So digital food labels look like a pretty amazing addition to your operation, right? But you might have a few concerns remaining, and one of those is probably the price tag.

It’s true that swapping to these e-ink label devices has an upfront cost. When you count up how many labels you might need across your locations, it seems like a big investment.

But that’s exactly what it is: an investment. And it’s one that will ultimately save your operation a surprising amount of money, time, waste, and plenty of other things that affect your bottom line

Here are just a few of the ways digital food labels can improve your return on investment (ROI):

1. Reduce manual labor

The biggest drawback to print labels is that almost everything about them must be done manually, and this costs money. In the retail world, where electronic shelf labels have gained popularity, manual label changes cost global businesses $104 billion in 2017 alone.

To bring this back to the foodservice industry, labeling your dishes in helpful ways to your customers may require managing many data points, like item name, allergens, a description, ingredients, nutritionals, and more. 

If just one of these points of information change, such as a food item isn’t available or an ingredient changes that impacts an allergen, you have to go to your computer to make those label updates, submit it to print, and get it put out on the line. And that’s the simplest that process might look like.

Digital labels eliminate this tedium. Just place them by your dishes once and let them run until their battery needs to be replaced (5-year battery life!) or if the label itself needs to be moved. With labels connected to your menu data and all updates pushed via the cloud, digital food labels are managed remotely, significantly reducing your manual labor needs and costs.

2. Eliminate printing costs

When you run a printed label program, it’s not just the paper you have to think about buying and replacing. You also have to consider ink and toner replacements, equipment maintenance and repair, disposable label attachments, and more. 

All this can add up to a hefty monthly cost. Some operations report that they spend up to $100 per month on paper alone. That means they’re spending at least $6000 on paper labels over the course of five years (that number doesn’t even factor in the other equipment noted above). 

So while the startup cost of digital labels may seem high, if you can beat the long-term cost of your print label program, they’re worth the investment. And even if you just meet that cost, you’d still be reducing headaches in other areas, such as…

3. Save staff time

Your team probably spends more hours dealing with paper labels than you’d like to admit. Whether it’s a daily or monthly chore, the amount of time to manage labels goes beyond simply printing and replacing them.

As noted earlier, the manual process of updating paper labels is very involved and uses up your team’s valuable time every day or week as they make their rounds physically checking, retyping, printing, and updating labels. Let's say it takes just one employee 30 minutes a day to work on print labels. At $15/hr., this comes out to at least $150 per month (~$1800 per year) spent on maintaining print labels alone.

And don’t forget human error, which is highly likely to happen if your staff is rushing within those 30 minutes! What if there’s an incorrectly printed ingredient or allergen, or a label is placed on the wrong item or station? What if there’s a printer error and your team has to figure out how to fix it? 

In the end, what seems like a simple task actually starts to add up when you factor in all these potential problems with paper labels.

What’s the ROI of Digital Food Labels? (Or Why Print Labels Are a Drain)

4. Mitigate employee burnout

Let’s face it: no foodservice employee likes to sit and replace paper labels all the time. It’s a tedious, dreaded task for basically every member of your team that is involved. Eventually, someone gets tired of doing it (or they leave your operation), and the chore is passed on to someone else.

It’s also possible you don’t have enough employees to deal with print labels as it is. The labor shortage is still, unfortunately, affecting foodservice operations across the country, and with so little time across the team you do have, you don’t want to risk any of them burning out on “label duty” each day.

Your employees signed up to focus on your customers and your food, not to become a labeler. This is a big area where digital food labels can improve your ROI: when you take this tedium and worry off employees’ hands, they can focus on the real work they’re passionate about, which will improve culture, morale, and ultimately your operation’s success.

5. Sustain the environment

Digital food labels help your ROI by reducing your environmental impact, too. Paper label waste has an impact on your bottom line because you’re essentially purchasing a product (paper or even printable plastics) and then just throwing it out because you’re unable to reuse it.

Digital labels are more cost-efficient over time because they don’t need to be replaced every time there’s a food or menu change (like printed labels do). Plus, they run on long-lasting batteries, further reducing your carbon footprint so you don’t have to rely on the cost or use of other energy sources. 

And ultimately, customers want to dine at places that are conscious about the environment. When you show you’ve invested efforts into reducing your carbon footprint, they’re more likely to dine with you and improve your overall ROI. Which leads us to… 

What’s the ROI of Digital Food Labels? (Or Why Print Labels Are a Drain)

6. Improve customer experience and trust

Last but not least, you can’t rule out the possibility that you’re losing money from customers who dislike incorrectly labeled, unattractive, or even just old print labels. In fact, 57% of customers in a retail setting lose trust in paper labels due to flaws with manual changes.

The ROI of this situation can be shown with a simple example. If you charge on average about $10 per meal, and at least 3 customers per day don’t purchase one because of your print labels, what is the total revenue you’re losing each month assuming a 5-day week? That’s $600 a month, or $7200 per year!

Customers don’t trust printed labels as much as they used to, so if you’re not able to support posting the information they need (allergen icons, ingredients, etc.), customers who need this information may pass on buying. This sacrificed customer experience, while seemingly intangible, can quickly impact your bottom line.

At this point, the cost of digital food labels doesn’t look so bad! Over the entire lifespan of your digital food labels (the replaceable batteries alone last 5 years, the devices themselves far longer!), you could ultimately be saving thousands of dollars, all while getting rid of the tedium, waste, and time of paper labels. 

So what are you waiting for?

Learn how digital labels could work for you!