How to Create the Best Digital Menu for Restaurants

More and more restaurants are switching out their printed menus or handwritten signage for digital menu boards, or boards that display menu items digitally.

Digital menu boards Digital menu boards are an aesthetically pleasing way to showcase product items, run advertisements, and direct customers to the company website or social media page. Boards are versatile, easy to update, an excellent outlet to market promotional items, and a unique way to entice customers.

So, how can restaurant owners create the best digital menu? Here are the benefits, tips, examples, and best practices for implementing digital menus into your business.

Benefits of Digital Menu Boards

So, what are the benefits of restaurant menu boards?

Digital menus provide an endless amount of ways to showcase a brand, upsell items, and create a call to action. Other benefits include-

Quick Updates
Digital signage software allows for quick content updates at any time, and content can also be scheduled to appear/change as frequently as desired by the user.

Better Customer Experience
Menu boards provide information to customers immediately upon entering the restaurant. Signs have the flexibility to be positioned anywhere and utilized to show videos for entertainment value, informative graphics, or promotional ads to entice the customer.

Decreased Wait Time
Fast food restaurants can integrate digital menu boards with queue management systems to keep customers up-to-date on turnaround time or their place in line. Also, unique content on boards can work as a distraction to hungry customers and make the perceived wait time seem shorter.

Showcase Nutritional Information
Display boards can be utilized to show calorie information and offer lighter menu options, or alternatives for particular health needs (i.e. gluten free, vegan, or vegetarian products).

Entertain & Engage
Digital signage can display news, sports, and weather updates to keep customers engaged while waiting.

Grow Social Audience
Utilizing menu boards to simultaneously display the restaurant's social media platforms and direct patrons to the restaurant's website is a great way to improve brand recognition.

Digital Menu Board Design Tips

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Here are the best practices for creating the most visually engaging digital menu board for a restaurant-

1. Add Color
Color choice depends on how the restaurant is decorated. The key is to try and pick a color scheme that contrasts against the wall where the menu board is placed. A dark screen against a white wall, for example, can be a great way to attract attention versus the same color scheme that blends together. Also, try to pick just three primary colors to ensure displays don't detract from the message.

2. Use Video & Movement
Humans are naturally attracted to movement. Cinemograph (when one movement parallaxes against a completely static screen) is a frequently utilized advertising method. For example, pairing an animated cup of coffee with its price is a great way to utilize cinemograph and bring attention to the coffee, rather than the price alone.

3. Choosing Fonts
Consider how far the screen will be from the furthest point of the audience and make sure the font is big enough to be seen from that vantage point. Utilize easy-to-read Sans-Serif fonts, such as Arial or Verdana, as viewers can clearly differentiate between the different characters within those font options. Use large sizes and avoid fonts in bright colors if there is already plenty of color throughout the menu board design, as too many bright colors can detract from the main message.

4. Creating Action
The purpose of the menu board is to entice customers to purchase or purchase more than initially planned. If they don't know what they want, then the board's purpose is to help facilitate their decision. Include messages such as ask about our specials or visit our website for a 2-for-1 promotion to narrow down the decision. Leaving the call to action on screen at all times will help this message stay in the viewer's mind next time he/she orders.

5. Use Realistic Images
Some digital menu board designers mistakenly use stock or generic images in place of unique visuals that would better portray a company's brand. Utilize real photos or videos of the company's food/drinks so customers can connect with what is actually being sold. Photograph items in natural daylight to avoid using a flash, as a flash can remove natural shadows and give menu dishes a flat appearance. For inspiration on proper angling and backdrop options, look on Instagram and Pinterest.

Best Practices & Examples

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Here are some best practices for implementing a digital menu board, along with examples from 3 different restaurants.

1. Content Management & Automation
Larger fast food chains can't always delegate content updates to individual franchise owners. New promotions are often implemented on a daily basis, and trying to communicate with thousands of individual locations to update their content each day isn't practical. This is why it's important for larger chains to automate their content from one location, like the corporate office.

For example, McDonald's corporate office used to instruct each location when to update content for their menu boards. More recently, McDonald's has set automatic content updates for each chain.

2. Finding a Target Audience(s)
Restaurants need to have a content creation strategy before implementing their menu board. The strategy must include segmenting customers and then creating content tailored towards those different audiences. This allows restaurants to improve customer service, upsell items, and increase their revenue.

For example, Mamuska Polish Kitchen & Bar began to track who came into their restaurant and at what times. They segmented their customers into 3 separate groups- Polish expats in London, Polish tour groups, and London locals. They determined which group tended to eat at a particular time. Locals and Polish tourists typically frequented around dinner time, so menu items were tailored towards those groups on the menu board.

3. Strategize to Make a Unique Digital Display
Simply displaying menu items and pricing isn't always enough to generate results. Creating a strategy to market the menu with images, videos, or powerful messaging is the best way to drive the business.

To illustrate, Mitchell's Deli was only selling 4 out of 12 rotisserie chickens per week, and it was one of their signature items. They wanted to increase their chicken sales and utilize their menu board to do so. Mitchell's Deli hired a content creator who began filming the way the chickens were made in the kitchen. Then, they played the video on their digital menu board throughout the day. After a month they were selling out of all of their chickens on a daily basis.