Is the Digital Menu Board being Underappreciated?

An alarming number of restaurants are installing digital menu boards without truly understanding how to unlock their benefits or even why digital menu boards are more effective than traditional signage.

Make no mistake—a digital menu board can be powerful but many business owners don’t utilize them in the necessary ways to generate an ROI.
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Are Digital Menu Boards Undervalued?

Digital menus are sorely undervalued in the business world due to how prolific they are. In many cases, digital screens in restaurants are the norm rather than the exception, making businesses that still use traditional signage appear somewhat outdated.

Unfortunately, this has led to the digital menu board being taken for granted by its users. There’s plenty of research out there on digital signage applications but these resources usually relate to digital advertising in retail or communication in healthcare settings. Best practices and menu-specific applications of digital signage haven’t been scrutinized as heavily or frequently.

It’s fair to say that businesses investing in digital menu boards are getting the short end of the stick. No one is discussing the CAPEX (capital expenditure) or the OPEX (operating expense) that goes into digital menu boards: costs that include the initial hardware investment, content production, labor, and ongoing support that every digital menu board needs. Without this body of research, businesses are investing in digital signage without understanding how much research, planning, and analysis is required to get digital menu boards off the ground.

This misunderstanding carries over to deploying digital menu strategies as well. Some businesses simply slap a digital picture of their menu on the screen and call it a day. These organizations fail to take advantage of the full capabilities of digital menu boards: visually striking rich media, moving text, video, and scrolling text — features that are integral to digital menu board success.

Digital Menu Board Strategies

When handled right, the average restaurant sees a 3% to 5% increase in sales from its use of digital menu boards.

However, revenue benefits can’t be gained from any old digital menu strategy. There are several specific tactics that business owners can leverage to increase the ROI of their digital menu boards e.g. social media use, interactive touch screens, and attention grabbing visuals.

Let’s review each and cover a few examples of businesses doing digital signage right.

Incorporating Social Media

Social media integration is central to many digital strategies these days, and digital menu boards are no different. In the seventh annual Social Media Marketer’s Industry Report, 92% of marketers agree that social media is a critical component of business marketing.

Social media allows real-time user-brand interaction leading to benefits for the brand in question. Such integration in digital menu boards can take many forms, including:

  • RSS feeds that continually update with user posts, tweets, or social mentions. These posts will make the digital menu board lively and reduce perceived wait times by distracting/entertaining customers as they wait in line.
  • Displaying customer posts alongside the discounts they’ve just used. This personalizes promotions and will encourage others to take advantage of it, thus increasing participation.

Is the Digital Menu Board being Underappreciated?

  • Restaurants can associate themselves with a certain lifestyle e.g. healthy living, and promote their brand by discussing and promoting that lifestyle on social media and augmenting it on digital menu boards.

In addition to flexibility, a strong social media presence gives businesses an edge when customers research and compare different providers.

Data on social media for businesses showed 93% of consumers typically purchase from businesses they look up on review sites. This makes it essential for restaurants to share their Facebook, Google+ reviews etc. on digital menu boards to build trust, upsell, and increase the dollar value of transactions.

La Taqueria, a Mexican restaurant in California is a good example of a brand leveraging the power of social media. In addition to Yelp reviews, they also display their own and followers tweets and Facebook posts on digital signage screens in the restaurant. Users are incentivized to review La Taqueria on social media by the desire to see their words up on the big screen. This highlights the inherent value that social-inclusive digital menu boards can have on customer engagement.

Leveraging Motion

Visual cues and motion-based content are some of the biggest advantages of digital menu boards over traditional menus. Eyes are naturally attuned to movement and specific visual elements over others. This phenomenon enables businesses with digital menu boards to direct user attention to higher value items and showcase revenue-driving promotions with eye-catching visuals.

Easy to Update Digital Solutions for Quick Service and Fast Casuals

Fast-food giant Burger King has made good use of this strategy with its suggestive-sell drive-thru displays. These digital signs are placed at the point of purchase (near the menu and speaker box) and feature brightly lit, intrusive messages that are hard to miss. Research on this concept found digital menu signage increased sales of specific promotional items by 38%.

For another example of clever utilization of video in digital menu boards, check out this collaboration between Wetzel’s Pretzels and Disney. The pretzel vendor, located at Downtown Disney, periodically features short cartoons on its digital menu boards that show off the brand and how each product is made. This strategy pulls double duty advertising for both the pretzel chain and Disney, all wrapped up in an engaging video that customers enjoy watching.

However, businesses should be cautious when creating digital slideshows; tackling visual marketing without the right strategy can have the opposite effect by disturbing the flow of the menu’s visual aesthetic. Hectic or garish displays will turn off users, making them less likely to purchase.

Interactive Touch Screen

Touch screen integration for digital kiosks and table-top tablets let customers easily customize their orders without any extra burden on employee staff.

When customers have a visual display of their order that can be adjusted or edited before submission, the number of order-related errors will decrease as well. This translates to better organizational efficiency and reduced employee labor—two important goals in their own right, but also two critical components of a quality customer experience.

For a good example of this concept put into practice, check out Pizza Hut’s latest digital innovation. By letting customers design and order each pizza with a touch screen tabletop tablet, the franchise gives each customer more agency over his/her order and reduces the amount of labor needed from the staff. Plus, this type of innovation is a big selling point for younger customers and creates serious benefits in word of mouth marketing and brand recognition.

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Johnny Rockets, an American diner chain, also recently adopted an interactive digital screen business model. By integrating its ordering system with tabletop tablets, the diner allows customers to order food, select music, play games, and pay the bill—all without the help of a server. The business claimed that its use of interactive tablets improved its table-turn time by 11%.

Appreciating Digital Menu Boards

If the above data wasn’t enough to help business owners appreciate digital menu boards, consider this research: 69% of restaurants recouped their digital menu board investment after only 18 months of use.

Effective digital menu boards are valuable. Whether they’re used to highlight social developments, promote special offers, or offer engaging and fun visual content that viewers can’t ignore, digital menu boards are setting the stage for a whole new style of in-store advertising.

Restaurants that still undervalue and underappreciate digital menu boards may come to regret it—as digital menu strategies evolve, only cutting-edge businesses aware of the trends will stand to profit for their use.

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