In the fast-paced world of quick-service restaurants, businesses need to stay ahead of the curve. Their customers want streamlined, convenient, and speedy service—otherwise, they’d sit down at a full-service restaurant.

Along with leveraging technologies like self-service kiosks and mobile app ordering, quick-service operators also need to focus on new advertising and engagement strategies. That requires giving a technological boost to outdated marketing campaigns.

While traditional advertising media like billboards, prime-time TV commercials, and flyers can still be effective, they can also be costly, slow, and difficult to measure. Moreover, while they help lure a customer inside a quick-service restaurant, they do little to keep them there.

Digital signage, on the other hand, can help attract customers and then boost their engagement and satisfaction once they are inside. Things like digital menu boards, limited time offer (LTO) promotional screens, order confirmation, and order-status screens can help encourage ordering and create greater satisfaction with the whole process—from start to finish, or order to bite. Here’s how to make the most of it.

Driving impulse purchases

The majority of customer decisions at quick-service restaurants are made at the register: that means impulse buys account for the bulk of quick-service profits. So how can quick-service operators capitalize on impulse purchasing to boost revenue?

Well think about it: If customers are buying impulsively, attention-grabbing signs around the register can play a key role in influencing purchasing decisions. By prominently displaying high-margin menu items, LTOs, and specials, quick-service operators can sway indecisive customers towards deals and offers, like two-for-one combos or seasonal LTOs. Additionally, digital signage can be used to suggest additional items that complement customers’ orders.

However, simply displaying deals and offers is not enough. Quick-service operators must be strategic in how they present their promotions. For example, it’s important to feature promotions at eye-level and in prominent locations. Signage should use clear and concise language to describe the promotion and any associated terms and conditions. By doing so, quick-service operators can increase the likelihood that customers will notice the promotion, be intrigued by it, and then make purchases accordingly.

Curating content moment by moment

Another way to get the full potential out of digital signage is to leverage its flexibility. Digital signage can be changed on the spot to suit the moment.

When quick-service operators integrate their point-of-sale system (POS) with digital signage, they have the ability to alter menu items and prices based on the day, hour, or even the minute in response to timely events or changes in inventory. So, quick-service operators can update content moment by moment to drive sales.

Think about the implications: if you’re a quick-service operator based near a football stadium, for instance, you can expect an influx of fans post-game and then curate the promotions to what will likely appeal to these fans the most. The promotions may also depend on whether the home team won or lost.

Data has shown regional names can drive appeal and thus sales of menu items, for example Chicago-style deep dish pizza sounds much more delicious than cheese pizza. However, fans may not be feeling very loyal after a crushing loss. If they won, however, you can bet pumped up fans will be showing loyalty and may want that signature milkshake in their teams’ colors. So, when choosing your digital displays, think of the wider context, news angles, trends, and how your potential customers may be feeling.

Quick-service operators can use digital signage to better meet the needs and wants of specific customer segments. This knowledge can be achieved through customer surveys, data analysis, and other market research methods. With this information, quick-service operators can create targeted promotions and menu items that appeal to specific customer segments.

Leveraging influencers

In 2023, we all know: influencers influence, so to speak. And getting them on board with your brand or business is a fruitful way to drive sales and profits. By featuring endorsements from celebrities and influencers, or partnerships with well-known and beloved brands, quick-service operators can tap into those fan bases.

If you saw one of your favorite TikTok influencers enjoying a juicy burger from a local fast food restaurant, you may feel the urge to jump in your car and see what all the hype is about. But the influence can extend outside social media: you can play the celebrity endorsement video outside and inside the store. Imagine walking by a quick-service restaurant and seeing your favorite celebrity beckoning you in.

The numbers speak for themselves: McDonald’s spent over $10 million on a digital advertising campaign with world renown K-Pop group BTS, which was a major contributor to a 41 percent jump in sales over the second quarter of 2021.

If companies are willing to spend so heavily on digital marketing campaigns, and paying to gain these endorsements, they better feature these partnerships far and wide—in store and outside of it. Then the customers are more likely to come rushing in, especially among younger demographics.

Closing thoughts

While digital signage can be an extremely effective way for quick-service operators to boost their digital engagement and revenue, operators must leverage the signage smartly to reap the maximum benefits. Operators should invest in high-quality displays and software while also keeping the needs and preferences of their customers in mind. Ill-suited signage that is either irrelevant or irritating is just a waste of funds.

In short, digital signage can make or break a sale. It’s simply about knowing your customers and giving them what they want to see.


Emily McCue Baldeschwiler is the Product Manager for Food & Beverage at Spectrio. Emily has 10+ years of experience working with the Food & Beverage industry, leading new product innovation, development, and consumer research. At Spectrio, she partners with clients, account managers, and product development to enable innovative, metric-driven solutions to meet business needs.

Fast Casual, Fast Food, Outside Insights, Story, Technology