Whether you you love or hate the newly initiated healthcare bill, one thing is for certain – things are changing and not only for doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies. What the media has dubbed as ‘Obamacare‘ includes a major change for restaurants that will create a ripple effect into our world of Digital Signage.

Title IV of the new law states that ‘Restaurants which are part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name must disclose calories on the menu board and in written form.’ People in the restaurant and digital signage industries have been paying close attention to the new menu label law. Now that it’s passed, many restaurants are rushing for a solution to comply with the new regulations. Herein lies the opportunity for both digital signage and the restaurant industries.

In order to comply with the law, restaurants must display the caloric intake of each item on their menu boards. As new products are added or the amount of calories for items change, restaurants will be forced to update their menu boards. These changes carry a big price tag, considering all that needs to happen— designing, printing, shipping, and installing new signage several times each year can be very costly. By installing digital menu boards, restaurants can easily lighten the workload and expense of managing their menu boards and still comply with the new law.

Not only does digital signage make managing menu boards easier and more cost efficient, but restaurants can use this opportunity to really improve their menu board strategy. QSR Magazine recently published an excellent article on the strategy behind a menu board. When I was reading the article, it occurred to me that most of the strategies discussed could probably be automated if a digital menu board was integrated with the restaurant’s POS system. For example: If the center of a menu board is considered the ‘hot spot’, then restaurants could automatically move items into the ‘hot spot’ based on sales numbers or other pre-defined indicators from their POS system. By leveraging the data in their POS system and displaying it on a digital menu board, restaurants turn their old, static menu board into their best sales rep; the Smart Board.

Some restaurants are worried about people choosing not to eat at their establishment based on the caloric intake displayed on the board, so another big concern is actually getting people in the door of the restaurant and keeping them there. This is another big opportunity for restaurants to benefit from digital signage, but this time, on the outside of the store. In this article, a Cleveland based Dairy Queen has seen sales rise 10-15 percent above their regional average and the owner gives most of the credit to the newly installed outdoor digital billboard. The screen allows him to keep in touch with the community, change promotions based on the weather, and saves him a ton of time and money.

The benefits are clear and the time is right for more restaurants to make their move to digital menu boards. I think the movement has already begun, but we’ll start to see more pop up as restaurant owners look past the initial cost and look forward to the long term benefits. What do you think? Will ‘Obamacare’ affect the digital signage industry? What is the best move for restaurants as they work to comply with the new laws?

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