Prior to COVID-19, the bulk of quick-service restaurant sales already came through the drive-thru window. Yet during the pandemic, off-premises dining took over an even larger share of restaurant traffic, making it more critical than ever for operators to invest in drive-thru infrastructure for a better guest—and employee—experience.
Just ask Brandon Petersen, digital experience manager at Taco Time Northwest, a quick-service chain based in Renton, Washington, with 79 locations spread throughout the Puget Sound Area.
“Business is 70-percent drive thru, so investing in delivering a more efficient and accurate drive-thru ordering experience is a priority for our guests, as well as for our team,” Petersen says. “There is a perception you invest in equipment to give guests a marketing-driven experience, which is true, but a big part of these investments is actually to benefit our team members and to give them technology to do the job without unnecessary distractions.
One of the brand’s recent investments has been installing high-brightness digital displays from LG in the drive thru, which not only give guests peace of mind that their orders are accurate, but also to eliminate the need for team members to manually change signs on cold, rainy Pacific Northwest nights.
“In 2018 and 2019 we began looking at the key advantages digital menu boards offered over traditional printed signage. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, closing a number of our dining rooms, we began to invest in a digital drive-thru strategy. We implemented digital menus at a pilot location in 2021, and we’re upgrading up to 20 more restaurants in 2022.”
Dave Boerlin, key account manager for LG, says that LG’s high brightness outdoor displays possess a powerful brightness of 4,000 nits and an air curtain, which separates the LCD screen and the guest-facing protective glass panel.
“LG’s air curtain technology helps the displays to remain cool,” Boerlin says. “Our air curtain uses a fan to cool the display, which leads to energy savings for the restaurant. Additionally, because the air in the space between the screen and the panel is trapped at the factory, it’s difficult for dust, dirt, critters, and moisture to enter.”
Additionally, when issues do occur, such as if a car hits the panel, the protective glass keeps the LCD screen from cracking, which makes repairs less expensive and simpler. Boerlin says the glass can be replaced in the field in under an hour and for a fraction of the cost of a new display. Meanwhile, LG’s digital displays feature in-plane switching, which gives customers a 178-degree viewing angle, as well as the ability to see the screen clearly, even if they are wearing polarized glasses.
Petersen says all these features were important factors in Taco Time Northwest’s display decision, but the reduced energy consumption was particularly important, as the brand recently signed a pledge to become 100 percent carbon neutral.
So far, Taco Time Northwest has rolled out the displays to three restaurants, but the results have been so promising that 12 more restaurants are slated for the upgrade in 2022, and the brand has begun installing LG digital signage inside its restaurants, too.
“The first restaurant we installed the high brightness displays in saw a 7.5 percent increase in cars in the drive thru in the first quarter,” Petersen says. “We saw steady traffic throughout the pandemic, but after installing the signs, our check average grew by 5.2 percent. That restaurant’s year-over-year guest satisfaction score also increased by 10 percent.”
Though Petersen notes many factors contribute to guest satisfaction, he says the rapid rise provides evidence that the displays are helping the business grow on numerous fronts.
“I have looked at the data, and I cannot attribute this growth to anything other than the new high brightness digital signage,” Petersen says. “Our sales and traffic growth speaks for itself. The product has done everything that was advertised and so much more. The signs are working, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.”
Visit the LG website to learn more about how high brightness displays can help your business grow.
By Peggy Carouthers