CITY OF INDUSTRY, Calif. (Aug. 16, 2021) –WaBa Grill, a fast casual known for healthy rice bowls, fresh chicken and Ribeye steak, was looking for new ways to entice customers and lift overall sales. Enter digital drive-thru menu boards.

WaBa Grill, a fast casual known for healthy rice bowls, fresh chicken and Ribeye steak, was looking for new ways to entice customers and lift overall sales.

Enter digital drive-thru menu boards.

After installing its first digital menu board outside a Lancaster, California restaurant, WaBa Grill decided to also deploy them at the nearby Tustin location, which opened in July.

To install the boards, WaBa Grill tapped Embed Digital, a Southern California company, and entered into a partnership with the digital signage supplier in February 2020.

Mark Finnegan, chief marketing and information officer for WaBa Grill, said the chain, which has about 200 locations across California and Arizona, considered adding digital menu boards for the past several years. Finnegan believes the push for digital will be a key component in the brand's future growth plans as drive-thrus make for more efficient ordering and presents another channel to increase sales.

"As technology evolved, it became easier to control content remotely, incorporate motion/video, and change menus," Finnegan said in an email interview with Digital Signage Today. "As we open drive-thru locations, we are likely to incorporate digital boards to enhance the present and 'future-proof' the business."

Digital worth the investment

The Tustin location was slated to open earlier this year, but was pushed back due to COVID-19. Finnegan said while cost is always a major factor in adding technology, the incentive to invest in digital menu boards was too appealing to pass up. Finnegan declined to specify how much the menu board rollout cost.

"The cost is negligible compared to the cost of static menu-board changes — plus the opportunity cost of missed up-sell opportunities," Finnegan said. "Given this, we've found our franchise operators to be receptive."

Going into the design process, WaBa Grill wanted menu boards bright and inviting, but also something that would highlight the tastiest menu items. Finnegan said choosing the ideal hardware to manage the boards was one of the most important factors.

"We've selected a hardware set that maximizes lumens and connectivity. It provides a superior palate for our talented design team," he said.

Looking for ways to boost sales

Mike Sisco, CEO of Embed Digital, said the company installed a POS data integration system he envisioned and Embed Digital worked on for three years, with menu boards both in-store and at the drive-thrus. For hardware and software, the company used Samsung, Magic Info and Samsung SoC and designed its own digital menu controller.

"They were looking for an appetizing ordering experience to lift sales," Sisco told Digital Signage Today in an email interview.

The new boards are all-inclusive and turnkey, making it easier for WaBa Grill employees to operate them on site. Sisco said installation was completed after the store was closed and took less than one day to complete.

Embed Digital services digital indoor and outdoor marketing and menu packages for fast casual and QSR chains throughout North America, including Pizza Hut, Wendy's, California Fish Grill, Urban Plates, Cousins Maine Lobster, Crave Hot Dogs and Barbecue and Taco Casa.

Along with providing digital signage for restaurants, Embed Digital also works with businesses in the government, education, public works, retail, corporate communications, and sports event industries.

Sisco said each customer is unique and their vision for the perfect digital signage package can be challenging, but rewarding.

"They have their own needs such as dayparts, rapid menu updates, A-B testing, lift in sales, eye-catching animation and POS data integration with Embed Digital's proprietary digital menu controller software," Sisco said. "The graphic design is also critical, there must be eye-catching designs that lead the customer through the order process and direct them towards the items and combos that lead to the fastest order processing time, along with highest average order price."