The Ultimate Guide to Drive-Thru Digital Menu Boards

Car ordering in a drive-thru with a digital menu board

For quick-service restaurants, there is nothing more useful than drive-thru services. Approximately 75% of all quick service restaurants offer drive-thru services to their customers. Why exactly? A clear indication is that as much as 20% of all American meals are eaten in cars. This is a market you simply have to tap into if you are a quick-service restaurant.

The best way to optimize drive-thru service is to improve the design and functionality of your digital menu boards (DMBs). Let’s discuss all the necessary steps needed to improve your drive-through service, along with some basic principles you should know and understand. Once you apply all the tips, you will see your quick-service restaurant flourishing.

The Main Principles Behind Drive-Thrus

If 3/4 of all American quick-service restaurants have drive-thrus, then customers might love them for a specific reason or two. While there can be many individual reasons, overall this fact can be separated into two factors:

  • Convenience. It’s obvious. You’re coming home from a long day at work and you’re hungry. Would you rather park the car, exit it, enter the restaurant, order, wait, and walk back or would you just sit in the comfort of your vehicle and order? It’s clear that we both know the answer to this question. People want quality services, but they want them even more if they’re simple and don’t require much effort from their side.
  • Speed. There is nothing worse than waiting behind people in line while they think of what to order. Drive-thrus as a culture prioritize speed and people get frowned upon if they stall too much. Customers also feel the panic rushing in when someone asks them “Can I take your order?” People love when they can get what they want fast, without much waiting.

The impulse spending bonanza due to speed is bigger than many of us think. According to estimates, more than $5,400 is spent every year due to impulse ordering. An order of fries here, a Coke there – you get the idea. We’ll explain how you can utilize the concept of impulse buying and add it to your DMB design as a part of the drive-thru.

Design Solutions

Now, back to impulse purchasing. You can use the customer’s panic when it’s time to order to let them know that they should order the higher margin items. But how do you accomplish this?

It’s all in the design. Establishing a paradox of choice with a large amount of items is a terrible idea. When they see a myriad of items, they will panic and overthink their order, reducing the speed of the drive-thru. Fewer items lends the customer more confidence in what they are ordering. Utilize the efficiency of images, as people are more attracted to visual depictions.

Don’t overdo the number of images though, as it will cause problems with the conventional design balance. Less is more when it comes to food imagery. Also, customers show a tendency to choose items that are on the upper right sight of the menu board, so make sure to utilize that space well.

Another thing you have to consider is the human attraction to movement. Use animations, but don’t make them too distracting. Only a slight movement is recommended.

So, what’s the solution? A menu with only select images of high margin items displayed with minimal animations. You will need to use your previous sales statistics to figure out which items to place on the drive-thru menu.

What About The Displays?

Due to the outdoor conditions, you will have to set the brightness high due to ambient light and also make sure the displays are durable for your climate.

They will be exposed to harsh weather conditions year-round, with the additional risk of having the occasional vandal trying to smash them. It’s worth spending more money on quality, purpose-built displays – they’re an investment for your business in the long run.

Operational Tactics That Improve Performance

One of the most important techniques you can implement is dayparting. What is it exactly and how does it work? To put it simply, dayparting is the automatic change of menus based on the time of day and the day of the week. You will have different customers coming in at different times. It’s essential that you prepare the DMB to show precisely what they want.

For example, morning hours should be reserved for breakfast items. During the night and early in the morning (on weekends especially), you should promote items for those in the midst of a night out.

By offering the right kind of items, you will improve your sales and overall customer retention rates. If you want to learn more about dayparting, you can read our Ultimate Guide to Dayparting. It has all the tips you need to implement it correctly.

Operating with LTOs

Limited-time offers are similar to dayparting, except they rotate during certain periods of the year. Across the country, they have shown to be one of the main attraction factors for new customers. You can implement them for holidays only or for whole seasons. You don’t need to have occasion-specific ideas, promoting a rollout of a temporary item that may become a regular counts as well.

Even if they don’t order it, customers will return for something else. When a quick-service restaurant regularly updates its menu, it’s a sign that they care about what customers want and each trip will offer something new. And that’s what your goal is.

Brand Building

Drive-thru customers are a captive audience that will keep returning. Simply because there are no distractions in the drive-thru other that what you put there. Don’t waste these customers.

Add branding elements to the menu. You can also devote separate screens for fun content that deliver brand activation and improves brand awareness. Make your drive-thru an experience, not just a simple service.

To Conclude

2019 is the year of DMBs in drive-thrus, so use them well. Place high margin items in prominent locations and play on human psychology and customer habits. Make sure the displays are durable and that you implement dayparting correctly. Remember – you want to do this right, not fast. There is no need for you to hurry with any additions or implementations.

60% of all quick-service business is due to drive-thru DMBs, so don’t neglect it. Place additional entertaining content on screens. Good ideas are thank you messages, stats about your brand, or new promotional videos. Good luck and stay creative!

You can learn more about NexSigns’ Digital Menu Board solution and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and YouTube to get the latest info on digital signage!

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