Pundits spent a good portion of 2010 debating the merits Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, a.k.a. “Obamacare.” However, the rhetoric is just beginning.
A provision in the companion Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which requires compliance by March 2011, directly affects the way that consumers view the hospitality industry &mdash presumably, in a good way.
According to the FDA, the law requires nutritional labeling including calorie counts of standard menu items for chain restaurants, retail food establishments and any restaurants with over 20 locations &mdash think delis, bakeries cafeterias, caterers, airlines, trains, food trucks, hotdog stands, coffee shops, etc. It’s projected to affect over 200,000 restaurants.
The need to comply with the law by March 2011 may lead to a surge in demand for digital menu boards in restaurants. “It already has,” says Brian Fitzpatrick, owner of Layton, Ohio-based Level TV, a commercial integrator heavily focused on digital signage.
“Right now we’re in the final stages with three large, multi-location quick-serve restaurants. They interested. They’re very, very interested.”
One reason they’re interested is because digital menu solutions allow restaurants to be more nimble in updating and changing their offerings. There’s potential for content scheduling, multi-location pricing, quick menu item changes, easy uploading of nutritional information and other custom solutions.
“The client can refresh their menu in minutes and still comply with the FDA rules,” says Andy Lopez, director of national sales for ReQuest, which just launched its Harmony digital signage solution.
The demand isn’t limited to restaurants directly affected by the healthcare law — those with 20-plus locations — according to Fitzpatrick. “There is a market for the mom and pops that’s not driven by the Obama law, but it’s driven by a cost analysis.”
“There is simply much greater flexibility managing, maintaining and associating information in a database structure, and then leveraging that data through a combination of digital media software and digital signage hardware to easily, accurately and effectively present the right content,” says Jeff Xouris, VP of marketing Popstar Networks, a company that provides digital signage software solutions to manufacturers like Samsung.
Choosing Based on Cost Analysis
The demand isn’t limited to restaurants directly affected by the healthcare law &mdash those with 20-plus locations, according to Fitzpatrick. “The bulk of my business caters around small businesses, so most of them have one or two locations. There is a market for the mom and pops that’s not driven by the Obama law, but it’s driven by a cost analysis.”
Having digital menu boards really comes down to dollars and cents for most small business owners, Fitzpatrick says. “We just show their financial people that once you make X amount of changes, here’s what it’s going to cost you in X years if you have a stagnant board.”
Some of that return on investment is an improved end user experience, according to Xouris. “Companies see and are documenting the benefits in terms of improved customer experience, increased up-sell/lift or average transaction, as well as improved regulatory compliance.
“And there is no a very compelling overall value proposition with it comes to the capital outlay for such systems &mdash hardware prices have declined significantly and several software providers offer subscriptions or SAAS [software as a service] based models eliminating many previous barriers and simplifying purchases.”