Blog | Top Addition to Drive Thru: Digital Preview Menu Boards

By Scala Team
January 18, 2023

Preview menu boards in drive thrus are transforming the customer experience by creating dynamic advertisements to drive product sales.

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In 2022, we saw digital solutions and digital restaurant technology continue to become the customer satisfaction benchmark for Top 10 quick service restaurants and beyond. In terms of priming the purchase, one feature has been a standout: digital preview menu boards.

According to a 2021 study by QSR Magazine surveying 313 drive thru locations that were geographically balanced, 67.7% of Taco Bells, 60% of Burger Kings, and 65.6% of McDonald’s had a pre-sell menu board. These numbers have only continued to rise, despite the fact that preview menu boards are not absolutely necessary in a digital drive thru project. (“The 2021 QSR magazine Drive-Thru Study: Pre-sell Menuboard”, QSR Magazine). Digital preview menu boards are an investment in customer experience, allowing you to greet and inform customers, getting them ready as they approach the ordering point.

Top brands are implementing preview digital menu boards at scale because of the results. How do you predict and measure the results of a preview digital menu board? And how do we implement these solutions?

What is a Preview Menu Board?

A preview menu board is a tool used in the restaurant industry to showcase menu items in a place where they cannot be purchased immediately. The preview menu board is usually displayed in a prominent location, such as the front of the restaurant or as the first digital sign in a drive thru.

They are used to attract new customers, generate interest and encourage behaviors or modes of behavior, like trying new or high margin menu items, seasonal offerings or LTOs.

The preview menu board has always been a powerful way for quick service restaurants to influence customers. But to understand how they work, we need a psychological “primer.”

What it Means to Prime the Purchase

Indeed, it is all about priming. The preview menu board is the first point of contact in the drive thru. It’s not there to sell a sandwich; it is there to prime customers so that they are better prepared to engage with your business productively. This can lead to high margins, greater satisfaction and improved speed of the drive thru trip.

Priming is a powerful tool for influencing consumers in their purchasing decisions. By creating content that speaks to emotional needs and states, companies can prime attitudes toward particular products or services. Consumers primed with these attitudes and expectations make different purchase decisions than they do without priming. (“Enhancing consumer behavior with implementation intentions”, Gollwitzer, Bieleke and Sheeran).

Let’s say you want customers to buy the new seasonal meal deal — the soup, cookie and hot beverage bundle — that day. It’s relatively easy for your crew to make, it’s appealing to your customer base, and corporate wants to push sales of this deal. Priming customers with content that reminds them of the value of being economical, even tying that value directly to your brand, will increase the disposition of a customer. They will not only understand your brand as economical, but it also emphasizes economic choices.

Why are Digital Menu Boards so Good at Priming?

Without a digital menu board, priming is possible, but it is impossible to get right. You could set up a static board, but by the time you designed, printed, shipped and installed that content to your stores, it would be obsolete. Digital menu boards are key in the ability to take messages, promotions and ads and swap, test and swap again. Also, geographic disparities would also confound your efforts with complexity and lackluster results.

The Advantages of a Content Management System (CMS) for Digital Menu Board Optimization

Digital menu boards with a tech-forward Content Management System allow digital preview menu boards to deploy content according to any factor that you deem important. One common example is dayparting — promoting content according to the time of day. Coffee and breakfast connect more in the morning than in the afternoon and evening. Another example is weather. Why show the icy cold lemonade when it’s morning and 20 degrees F outside? The same is true of other emotional changes that occur due to circadian rhythms, customer segments and other externalities.

Reaching consumers on an emotional level requires content to meet them where they are. Your customers are also your audience throughout the entire ordering and pickup journey. Content that seems depersonalized and generic does not influence; it alienates. Digital menu boards give brands the technical means to deliver the right content at the right time, so that it has the desired impact near the point of sale.

Digital also allows brands to test the efficacy of their preview boards across the network. With the right data science team, you can deliver iterative tests that teach your organization how to prime customers with increasing efficacy. This is part of what makes digital menu boards so powerful. The flexibility to adapt images and messaging quickly and easily, based on real data, drives more customer centricity and strategic goals.

Why is Drive Thru an Ideal Location for Preview Menu Boards?

The drive thru is one of the most significant points in customer journeys where priming makes sense for the business and the customer.

  1. The drive thru is cleanly segmented, allowing digital menu boards to fulfill discrete positions of the experience, while focusing attention on the preview.
  2. The addition of a digital preview menu board adds Marketing real estate and delivers a larger overall presence. Flashy video and high definition imagery attract the attention of passersby, leading to greater brand awareness for existing customers, and when seen at the right moment, new customers.
  3. Greet and welcome the customer while reducing perceived wait time, using the digital preview board to extend the service experience.

These three reasons ensure that preview menu boards will continue to rise in popularity with digital drive thru in the fastest growing quick service restaurants.

Exploring Preview Menu Boards for Your Business

A technology proud partner of 8 out of the top 10 quick service restaurants, STRATACACHE can help your business at any stage in your digital journey. No matter the scope or scale, we come with experience gained by the best, most iconic, innovative brands in the world, and we would love to help you jumpstart your next project.