When digital signage first emerged, it came in the form a basic television set with a VCR that boasted information about a product or sale.

As the signs and their abilities progressed over time, the screens matured into large, commercial grade LED’s or LCD’s. Today commercial grade displays come in all shapes and sizes. From flat screens to round screens to kiosks both short and tall, it seems there’s nothing you can’t accomplish with a digital display.

Throw in a well-polished cloud based content management software (CMS) and you’re well on your way to a digital menu board that can be a game changer for you.

Despite all of the available options in hardware and software, many restaurateurs are still not using menu boards to their fullest potential.

Why is this?

Plain and simple, they just don’t know what options are available to them. But we do. And we’re going to share some of those options with you. Sound good?

Alrighty, then. Here we go.

Digital menu boards are more than just digital screens because:

 1. Digital Menu Boards Increase Sales

Digital menu boards aren’t just glorified static screens. Let’s make that clear from jump. A powerful digital menu board is meant to attract, entice, and boost your bottom line. It’s meant to be used to enhance your menu options, not replicate them.

If you’re simply putting numbers and images up and calling it a day, your not taking advantage of the various ways a menu board can serve you. When done right, menu boards can create a completely different atmosphere that really does pull people in.

Here’s a prime example:

Tim Horton’s serves more than just coffee. The Canadian quick-serve uses various digital menu boards throughout their stores with bold lettering and graphics to grab a customer’s attention.

Then they take it a step further…

They turn one of the menu boards into a clock or, as they call it, a cookie countdown. The idea is to make customers aware of when the next batch of fresh cookies will be done. What makes this board so incredible is that it is a classic example of driving an impulse purchase.

If you can cater to the senses with smells and images, you’re in the money.
Or rather, you’ve found a unique way to improve your ROI.

This approach really is unique, too. How many times have you walked into a restaurant or café and seen something like this? The more unique your digital menu, the more customers you apt to attract.

 2. Digital Menu Boards Can Be Integrated

Panelists at the 2014 Fast Casual Executive Summit said that one of the primary reasons digital menu boards are so important to restaurants is because of their ability to integrate with POS systems.

That’s huge.

That means when inventory runs low, the POS system can alert the digital menu and the item can automatically be removed. No more disappointing customers when the fries run out, no more dragging ladders in and out of the workspace to change or remove the item.

A POS/digital menu board integration also makes upsell options more apparent to customers. Asking a customer if they want the large meal deal or an extra side is one thing, but giving that customer those choices with images on a screen is a different story.

People tend to respond more to images. So when beautiful, enticing pictures offer options (as opposed to a server offering options), customers are more apt to upgrade their meal or add an additional side.

Short of servers running around with pictures of extra pickles and onions, only a digital menu can provide this kind of powerful upsell option.

Both of these benefits (integration and upsell) are reaped by one of the largest coffeehouse franchises in America: Dunkin Donuts.

In 2014, the chain went from a 100-store pilot of digital menu board technology to a full system-wide deployment in 3,000 locations. That full deployment included POS and menu boards talking to each other.

By being connected to the POS, price changes in the donut shop can be updated instantly. Before this, static menus were often left out of date. When customers caught the price discrepancy, Dunkin’ Donuts offered them a refund. Over time, those refunds added up.

Jason Stuehmer, IT product manager for Dunkin’ Brands said the refunds were a constant issue. Originally implemented to offer managers incentive to keep their static boards up to date, it appeared to do more harm than good.

“But now, because of the integration, it’s a non-issue,” he told Jan Malinovsky, the sales director of NCR Corp.’s Texas Digital division at the 2014 Digital Signage Expo. (Courtesy: Digital Signage Today)

We may not think of these small refunds as a big deal, but they are. By integrating your POS system with your digital menu boards, money is saved, customers are happy, and more donuts fly out the door.

 3. Digital Menu Boards Reduce Perceived Wait Times

Look…

I’m not telling you a huge secret when I say that no one likes to wait. Especially today. We have instant access to information thanks to our smartphones and tablets, so we’re conditioned to getting what we want right away.

And while we can access our phones while we wait, one can only play Candy Crush or scroll through a Facebook news feed for so long.

Knowing this, restaurants are using digital menu boards on tabletops to entertain waiting customers. It’s like magic. The next time you’re in an establishment that offers these, watch a family engage in a game while they wait for their food.

Toddlers bounce less and parents smile more.

These magic time machines also take advantage of the wait by slipping in promotions in between games. The more an image in a promotion is shown, the more likely the customer to buy what they see.

 Want an example?

In 2014, the Texas-based chain Abuelo’s tested a tabletop tablet that offered games, self-service ordering, the option to join their rewards program, and the option to pay at the table. The tablets were so successful, they decided to install them in 39 locations throughout the US.

“We all swipe our cards at the gas pump or the grocery store,” says Kevin Carroll, vice president of training and operations. “It’s an appropriate piece of technology to introduce into the dining experience.” (Courtesy: Restaurant Business Online)

The implementation of the digital tabletop tablets saw their tables turn 7 minutes faster than before, a turn that allowed space to open up for more customers to buy more food and play more games.

 4. Digital Menu Boards Can Be Updated Quickly

I know we mentioned this a few times, but I think it’s worth diving into, especially because you’d possibly be breaking the law if you didn’t listen to me.

Well not really, but here’s what I mean…

The new healthcare laws are dictating part of what needs to show up on your menu boards.

Title IV of the law states that: that ‘Restaurants which are part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name must disclose calories on the menu board and in written form.’

Can you imagine all of the time and energy that goes into updating this kind of information on a static board? And once you do, wouldn’t it just rain on your parade when corporate sends down a new summer menu and you have to do it all over again?

Greg Smart, co-founder of the 14-unit Slim Chickens based in Arkansas upgraded his stores to digital menus in 2012 and is pleased with the results.

Smart likes the idea that the corporate office or the restaurant can customize the boards and update an offer or highlight certain promotions. Sales in all stores have increased and hours upon hours of manpower have been saved.

“It’s really fun, really exciting stuff to play with,” Smart says. “I feel like it’s really in its infancy.” (Courtesy: QSR Magazine Online)

Updates lead to sales, sales lead to increased ROI, and increased ROI leads to more opportunity to grow your brand through the digital medium.

Conclusion

In the restaurant industry alone, the use of digital signage is booming.

One by one, fast casuals and family restaurants are bringing in digital options to streamline the workflow and enhance the customer experience.

With so many options to order at the counter or at the kiosk, digital menus are proving to do more than a traditional menu ever could.
Videos are selling.
Pictures are talking.
Restaurateurs are profiting.

Thanks to the integration of POS systems with cloud based software, inventory is managed much more efficiently.

When a product runs out, it can disappear from the menu in an instant. When a new product comes in, it can be added to the screen in an instant.

This saves the establishment time and money, as we’ve seen in the examples above. And really, that’s what one of the primary purposes of implementing digital menu boards is about.

The other purpose is to greatly increase the customer experience. The customer is your ticket to running a smooth operation. Give them the very best in every way possible, and you’re winning.

How have digital menus improved your business? How have they changed the way you and your staff run the restaurant?