Back-of-House Meet Front-of-House: Digital Menu Boards
I think it is safe to assume that most of us have seen digital menu boards. More and more, hospitals are adding them to their new and existing dining locations every year. There are many benefits to them, such as using them as a greeter board which is designed to communicate with guests and staff. It typically displays all of the food court’s daily specials at each food station, along with graphics, announcements, nutritional tips of the day, and live RSS feeds like news, sports, entertainment and weather.
But one of the best and increasingly popular features is showing back-of-house data to enhance front-of-house ordering and dining experience. One of the primary reasons for the growing trend to use digital menu boards is the demand of employees, guests, and customers to see nutrient and allergen information on menu boards so that they can make informed decisions on eating choices. However, menus change every day in many facilities and manually entering menu items with nutrient data and keeping them up to date is often tedious and time consuming. In fact, one client told me that they have a half-time position dedicated just working on this task on a daily basis. On the other hand, a digital menu board system that integrates with a back-of-house healthcare foodservice software system automates the process for each meal period on each menu board, freeing this person for other work.
For example, the following menu board automatically changes on a 28-day menu cycle serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Every menu item includes nutrients, in this case: calories, fat, carbs and sodium; and menu labeling icons for smart choice meals, entrees and sides, the client’s healthy choices, vegetarian or vegan, gluten-free and local/sustainable.
However, not all facilities display many nutrients. Some, as can be seen on the following Deli menu, choose to display calories only, which happens to comply with the new FDA restaurant menu labeling requirements for restaurant chains with 20 or more units. Some facilities omit nutrients all together; thinking that displaying them can backfire.
On the other hand, the menu displays ten menu labeling and allergen alert icons: egg, soy, nuts, dairy, gluten-free, healthier choice, vegan, vegetarian, local/sustainable and raised without antibiotics.
Even with calories and icons only, the Made to Order Sandwich section’s bread, protein and cheese choices allows guests to build their own menu items according to their individual needs.
For those facilities that wish to display more nutrients, the following Grill and Salad menus show how nutrients can be used extensively along with icons to inform and help patrons make informed choices.
As you can see, there are many great benefits to using front-of-house digital menu boards that are integrated with a back-of-house healthcare foodservice software system. And as guests and staff request more and more transparency on their menus to make informed decisions, the need for them becomes greater.
Article by: Harvey Friedman, President and Founder, Epicure Digital Systems; Fusion, 4th Quarter, 2016