The growing fast casual concept was looking for a way to streamline communication and make menu choices easier for customers across its 28 locations. Raydiant not only stepped up with digital menu boards, the display producers came with additional benefits.
I Heart Mac & Cheese faced an interesting dilemma.
The fast casual franchise, specializing in mac and cheese bowls, grilled cheese sandwiches and more, has seen steady growth since the concept launched in 2016, but as the Boca Raton, Florida-based company continued to expand, it faced hurdles on how to streamline menu and marketing campaigns throughout 28 locations across the U.S. How could the brand make sure the same messaging delivered to a store in Pembroke Pines, Florida, was also being produced in Midland, Washington?
That’s where digital signage stepped in.
Working with Raydiant, a digital display manufacturer, I Heart Mac & Cheese has replaced its old model of using USB plug-ins to convey digital information to a more convenient streamlined process. As a result, the growing “build-your-own bowl” concept has saved time and expense, while also seeing an uptick in sales, according to company press release.
Focus on menu boards
Max Gonzalez, director of operations at I Heart Mac & Cheese, said customers are naturally drawn to the screens thanks to Raydiant’s vibrant graphics. In a Zoom interview with Digital Signage Today, Gonzalez said the brand began working with Raydiant over a year ago.
Max Gonzalez, provided
“We want to make sure we have clean menu boards,” Gonzalez said. “This is a plug-and-play (platform), basically. Our focus was the customer experience, in-store sales and the savings of when we needed to change something on our boards.”
Key features include:
- Automating item removal. When a restaurant runs out of an item, managers can remove from the display it in seconds.
- Dynamic pricing. Brands can shift prices and specials to other items based on product inventory.
- Promo boards. Operators can highlight specials and deals based on time of day.
As LTOs continue to be the hot menu item on most menu boards, I Heart Mac & Cheese had to find a process to quickly make updates. They also wanted to give store managers across the country the ability to alter menu boards and pricing on their own.
“Our team goes in, changes it, and within minutes we’re up and running,” Gonzalez said. “That’s been a huge plus for us.”
The technical process of updating menu boards has been easy to learn, according to Gonzales. New employees are not intimidated by the technology.
While the director of operations wouldn’t specific how much Raydiant’s digital signage package costs, he said it’s significantly less than the previous system the brand was using.
“When franchisees talk to other franchisees about the product, they say how easy it is to learn,” Gonzalez said. “The cost is minimal based on the things that we’re doing with them. It definitely has been a good investment.”
I Heart Mac & Cheese plans to open at least 25 additional locations before the end of 2022. For a brand expanding quickly and often making changes to improve its menu, Gonzalez said Raydiant has the ideal digital system for a budding franchise.
“We’ve been with them for more than a year. No issues,” Gonzalez said. “The customer service is there. And, as a franchise group — including the times that we’re in — it hasn’t impacted the bottom line. I don’t have to worry at all; it’s been a very smooth transition.”
He looks at the investment as a “win-win” for other brands looking to make the digital transition.
Shifting to “experience platform”
Bobby Marhamat, Raydiant’s CEO, was excited to join the company in 2019 because of its background helping restaurants. Through the past few years, Raydiant has transformed from a more traditional digital signage company to what Marhamat calls an “experience platform.”
Bobby Marhamat, provided
“An experience platform goes all the way from tying in customer and employee experience technologies to analytics of who’s walking into a store location to tying in marketing and commerce,” Marhamat said in a Zoom interview with Digital Signage Today.
Raydiant has expanded its network to include about 150 restaurant marketplace partners. With I Heart Mac and Cheese, the brand initially wanted Raydiant to produce a promotions board to help increase sales. But, as Raydiant got to work, the company also connected its technology to I Heart Mac and Cheese’s menu boards. Managers can now alter the boards based on point of sale.
“Another thing it does, if they have too much of one (product) and not enough of another, it automatically creates an automated special of that thing they have too much of,” Marhamat said.
More recently, Raydiant has upgraded the fast casual brand’s kiosks to include self-service.
Marhamat and Gonzalez agreed that any restaurant chain thinking about making the leap to digital menu boards should jump in. In I Heart Mac and Cheese’s case, the investment has made daily operations run smoother and sales are on the rise.
“A lot can be done here to create a better relationship with the customer; created the best experience you can without being creepy,” Marhamat said. “Also, you’re raising the average ticket (cost) with your customers.”