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Nutrition Law Leads to Smart Tech Investment for Pizzeria

You never know when a potential negative can turn out to be a big positive. That was certainly the case for California-based Straw Hat Pizza, a franchise group known as much for its fun, active environment as for the great food it serves. Straw Hat Pizza had been considering a move to digital menu boards to liven up its presentation and possibly spur greater in-store sales.

But when California enacted legislation (later adopted nationwide) requiring restaurants to display nutritional information (such as calorie counts) alongside each item on the menu board, management had the catalyst they needed to make this bold move.  
The key now was finding a management solution that allowed Straw Hat Pizza corporate to maintain control over branding elements while allowing store owners to easily make changes to certain areas, such as posting a greeting for a birthday party. It also had to be powerful enough to incorporate video as well as text and graphics.
After considering several solutions, Straw Hat Pizza selected Four Winds Interactive’s digital menu board solution. It fit the company’s needs because universal changes such as pricing or calorie count can be managed by one person at corporate headquarters, yet each store owner has the ability to customize the menu boards – adding a birthday greeting, for example – without straying outside the corporate guidelines.
Straw Hat Pizza began the implementation in a few test stores – some of which already had digital menu boards and others where digital replaced traditional, static boards. Yet, the company wanted to do more than simply move the old information (with a few updates) to a new format.
Beyond food functionality leads to uptick in revenue
“Although it’s very robust, we pushed Four Winds to the limit,” says Jonathan Fornaci, president and CEO of Straw Hat Pizza. “One of my favorite features is the use of full-motion video. We used picture-in-picture to run commercials promoting our newest items. We took advantage of high-resolution photography to whet appetites for appetizers while customers were standing in line waiting to order.”
The results began coming in quickly. Straw Hat Pizza was able to raise sales by 20 to 25 percent in some stores by showing video featuring new menu items.
“Showing a steaming plate of wings, or one of our signature Hot Hat sandwiches, coming fresh out of the oven on a 50-inch screen gives our customers ideas and helps them become more confident purchasing those items,” Fornaci says.
When the menu boards need to be updated due to a change in calorie count or other issues, the changes can be made on the console at headquarters, and then updated everywhere with a few mouse clicks. Fornaci says this method saves the company “tens of thousands of dollars” over creating, printing and distributing traditional static signs. In addition, the entire network can be managed with just 1/3 of a full-time employee’s time.
“Our business model is about the quality of the food and the quality of the experience,” Fornaci says. “The more we can show our menu items in the best light, the more customers are going to choose Straw Hat Pizza.”

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