By George Yunis – ComQi

Our family loves falafel, so when a middle-eastern quick serve restaurant opened up near us in Atlanta, we drove over, giving the place one chance to win our hearts.

We walked in and looked at the Chipotle-style order-as-you-move-down-the-line printed menu panels, craning our necks and looking over shoulders to locate the object of our desire. Finding it on the last panel, we ordered falafel in a pita, a bowl and a la carte with some baba-ganouj. No deviating, this was a falafel search-and-devour mission.

Heading to a table, I noticed the new Clover POS set-up, high-end kitchen equipment, artistic tile treatments on the walls and a pricey tabletop Coke Freestyle machine. What I didn’t see were digital menu boards or self-order kiosks. Instead, customers were scanning the print panels, trying to decide what to order and making the line behind them grow.

Minutes later, our big moment arrived and we lasered-in on the little round crispy golf ball-sized objects of desire. Without hesitating, we took our first bite … and stared at each other in shock and awe. Perfect falafel.

Not great. Perfect.

After a few minutes of dining bliss, I looked around, expecting to see everyone else devouring mounds of falafel.

What I saw instead was a long, stalled line-up – because diners were struggling to decide what to order.

Think about it: over half of diners at any given restaurant don’t know exactly what they’ll order when they walk in. That dynamic is a perfect opportunity to persuasively (and digitally) influence orders.

Here’s a universal truth: every single restaurant that ever existed has (or had) a few things on their menu that ought to be ordered above all others. It’s why they got in the business. And if those few menu items are actually that good, they have the opportunity to create a raving success. So why leave success in the hands of customers who have no idea what the killer menu items might be?

At this awesome falafel place, the printed menu panels listed falafel on the last panel customers saw – not featured, just listed. It was a lost opportunity. Digital menus can include all the available items, but the best digital menu boards focus and romance you on the items the restaurant does best. This is the key to consistently great customer experience, repeat visits and improved sales.

If you are food services operator, ask yourself: Is my menu design focused on showing my customers every detail of what’s on my menu? Or …Is my menu design focused on what we do best, and helping my customers order these key items?

Great digital menu boards bring your food story to life. They inform, engage and influence, and they’re what all of us intuitively look for when we seek information. As digital junkies – whether it’s a self-order kiosk, a digital drive-thru, or indoor digital menus and promotion boards – we instinctively relate to restaurant digital displays.

So, tell your food story on digital displays every chance you can, don’t just present a list with a few pictures or videos. Leverage digital to operate more efficiently, communicate more effectively, and lift sales strategically.

Your mission with customers should always be:

  • Guiding/influencing them to choose the best your menu offers;
  • Informing and upselling vs. leaving customers to digest your entire menu;
  • Storytelling your menu, so diners connect with what, why, and how you do what you do so well.

My falafel experience reminded me that every restaurant should leverage this technology to better tell their food and menu stories engagingly, informatively and digitally. So many great restaurants deserve – and depend getting this right.

Photo Credit: iStockPhoto.com
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