Fed up with “boring” digital menu boards, pretzel chain Wetzel’s Pretzels has rolled up and rolled out new digital signage boards aimed at reducing (and spicing up) perceived wait times and catching the attention of unsuspecting passersby.

Wetzel’s Pretzels recently unveiled its new digital menu boards that showcase its “Wetzel Men” — animated cartoon bakers creating the brand’s signature products such as the Wetzel Bitz, Wetzel Dogs, Sinful Cinnamon Pretzels and more. The project took about nine months from conception to installation. Appropriately, the first of these animated digital boards was unveiled in November at Wetzel’s Disneyland location, in the Downtown Disney District in Anaheim, California.

“We believed it fit in well with the Disney atmosphere and it has been very well received — well beyond expectations,” CEO and co-founder Bill Phelps said.

The videos play in rotation every five minutes throughout the day. When they aren’t showing, there are photos of the food displayed on the digital boards. Each one-minute film kicks off with one of Wetzel’s animated baker boys pulling back a curtain and stepping to the forefront of the boards. The curtain is then lifted off to showcase a handful of animated baker boys who are creating various offerings in a giant kitchen to entertain those in line or passersby.

Phelps said the idea to create video-inspired boards (there are three needed to showcase the films start to finish) came about because he wasn’t impressed with how most brands were approaching digital menus. He called most of them “boring.” Wetzel’s itself had switched to digital menu boards “about five years ago,” but wanted to take things a bit further.

“We realized we could really use these to market our products better. There is more you could do with digital. We felt that these animated films really fit our brand, which is fun and irreverent. It also fits well with our Wetzel Men characters. When customers are standing in line watching them, they smile and that’s really all we’re about. It’s really that simple,” he said.

The project was led by Wetzel’s advertising agency O’Leary and Partners, in collaboration with production company Chop Shop Entertainment. Phelps declined to name the company’s digital provider.

The cost to franchisees is about a $10,000 investment, and there has been no resistance to the boards on that end.

“Our franchisees are on board immediately after seeing it. They recognize the boards’ value and consistency with the brand,” Phelps said. “We have seen tremendous results from both traffic and ticket.”

That success is driven by a number of factors, according to Phelps:

“It’s fun and it makes our customers smile and that makes them want to buy the products.”
The entertaining videos lower perceived wait times, which can lead to a higher ticket and more traffic.
It works for an impulse brand such as Wetzel’s, grabbing customers’ attention when they may not otherwise be paying attention. This is why you don’t see animated digital boards at many other QSRs, Phelps said.
Finally, “We eat with our eyes. If you show them the food and how it’s made, they’ll want to order it. It’s critical to show customers the food.”
The animated digital boards also hit on another trend: video marketing. Phelps said younger customers in particular prefer these types of visuals and respond better to a brand that has this modern touch.

The digital video boards are currently installed in 15 stores in Wetzel Pretzel’s 275-plus-unit system. Because of their early success, Phelps expects them to be entirely rolled out in 2015. They are standard for all new stores. Digital SignageToday

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