Brightening businesses: LED signs making impact on customers

By Chris Bucher - Freeman Staff

Nov. 29, 2016

Jimmy’s Grotto, 314 E. Main St. in Waukesha, upgraded its menu board signs recently. The restaurant is following a nationwide trend of upgrading restaurant signage to make it more appealing for customers.
Submitted photo

WAUKESHA — Doug Ciampa was looking to give customers a “fresher look” at the front counter of his restaurant, Jimmy’s Grotto.

So three months ago, Ciampa rid the restaurant, 314 E. Main St., of its older menu boards in favor of digital LED screens, which have proven to be far less intensive to alter and are much more attractive to customers, Ciampa said.

“We talked about it for about three or four months before we did it,” Ciampa said of the switch. “Business has remained good recently.”

As area businesses search for unique ways to bring in customers, Ciampa is just one of the many business owners following a nationwide trend by revamping singage to the LED form.

“Digital signs have been around for decades, but recent developments in LED lighting have made them even more effective and economical,” said David Hickey, the International Sign Association’s vice president of advocacy. “As more communities allow them and as more businesses use them, everyone is noticing that these kinds of signs work and want them.

“Communities are beginning to understand the positive impact these make for businesses and many are looking for ways to allow these signs.”

A shining upgrade

An LED sign is a flat-panel display which uses many light-emitting pixels for a crisp-looking video display. The brightness of the displays allow them to be used outdoors effectively.

Waukesha Civic Theatre, 264 W. Main St., also got in on the trend recently when it added two LED boards to its entrance, allowing passersby to see information regarding upcoming shows. It joined places like The Rox Bar & Grille, 2820 N. Grandview Blvd., and the Waukesha County Expo Center, 1000 Northview Road, by enhancing capabilities through transitioning to LED signage outside the building.

“Everything we’re doing technology-wise these days is in an effort to be more efficient,” said Mary Jane Sanchez, owner of WurkHub Digital Marketing, 417 W. Main St. “In the case of bars and restaurants, they do it so they don’t have to do a lot of maintenance; it’s all about convenience and efficiency and that’s the reason you should do it. It’s also very cost-effective with no printing costs.”

Sanchez said it’s a simple process for a business such as Jimmy’s Grotto to make a change on its menu board. It can be changed or updated quickly and remotely, which is a lot easier and less expensive than the previous routine. “We change it here and upload it to the computer and go to the keyboard to upload the file,” she said.

With technology constantly changing and becoming more innovative, Hickey said customers often seek out those businesses that have continued to be as contemporary as possible.

“Everything today is digital and high-tech,” he said. “People today expect innovation and excitement, even when it comes to signs. Recent surveys show that people perceive digital signs as especially modern and effective. Businesses know this and many want to use these kinds of signs to drive customers to their stores.”

Fast food’s future

Small businesses in the county aren’t the only ones looking ahead to what the future will hold. Different types of technology continue to be used by large corporations as well.

On Nov. 18, the Chicago Tribune reported that McDonald’s will roll out an “experience of the future” concept in Chicago and other large cities in the United States. An option of ordering at a kiosk is part of the company’s redesign, though customers can still order at the counter if they’re paying for cash or don’t desire to use the touch-screen machines.

Following placing an order at a kiosk, “a customer is given a Bluetooth-enabled placecard and an employee brings out the order,” prompting the customer to pay using credit or debit or other type of payment, such as Apple or Android pay.

It’s a unique upgrade to the fast-food industry, one which Panera Bread intends to use when it opens its first location in Waukesha on Dec. 7 at the Shoppes at Fox River.

“Panera 2.0” gives customers a way to order through a mobile application and pick up the order at a desired time. It will also include an option for a customer to order from his or her table and have the food delivered directly there. Wait time will also be reduced for guests with the option of using an iPad kiosk near the front registers.

“Panera 2.0 is an investment in the customer enabled by technology and powered by operational excellence,” said Ron Shaich, founder, chairman and CEO of Panera, in a statement. “It’s more than a mobile-payment system or simply a digital-ordering process. It’s an integrated, comprehensive, end-to-end solution that we believe will reduce friction such as wait times, improve order accuracy, and minimize or eliminate crowding — all while creating a platform for an ever more personalized experience.”