How To Improve Your Drive-Thru Sales With Outdoor Digital Signage

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How does a quick-service restaurant (QSR) increase sales at the drive-thru lane?

They digitize the process.

Flashy outdoor digital menu boards that display mouth-watering images (and video in some cases) are part of that digitization, but that’s not the whole picture. We’re talking about digitizing the whole customer experience.

So what does that look like?

QSRs that maximize the potential of digital signage do so by tracking customer analytics, and leveraging that data to sell more—by offering return customers their favorite products, promoting items that are in sync with the weather, and clearing overstock items with special offers or promotions.

QSRs on the edge of digital technology are utilizing digital signs in more ways than one. By capturing customer insights, these QSRs are not only increasing sales, they’re bringing happy customers back again and again.

Here’s how you can do the same:


1. Use Environmental Data

When it rains, it pours. And when people get wet, they want a product to keep them dry.

Walmart figured this out and makes sure they display what customers need at specific times, based on the weather. With a customer database that includes 145 million Americans, it’s not hard to track what customers buy in specific conditions.

When the weather is hot, that might be air conditioners; when the weather is cold, that might be winter coats or portable heaters.

By tracking purchases, the retail giant can take a closer look at how local weather conditions affect customers’ buying patterns. QSRs are moving in the same direction.

McDonald’s has been using their digital menu boards to track local weather since 2015. When the weather is warm, the boards may promote McFlurries or shakes. When the snow begins to fly, heartier meals, coffee, and hot chocolate may be prominent choices on the menu.

The customer experience is elevated when consumers are offered what they want before they even realize they want it. This is just one piece of the digital puzzle that keeps them coming back again and again.


2. Incorporate Patron Recognition

There is some controversy about this method, but like it or not, it’s being used in some sectors, and it’s improving sales and customer service as a result.

Patron recognition is where businesses utilize cameras to capture images of their customers, be it their faces (using facial recognition software) or their car license plates. Information can also be attained with a toll-road radio frequency identifier tag.

The images are not made public in any way, but are used to determine the ages and genders of patrons so management can get a snapshot of what kinds of customers they are serving.

QSRs that adopt this kind of software to capture license plates can store customers’ order history in their database. The idea is that the next time the patron comes through the drive-thru, the license plate data can help speed up recurring drive-thru orders by suggesting meals the patron historically orders.

Some digital signage software has the ability to capture customer history. Armed with this information, the establishment can better manage inventory based on customer demand. This eliminates any overstock issues.

When QSRs have too much of a particular product, it increases overhead. Unless they can push that product out the door with image enhancement.


3. Image Enhancement

Image enhancement offers consumers a particular product by promoting tantalizing images or videos on a menu board.

Showcasing images of overstocked items helps restaurants sell those items faster. Images can also show consumers different upsell items. The right images at the right time can move stock, ultimately avoiding profit loss.

According to a study conducted by Capital Networks, advertising a menu item via digital signage actually boosts sales.

A prime example is the 50 percent increase Prime Burger saw in sales since installing large-scale commercial digital menu boards. (No prime pun intended here). In select locations, the QSR used a combination of graphics and collected data based on customer purchase history. The boards have more than doubled sales, a move that Sam Steele, CEO of Prime Burger, attributes to the imagery on the boards.

“The displays have really great image quality and bring our beautiful food imagery to life and do justice to our images,” he said. “[We can] update the content on the displays in each of our stores. It’s a really painless process, and all we have to worry about is updating the artwork.”


4. Consider Dayparting

Dayparting is a term used in the QSR sector that defines which meal items (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) sell best, and when. Many fast-casuals target customers within one or two core dayparts.

When McDonald’sdecided to target breakfast goers all day long, the decision proved to be more than successful. So much so, that the fast-food giant began offering even more breakfast options on their menu.

Thanks to collected data and digital imagery, McDonald’s can offer customers what they want at any time of the day.


5. Loyalty Rewards

According to a QSR magazine study, “The Loyalty Divide,” only 49 percent of customers will sign up for a loyalty program, and only if it’s relevant to them.

Knowing who your customers are makes it possible to design a rewards program that is relevant. General demographic data, as mentioned above, is part of this process. Mobile apps can facilitate this information gathering, too, a tool that 82 percent of customers find appealing according to the study.

The more personal data you gather, the more personal customer experience you can offer. And a satisfied customer is a loyal customer.



Each of these strategies can increase sales as well as improve the customer experience. Restaurants that want to increase their bottom lines need to be strategic with how they use digital signage to do this.

As the trend of digital menu boards in QSRs increases across the globe, more and more fast casuals are looking to these kinds of approaches to increase sales and keep drive-thru lines moving.

When a QSR gets an order out quickly and accurately, customers are happy and loyalty is gained. Adding loyalty programs or other incentives can also increase customer devotion.

Leveraging environmental data allows fast casuals and QSRs to show up with the right products at the right time. Offering a cold patron a hearty bowl of chili with a hot cup of coffee shows that the establishment is not only intuitive (because with big data, they are), but is also listening to the needs of their patrons.

Now you know how the magic happens.

Do you implement any of these strategies now? How has it improved your business? What other strategies would you suggest?


Last updated: 11/21/19

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