Digital menu boards – for beer

May 23, 2011 by Dave Haynes

This is Victoria Day in Canada – the traditional (though inaccurate by date) celebration of the Queen’s birthday. It is a long weekend that marks the official start to the Canadian summer beer drinking season.

So this is an appropriate time to point out a pilot program in the Toronto area for a digital menuboard, for beer.

How one buys booze in Canada is all over the map. In Quebec, you can get beer and wine at a corner store, and hard stuff and far better wine at the provincially-run SAQ stores. In Ontario, you buy liquor, wine and beer at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, but really just six packs of beer and all the exotic imports. If you want to buy a box of beer – the fabled Canadian Two-Four – you go to The Beer Store.

The Beer Store is a completely separate entity that, for the most part, is a weird throwback to the old days of buying booze. In most stores, you walk in and look over a massive sign that lists all the different beers available and the sizes and prices. You tell the guy at cash what you want, he speaks into a microphone, and back in the chiller warehouse, somebody fetches it and puts it on a roller track and sends it out front.

I did not just make that up.

Anyway, a traditional sign company that has been doing this static menus for years has gone digital with this order system. Three of the folks from Signs of Change were at the recent industry mixer in Toronto and they walked me through what they were doing.

The system is based on HTML/CSS/JavaScript, fed from a custom Ruby on Rails web app, with a little bit of Flash mixed in for motion stuff. The data feeds come from the price ordering system the company already had developed for the printed stuff.

The company is one of what still seems to be a limited number of print sign companies making the shift to digital. I like what they’re doing.


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