At the counter-style seating in the McDonald's at Wellington Trace and Greenview Shores in Wellington, each customer has his own flat-screen TV.Our take:
There are 20 televisions in that location, a number dwarfed by the 72 televisions at the McDonald's at Yamato Road and Congress Avenue in Boca Raton.
Out-of-home television viewing has become so common that Nielsen Media Research has started tracking it. For the first time, it released ratings last month for people who watched the NCAA basketball tournament on someone else's television. That measurement increased the total tournament audience by 19 percent.
"Every time we open a store, it's more TV-oriented," said Paul Emmett, the chief executive of Palm Beach Gardens-based Duffy's Sports Grill restaurants.
"TVs are really dominating the world, and ever since 9/11, people don't want to be too far from news, either," Emmett said. "When there's a busy news event, we're also busy. People go out to dinner to watch the (presidential) primaries. People are addicted. There's a magnetic attraction to these tubes, and I think it's clearly what the public wants."
Mark Watson, who co-owns 25 McDonald's in Palm Beach County, started planning themed restaurants 11 years ago.
Recently, however, he realized that television can boost business.
"What seems to resonate with customers is the ability to feel a little bit like you're in your own living room - only on steroids - where you've got news, sports, cartoons, or whatever it is you like, and you can select what you want to view when you're there," Watson said.
One might not consider this technique to be typical digital signage, however there's no denying that moving images on a screen tend to stop people dead in their tracks. For quick serve restaurants like McDonald's, there's a fine line that must be walked, between using the screens to get more people in the door and keeping them there too long, which is known to discourage other diners from coming in (plus, the people sitting around almost never buy anything else). The article also notes that while customer-centric TVs are still somewhat uncommon in most restaurants (bars and sports venues aside, of course), in Japan mobile and streaming TV systems put entertainment into the hands of millions of store patrons who don't even have to rely on the venue to provide it to them.
Whether or not US consumers will go the same way remains to be seen. For now, though, these firms are finding it competitively advantageous to offer entertainment in the form of TV to casual diners.