If you’re distraught over the news that 30th Street Station is losing its iconic Amtrak flippy board, here’s a useful tip: Start getting your lunch at Honeygrow.
The Philly-based fast casual is testing out split-flap displays as a new way to tell customers their food is ready.
Custom-built beta versions are already installed in three branches of the healthy-eating chain — Center City, Temple and Wilmington, Del. — and plans call for them to make their way into all 13-plus locations. Operationally, the boards work just like the train station ones, except instead of destination and departure times, the rotating characters show order numbers. Currently, the only way to know when to approach the counter and snag your box of noodles or rice is to listen carefully for when a worker behind the counter shouts it out.
That system is not ideal, admits Honeygrow founder Justin Rosenberg. Flippy boards FTW.
“One of the problems we had,” he told the audience at Philly Mag’s Thinkfest, “is that when your order is up, either you don’t hear [when it’s called] or you’re having a conversation with someone and it’s interrupted.”
So he and his team brainstormed. At first they were thinking of installing flatscreen TVs to display order numbers, but then they hit on the much more interesting option of split-flaps.
Rosenberg turned to Oat Foundry, a Bensalem engineering firm that specializes in “making cool stuff.” Led by Drexel grad Mark Kuhn, Oat Foundry already has many clients in the local hospitality industry. It’s responsible for those giant logo medallions on the walls at Saxbys coffee shops, the pig-emblazoned lock-box behind the counter at DiNic’s Pork & Beef and the mobile food prep cart at Greensgrow Farms.
To make the Honeygrow flippy boards, Kuhn tried reaching out to Amtrak for help, but didn’t end up receiving much guidance. No matter, his team figured it out. Plus, unlike the 30th Street Station clunker, Oat Foundry’s product does not run on Windows 95.
Even though the boards are still being tweaked, Rosenberg is already excited about them.
“When your order’s up,” he explained, “It works with our [point-of-sale system]. You push a button and whooshshshshshsh…and then your number’s up there.”
A stop in to the 16th and Sansom outpost during busy Friday lunch showed a working split-flap display. Usually filled with rows of three-digit order numbers, the board sometimes did a quick switch to show friendly messaging like “Welcome to Honeygrow,” before flipping back over to numbers.
Unfortunately, almost no one was paying attention. Too bad, because the numbers shouted across the counter in the small space added to an already uncomfortable din. Rosenberg imagines that when the boards are fully implemented, things will quiet down immensely. Plus, it’s a fun project.
“Ultimately, I really love being around creative people,” he said. “It’s just one little thing, [but it] makes a difference.”