With many restaurant owners recognizing the digital signage era is here to stay, it is natural for them to ask, “What’s next?” The basic advantages of digital signage—being able to update menus at any time, customizing selections by location and time of day, and giving patrons information ranging from wait times to personalized messages—are now well known to those in the industry. From here on, ensuring a restaurant utilizing digital signage stands out from its competitors, will require foresight, creativity and originality.

Some restaurants are already taking digital signage “to the next level” in various ways, such as by overhauling the content and format of digital signage menu items. Other tactics can include utilizing higher-quality, larger screens with better resolution, which are likely to capture guests’ attention a lot more than older, smaller models of digital signs could, according to a report in AvNetwork.com. But this is just a start.

No matter how restaurant owners end up using the technology, there is no point in settling for what others have done—not when digital display advertising has so much creative potential. To get started, here is a handful of eye-catching techniques or “tricks” that restaurant owners may choose to lean on to make sure their digital signage continues to capture their target audience.

Trick #1: Build a mystery


According to a study in the Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, a restaurant’s environment proved to be a stronger predictor of brand image than did food quality. If elements of a restaurant’s environment are likely to distinguish a specific restaurant from its competitors, why not add a little “mystery” into the mix.

When your customers step into your restaurant and see the first digital sign, how are they being enticed? Restaurants could consider turning a digital display board into steps along a path within the restaurant that lead the consumer to new sales, promotions or access codes. Each one might leave a hint about where to go next or how to find the next sale—like breadcrumbs on a trail. In general, the more interesting, relevant and engaging the content conveyed by digital signage, the more effectively it can work, reports AvNetwork.com.

Adding this level of fun to a restaurant visit is likely to resonate well with customers who have come to expect more from digital signs than merely learning what items are on the menu when they pay their visit. Some chains have taken new measures to draw customers in, such as incorporating their Instagram posts into their digital signs. Enhancing this level of engagement—by making patrons feel as if they are on a quest while they spend time inside the restaurant—is an ideal way to encourage fun as well as return visits.

Trick #2: Incorporate a ‘secret message’

This second “trick” expands upon the fact that for restaurant owners, customer engagement is crucial. By leveraging digital signage, you can entice patrons to sign up for beacon alerts, for example. One sign located in the window can say, “Head into our restaurant for info on a secret message that can help you save money on a meal.” Then, inside the store, another digital sign can be shown that offers details on how to sign up for beacon alerts and how to learn about promotions. Everyone loves being in on a secret—and there is evidence that digital signage can keep customers coming back. According to InfoTrends, for example, digital displays have increased repeat customers by more than 30 percent.

Incidentally, commercially available cloud-based platforms—such as Social Retail®— make digital signage management and beacon technology accessible to restaurant owners. The Social Retail® digital convergence platform works seamlessly with digital signage displayed on Samsung SMART Signage Platform (SSP) screens and with mobile screen messaging triggered by Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons communicating with iOS and Android devices running Bluetooth®. The Social Retail® interface is drag-and-drop intuitive, combining playlist creation (think daily specials, menus, entertainment, highlight of regional ingredients) and content scheduling customized to each digital sign and beacon trigger, social sharing via email and Facebook, and analytics such that anyone with the necessary technology in place could sign up and be up and running in a matter of minutes.

Trick #3: Change it up often


What if your restaurant interior could be different every single time a patron comes in? With digital signage, something like this is entirely within the realm of possibility. For restaurants, the ability to change digital display menus from breakfast to lunch to dinner—or depending on the season or holidays—is ideal. But this is just for starters. One idea is to ensure that the restaurant’s digital signs have a different appearance or promotion every single week, enticing patrons to return on a regular basis to find out what’s new.

Of course, it is not worth changing digital signage simply for the sake of change. Instead, it may be worth using the opportunity to try out different color schemes, playing with a restaurant’s brand image, or rolling out potential ad slogans, to see what works best. Just take care not to offer so much change that it potentially confuses restaurant-goers. Or better still, put the power to change the content of your digital signage directly into the hands of your customers. Some restaurants have made it possible for their digital signs to feature scrolling collages with guests’ live posts to their Instagram hashtags, ensuring that no sign ever exhibits the exact same message twice. On top of this, how about extending the use of digital signage to the exterior of the restaurant? For example, there has been a huge uptick in digital menu boards over the past few years in the outdoor space, such as in drive-throughs, reports AvNetwork.com.

The vast majority of restaurant owners understand that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for their customers anymore—and this dictum applies just as much to digital signage as to every other aspect of the business. Personalized engagement—such as that made possible by implementing the kinds of pointers outlined above—are a smart way forward for restaurants that want to remain competitive in today’s crowded marketplace.


Sylvain Bellaïche is the founder and CEO of Digital Social Retail, a company that has developed a beacon management platform that is revolutionizing the relationship between customers and brands.