One section of the sweeping healthcare reform that Congress passed earlier this spring has garnered little media attention, but means a major change for America's massive reataurant-chain and QSR industries. Section 4205 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires chains of more than 20 restaurants to add calorie information to their menus. From a design standpoint, that means big changes on menu boards, menus and kiosk screens at about 200,000 restaurants.
For those establishments that have embraced digital signage and self-service technology, though, it shouldn't be a big deal.
"We'd already built our products around that"
"To handle all of this manually would be overwhelming," said Tommy Woycik, president of kiosk software solutions providerNextep Systems. He adds that a number of Nextep's clients were caught slightly off guard by the new regulations. "They're aware of the healthcare bill, but weren't really aware that was part of it."
But the regulation did not catch Nextep off guard.
"Having anticipated that," Woycik said of the regulations, "we've already built our product around it."
In addition to features that allow clients to list allergy and nutritional information, Nextep's software already includes options to list the federally required calorie information.
Jon Pafk, director of marketing for software providerStarmount Systems, said that Starmount, like Nextep, would not need to make major changes – if any – to its software to meet clients' new labeling needs. Starmount's Marquis software package includes templates that allow users to quickly add calorie information and redesign menu board content.
"It's just compiling data into the tool," he said. "It's a fairly streamlined process for clients to do."
Bob Vantresca, vice president of marketing forNCR Netkey, said that the hardware side should see few – if any – changes that have to take place.
"For our customers, it should be a relatively seamless, smooth transition to add this info," he said.
"An opportune time"
Pafk said he sees the new rules not just as a call for change, but as a golden moment for digital signage and self-service technology.
"It's an opportune time for these restaurants to introduce digital signage and interactive kiosks to their customers," he said.
"This is a great example of why digital signage is very valuable," he said. "It eliminates a lot of manual intervention that would need to be done to keep the system updated."
All three experts said they expect the ease with which digitally savvy restaurateurs can update their menus should entice others considering the move to digital menu boards and kiosk-based ordering systems.
And, as Woycik notes, digital signage/self-service providers are ready and able to help make that change happen.
"The good news is, the solution's here today," he said.