The retail food industry depends on suggestive selling and upselling, according to restaurant franchisee and digital signage provider Ernest Koury, and when you have disinterested employees, no one is there to protect your brand. Digital signage mitigates the impact of undertrained or overwhelmed front line employees.
"Why do I need digital signage?" Koury asked near the beginning of his recent session at InfoComm 2014, before clicking forward in his PowerPoint presentation to a picture of a disaffected restaurant worker (who is actually a very pleasant employee of his firm, he said) asking, "Do you want fries with that?"
"She's why you need digital signage," he said. "In retail it all comes down to service."
Koury is the founder of digital signage and marketing firm Eureka! Media Group, but he also has a past as the founder a Little Caesars franchise in West Texas and New Mexico. Koury has deployed digital menu board solutions at Little Caesars and Wendy's locations around the southwest and in Mexico and Canada, and he spoke at the recent InfoComm 2014 professional AV show in Las Vegas on "Methods to Measure Effectiveness of Digital Signage Systems at Retail," focusing on retail foodservice.
Digital signage is a delicate mix of the right technology, the right content and the right execution — and the right follow-through, he said: "This is where the majority of those who execute digital signage fall down. Digital signage is not a quick fix."
With its relatively high CapX costs, digital signage takes time to pay for itself, but it does much more than that, according to Koury.
"Digital signage is a way to take your company to the next level," he said. "Breaking even is not good enough … This is something to propel your business, so it's not about breaking even."
That's especially true in today's market space of the "connected consumer," he said. "They're expecting incredible technology everywhere," he said, so it behooves restaurants to give it to them if they want them to keep coming through the front door.
Koury has a longstanding association with the Little Caesars franchise, he said. His father was a franchisee, as were his brother and he, and Eureka! Media came about in part from his efforts to provide his franchises with digital menu boards and digital signage.
Almost a decade ago, Koury recalled during his session, he was in a movie theater when he saw two digital signage poster displays and immediately thought, "I need these in my stores!"
But when he looked around for a digital signage solution, he said he found that the cost for a three-display menu board solution ran $15,000 to $18,000. But Little Caesars sells pizza for $5 a pop, so he gave his team a $6,000 budget to create a turnkey solution, which they did. Since then he's become a brand manager and integrator and developer, he said, as well as an advocate for the industry.
Here are some of Koury's keys for long-term digital menu board success:
- The right commitment – "Have you made a confident and aggressive investment in a digital signage solution? Or have you invested timidly, almost too carefully?" one of his slides asked.
- The right technology and content mix – Then: "When dynamic display technology emerged nine-10 years ago, technology varied. Everyone had a different way of doing things. Technology drove the decision-making process." Now: "Technology is a given. Systems are similar. Content should drive the decision-making process."
- The right standards – The requirements are a commercial-grade display, a stable media platform and a "non-dependent player," he said. You can't have content on your menu boards that requires an Internet connection to survive, he said, so you can still sell your food if your connection is lost.
- The right provider – "Does the company I'm working with understand my business or my category? If they don't, can I educate them? Will they keep my brand top of mind? Is the message clear? Does it match and/or extend my brand? Is it displayed professionally?"
- The right "GIGO effect" – You don't want "Garbage in... Garbage out... Crowded screens/Confusing messages/Contradictory offers/Careless planning," but you do want "Gold in... Gold out... Clean screens/Clear messages/Consistent offers/Careful planning."
"There's a saying, 'A picture is worth a thousand words,'" he said. "Video speaks volumes and if done right is more compelling than me at the front counter."
When Koury opened a Little Caesars in Albuquerque, N.M., he noticed that sales of chicken wings were way down. So he had his team insert a 9-second clip into the digital promotion board in his menu board solution, running every two minutes saying, "Don't forget the chicken wings."
In week two the restaurant saw five times the sales of chicken wings with no other initiative in the stores, he said.
Just like milk is a loss leader for grocery stores that grocers put in the back to make shoppers walk by (and be tempted by) everything else to get to, the $5 pizza brings customers in and give a franchisee a chance to sell something else, he said. "We grew 10 to 20 percent on side items by not focusing [the digital promotions] on the loss leader," he said.
And even if a deployer or franchisee has only a 5-percent success rate on suggested selling items, that's enough to add up to big increases over time, he said.
"A 'No' is ok; in fact it's expected," he said, before looking at how the sale of 15 higher-margin items a day can turn into a $47,000 net return over three years. "And I hear people asking, 'Can you attribute all of that sales uplift to the digital signage?' And the answer is, 'Probably not, but so what?' It's all part of a successful system.
"This is not a quick fix, but if the digital signage puts a business on the trajectory to do things better, it is very easy to have a good return on investment."
(Cover image courtesy of Ernest Koury.)