Digital menu boards can keep customers engaged with all that’s happening at your restaurant
Menu boards supply invaluable information to your customers. From the slice of the day and the chef’s signature dish to happy hour specials, menu boards are designed to get your customers’ stomachs growling. But, menu boards can do so much more, especially when you upgrade their status to digital.
Digital menu boards will show off your signature creations as boldly or as simply as you want while helping to keep customers engaged with everything happening in and out of your kitchen. From events, promotions and specials to nutritional information, entertaining videos and colorful pictures, digital menu boards provide limitless opportunities to connect with your customers. Plus, there’s minimal downtime when you want to add, change or delete content.
“Digital menus are a great opportunity for companies to toot their own horn and let customers know about upcoming promotions and events,” says Stacy Caprio, founder of Growth Marketing in Chicago. “Since the menu is not static, stores are able to rotate screens so customers can see both the menu and anything else the company wants to display.”
Digital boards can serve up your restaurant’s first great impression when equipped with strategically-curated content.
“Videos or animations greatly impact the customer, especially before they reach the point of order. A digital board will drive product awareness and deliver a compelling message,” says Matthew Forsman, sales and marketing representative at ITS Enclosures in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania.
Digital boards can make quite the statement if your restaurant offers a counter order area or “to-go” section, notes Allison Reinert, senior marketing partner at Cardinal Digital Marketing in Atlanta, Georgia. With a digital board, “real-time” marketing is possible, too. This capability can translate into more sales, better customer engagement and a more exciting atmosphere.
“We had a client who ran a pizza special promotion anytime the Atlanta Falcons scored a touchdown during football season,” she says. “We’ve also had clients run promotions on rainy days. These types of marketing campaigns can be easily ‘switched on’ the digital menu to help boost sales and customer engagement on social media.”
Digital menu boards provide a platform to help keep you compliant with specific regulations, too. With the ease and timeliness in which digital boards can be altered, you won’t have to worry about suffering unpleasant consequences from breaking rules.
“Another great benefit is the ability to easily comply with healthcare regulations, such as displaying calorie counts if you’re part of a restaurant chain with 20 or more locations. This saves you from having to reprint menus every time your calorie count or menu items change,” says Reinert.
Digital boards make adding and deleting information easy, which is key if you need to take non-performing menu items out of your kitchen’s rotation, and weekly specials only need to be added once and programmed automatically to run each week, adds Reinert. This functionality offers operators at least one less thing to worry about week to week.
The costs of installing and operating a digital board have become more accessible for operators as the technology has become more and more mainstream. According to Forsman, the past decade has seen a considerable price reduction in the cost of monitors.
“Although the initial investment of digital menus will (almost always) cost more than a traditional static menu board, over time the digital menu board will pay for itself — if the correct content strategy is utilized by the QSR,” says Forsman. “Since each daypart may have its very own special, a QSR can maximize profits by pushing highly profitable featured items through attention grabbing, visually appealing content.”
After the initial investment, digital boards may continue to provide cost-saving benefits.
“From eliminating the need to print paper menus every time the menu changes to incorporating an order confirmation board into the dynamic software, digital menus will most certainly save money over the course of ownership,” says Forsman.
When choosing which features you need in a digital board, brighter is always better, especially if you take your signage onto the patio.
“The brightness of a monitor — that will be installed outdoors — is vital. LCD monitors installed in direct sunlight require commercial grade, high-bright LCDs that are a minimum of 1,500 nits (or more) of brightness,” Forsman says. “If the LCD enclosure is not installed in direct sunlight, do not assume that high ambient light does not still exist. Be wary of LCD manufacturers that market displays as ‘high bright’ but are only in the brightness range of 700 nits. These screens are not bright enough for outdoor use, much like looking at a cell phone outdoors. A screen that may look vibrant on the indoors is not suited for the outdoors.”
In addition to the level of brightness the digital board projects, you must be mindful when choosing the software that supports it, according to Cory Keisel, QSR expert at Scala Digital Signage.
“Be very weary of Software on a Chip (SOC), meaning using the display’s integrated processor to run content. SOC is highly vulnerable to data breaches and doesn’t perform nearly as well as standalone media players. Unfortunately, SOC is a convenient way for display manufacturers to push you into buying more displays more frequently,” he warns. “Standalone media players also give you the advantage of backup redundancy and upgrading hardware features at a fraction of the cost, rather than replacing an entire display to add a feature. Any enterprise partner worth their salt will help you navigate through selecting the right media player and features your business requires.”
Never underestimate the value of being prepared before you schedule your digital board setup.
“A site survey is important to determine the store’s preparedness to install digital boards,” Forsman adds. “It is extremely beneficial to evaluate each location before an installation crew is scheduled to install new signage. Never let the restaurant/store become inoperable due to preventable mistakes and poor planning.”
By going digital with your signage, you can more effectively communicate with your customers. It allows you a modern platform that’s customizable to your restaurant, your message and your customers. Plus, information can be easily and quickly changed to ensure your customers are getting the most up-to-date details on menu items, promotions and special events unique to your operation.
DeAnn Owens is a freelance journalist living in Dayton, Ohio. She specializes in features and human-interest stories.