New nutrition labeling requirements could drive growth in digital menu boards

With local authorities raising various stinks about digital billboards and stopping some of those plans in their tracks, it’s nice to see some government rules and regs that have the potential to drive growth in this sector.

Myles Mjolsnes of WAND Corporation, a Minnesota POS vendor that has expanded in to digital signage, sent out a note suggesting the new health care reform passed into law by U.S. Congress last week (and last I checked, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse did not ride onto the scene when this happened) sets new national standards for nutrition labeling on restaurant menus.

The reform will affect all Quick Service Restaurants with 20 or more locations, regardless of ownership, says Mjolsnes.

QSR franchisees who own only a few locations will still be affected if the total number of brand stores is 20 or greater. By setting one consistent national standard the National Restaurant Association says the new law will help consumers make better choices for themselves and their families. Since details may remain unclear until as late as the end of July the versatility provided by digital displays justifies a solution to replace standard printed menu boards.

“This is a complex and industry changing event for the entire QSR community,” said Greg Perrill, Chief Operating Officer for WAND Corporation. Caloric and nutrient information will be required on restaurant menus, menu boards, and Drive-Thru displays. WAND Corporation, the global leader in Digital Menu Board and Point Of Sale technology for the QSR space, plans to be a part of the solution process. WAND Corporation’s Digital Menu Boards already handle nutritional information and their dynamic content can be changed or updated instantly. “We foresaw the need for providing customers with nutritional information of menu items and built the feature into our Digital Menu Board technology,” added Perrill.

You can read the 2,016 page bill here, something I’m sure most of you will do right after this …

I’m not as convinced this will be a major catalyst for more investment into the sector. Nutritional information is no more fluid in its changes than the actual menu items, and could be built in just as easily into revised back-lit material than to digital. This added stuff doesn’t demand digital, as far as I can tell.

But what it does do is present a compelling reason to now make the cut-over to digital, something i’d imagine most chain QSRs are looking at anyways. In other words, “The new regs mean we need to change out what’s on all of our menu boards. This is as good a time as any to make the digital transition.”

WAND, by the way, is tied pretty closely to Wendy’s – so a full conversion would be a very big deal with that client.

UPDATE: Austin, TX-based Starmount Systems has done up a release about its menu-board capabilities as it relates to this new legislation…

Starmount Systems today announced that it will unveil their digital software suite at KioskCom 2010 in a proof-of-concept demonstration for restaurant chains that are facing new requirements to disclose nutrition information to the consumer. The provision in the U.S. health bill passed last week will require all restaurants with 20 or more locations to publish information such as calorie content and sodium levels for all of their menu items.

“With menus changing on a regular basis, restaurants using static or printed menus face costly updates to fulfill this requirement. Many will be looking at new technology solutions such as digital menu boards and interactive kiosks to address this need,” said Joe Halloum, President and CEO of Starmount. “With Starmount Marquis™, we are proud to offer an easy-to-use, cross-platform software solution that can be implemented today to address the new provisions that are coming two to three years from now.”

With Starmount Marquis™, we are proud to offer an easy-to-use, cross-platform software solution that can be implemented today to address the new provisions that are coming two to three years from now. Digital menu boards and self-serve kiosks are becoming widely popular in a variety of industries including the restaurant and retail space. Marquis provides an easy interface to assemble, monitor and manage media assets for digital signage and interactive kiosks. It can be tightly integrated with mobile and point-of-sale applications to deliver a complete multi-channel commerce solution.