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By Stuart Armstrong/ ComQi Group President 

When it comes to selecting a digital signage system and software for your food service operation, some features really should not be compromised. The fact is that every restaurant is different and has some basic needs that have to be met in very specific ways.

To help you choose and customize the best system for your needs, here are five key questions to ask to ensure you’re getting some very basic “must-have” features in the digital signage system and software used for your restaurants.

1.    Is it a cloud-based platform?
Cloud-based systems, also referred to as SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms minimize the overall cost and software footprint since no application software is installed and support items, like laptops or desktops, are not needed. Ditto for server software or hardware.
Rather, SaaS operators use a browser and log-in online to manage their networks in the same way they may log in to bank or manage finances online.  Plus, properly designed cloud-based systems can scale with your brand and adapt to activity and demand spikes to prevent crashes in the busiest times.

2.    Does it feature a store/franchise portal?
Each physical site’s local users can access and manage messages, menus, venue schedules or even local weather updates. Each portal should be customized for the user and administrators who can control the types of content other users can manage. In essence, the best CMS systems give users ownership and increases the value of their digital signage, while featuring approval systems that give managers the necessary control demanded.

3.    Does the system feature a total solution provider?
Restaurateurs know what they’re good at — feeding people. Most will gladly offload the bulk of network operation to the right partner who understands their needs and can optimize visual presentations. A total solutions provider simplifies everything down to a single invoice and point of contact.

4.    Does it have built-in redundancies?
Order menu displays are mission-critical to restaurants, demanding fail-safe back-ups when screens go down due to hardware failure. Automatic Screen Failover systems immediately redistribute content to remaining screens if one fails, simultaneously alerting the operator and triggering an immediate resolution of the problem. Without such back-up systems, managers and staff have often failed to report outages in the first place, leaving screens black for days of lost business.

5.    Does the system feature an API?
APIs or Application Programming Interfaces allow integration, data sharing and communication between systems, making way for things like dynamic scheduling and pricing-based sales and inventory management reports. This allows the inclusion of “rules” into a system, which can trigger increased promotion of under-performing items in stock, or removal of a menu item that lacks stock.

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