoli's, Taco Bell and many others in the casual dining, quick-service and fast casual spaces.

Eat at Recess, a San Diego-based food truck founded in September 2011 by entrepreneur Jason Swinford, uses a digital signage display from NEC Display Solutions for both branding, with logos and scannable QR codes, and entertaining, with an Xbox Kinect and Blu-ray player connected to the NEC high-brightness display.

The Eat at Recess Facebook page features a picture of a young customer playing a video game with the gesture-controlled Kinect, and the screen also can display QR codes linking to promotional spots, incorporating the truck's "Brand Ambassador" program for repeat customers.

"When I was a kid, recess was the best time of the day," Swinford said in a white paper published by Digital Signage Today. "The emphasis of the truck is bringing back recess for others; getting them outside and giving them something healthful to eat rather than having them take their lunch back to their cubicles and eat in front of the computer."

Jack in the Box first rolled out its "Jack's Munchie Mobile" in San Diego last year, and this year added another vehicle to its two-truck fleet, with "The Jack Burger Truck" starting to make the rounds of the southeastern U.S. (The Jack Burger Truck made its first stop at the Country Music Association's CMA Music Festival in Nashville earlier this month.)

Both trucks feature digital menu boards, and the displays are a key part of the concept, according to Seattle-based branding firm Beyond Traditional, which manages both vehicles.

Having the trucks' menus on digital displays gives the trucks the flexibility to change the menus on the fly — if, for an example, a certain item sells out — said Jamie Hall, the account manager for Jack in the Box at Beyond Traditional. They can also quickly adapt the menu for different locations — say at a private party where only certain menu items will be offered — Hall said.

"We're able to switch out different menus for different occasions," she said. "Logistically a digital board made sense for that reason, but since the food truck is often stopping at different events, we also wanted to create something that was interactive for guests and relevant for the location."

In addition to showing the menu, the display is an interactive tool for keeping diners occupied while they the jack burger truckwait, Hall said. The lines to get to the food window can get long for The Jack Burger Truck in the Southeast, and that truck's digital menu display also shows a 17-minute-long video that features Jack in the Box trivia and games to entertain customers while they wait, she said.

"We've been able to use the digital menu for dual purposes — highlight what The Jack Burger Truck is offering and create some really fun games that keep people engaged while they're waiting in line," she said.

The response to both vehicles has been "phenomenal," and the newest truck has been helping to spread the word about Jack in the Box in a region where its footprint is still growing, she said.

"Bringing Jack in the Box to the public with The Jack Burger Truck has allowed Jack in the Box to serve guests if they are not near a store and also reach new customers where they are hanging out," she said. "And using the digital menu board to share the history of Jack in the Box and get them more connected to the brand has been a huge opportunity."

(Watch a story on the first Jack in the Box truck, Jack's Munchie Mobile, from San Diego ABC affiliate 10News here.)

Read more about digital menu boards.

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