Honest Digital Drive-Thru Menu Board Perspective

Let’s start with some transparency, I love digital signage. It is the way of the now and the foreseeable future. Digital signage has been hovering around for several years suggesting that “this is going to be the year” where the snowball finally gathers the momentum to run over the traditional signage in it’s path. Although it hasn’t squashed all or even most of static posters, banners, panels and cabinets that you still see today, there is no denying the spike in the last two years.  With this growth has seen countless companies enter the same digital signage space, some of which are pretenders (i.e. graphic designers with a media player) and many other contenders.  It doesn’t take the contenders, or even an every-day-Joe, much to realize that digital signage is poised to expand and adapt to applications where it has never been used before. Enter “Digital Drive-thru Menu Boards.”

DigitalDTInterior digital signage makes up for at least half of our business and we are constantly exploring ways to take it to the next level. I bring this up because as much as I would love to tell you that “the time is now” and say “what are you waiting for?” in regards to outdoor digital, I’m just not quite there. It may surprise you to read that we have a tried and tested outdoor digital unit that we sell and it has performed well out in the field.  ”So why are you against it?”  It is not that I am drawing a hard line and suggesting one would be a fool to use digital signage outside. My objective is to is inform you of the potential pitfalls that currently exist and make you mindful of susceptible areas that otherwise don’t exist with traditional boards.

Let’s take a look at some excerpts from an article posted by a gentleman from Peerless-AV; a leader in outdoor digital signage.  He makes many great points that correlate to both indoor and outdoor digital signage.  However as I am reading this I begin to become acutely aware of something.  As a VP of Global Business Development there is no question that he wants to promote his product in a discrete and non-salesy fashion.  He does a fantastic job of this.  Though where most may have been jotting things down to be aware of when sourcing outdoor digital signage, I was seeing potential issue after potential issue.  Take these for example:

“Look for 100 percent sealed (even down to the cable entry) displays for their menu boards.”

“With built-in thermal systems, display components are kept safely warmed in severe cold and properly cooled in severe heat, reducing electricity costs.”

“Look for displays with an IP68 rating—this signifies a display’s protection against dirt, ice formation, and temporary submersion in water, as well as its ability to operate in extreme temperatures from -40–140″

“Shatterproof, impact-resistant glass is also a must for outdoor menu boards, especially in unattended public places”

Selecting a display that is optically bonded not only reduces glare and makes the display much stronger, but also reduces the display’s solar load.”

“Polarization is also key in outdoor displays—without this, displays may be blacked out or be unable to read by folks wearing polarized lenses. These considerations in tandem with an ambient light sensor ensure nutrition information is always legible, which is of course our top priority.”

Where do I start?  Look, the sales side to the solid points he makes is that the Peerless-AV drive-thru has all of this covered.  In fact, I can raise my hand as one who has seen this unit up close and personal (at a trade-show) and it is beautiful.

“So again, why are you against it?”  Take a look at the list above.  Are any of those items something you have to be concerned with when using a traditional drive-thru?  The short answer, “no.”  And if I operate a drive-thru in the Pacific Northwest or Minnesota or Arizona, can I fully trust that my digital menu board will combat all of the rain, snow/cold, and sun/heat (respectively)? “No.”  Do I want my workers to have to compete with not only the car noise but the thermal system when taking orders? “No.”  Do I want to have to worry about my screens cutting out and effectively shutting down my drive-thru where 70% (based on industry averages) of my revenue streams through? “No.”  Do I want to be concerned about the sun beaming down on my screen rendering them illegible at times during the day? “No.”  Do I want to erect what amounts to a welcome sign for theft and vandalism and place it within an arms reach of anybody? “No.”  ScroogeDo I want to have to rob Scrooge McDuck’s money vault to afford the sign especially given every preceding question? “No”

Click on the image of the drive-thru and take note of the cost.  This is before you get to thinking about the software, design or setup.  When it is all said and done you’d be able to afford 4-5 traditional menu boards for the price of 1 of the digital variety.

In summary, I see outdoor digital signage taking a very similar path to substantial growth as its indoor sibling.  There will be those who will drop tens of thousands of dollars to have all the benefits, including the “wow factor,” that an outdoor digital signage system could bring with the vast majority sticking with lower cost, less risky traditional products.  I want to end with one clear message and that is that I love the idea, I think it is going to boom one day, but for my money it probably won’t be for a few years.  At that time, when my trepidation subsides, I will be the grand marshall at the outdoor digital parade; that I can assure you!

Agree or disagree?  I would understand both points of view.  We’d love to hear them.  Please comment, email or call.  info@origindisplays.com | 888-235-2579