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An illustration showing a digital menu board

How To Use Digital Menu Boards to Enhance the Customer Experience – And Your Revenue

By Dave Taylor

The nature of the quick service restaurant (QSR) industry is ever-evolving in a constant rollout of seasonal promotions, limited-time products, and marketing campaigns. It bustles with fast-paced activity and competitors constantly trying to one-up their corner in the market.

While static, unresponsive signage and menu boards are tried and true, they can hardly keep up, especially when trying to coordinate across multiple locations. All those extra printing, labor, and material costs could be better invested in a smart technology solution.

Digital menu boards are an invaluable solution for any QSR looking to capture foot traffic, streamline the ordering process, optimize their menu engineering, and scale their profits.

From outdoor digital signage to in-store displays and ordering kiosks, the marriage of hardware and data-driven software unlocks a host of improvements to the customer ordering experience. Here’s what you need to know about digital signage displays – and why it’s the future of the QSR industry.

What are Digital Menu Boards?

A digital menu board is a display system that allows a restaurant to show dynamic menus on its screens. Rather than relying on printed sheets that are cumbersome to install and replace, digital menu boards can be instantly updated with the latest offers, or each time there’s a change in price or a special launches.

Menus are a critical decision-making tool in the restaurant industry and big attention grabbers to draw in foot traffic and bring customers to purchase. After all, 74% of customers report effective menu displays as their top priority when ordering from a restaurant.

Digital signage is often used in parallel with self-service kiosks, displaying upcoming orders and alleviating wait times. And when combined with the right POS system, can create a seamless digital experience that improves your customer satisfaction, and helps employee productivity too.

The What(s), Why(s), and How(s) of a Digital Signage Content Strategy

40% of purchasing decisions are made before ordering at the counter. Invest in a clear digital signage content strategy to maximize this opportunity.

How do they enhance ROI?

With engaging color, animations, and tantalizing visuals, your business comes to life on a digitized menu – weaving in your offering with the branded content. The personalization of the ordering experience will help informed decision making, lead customers toward more profitable items, upsell promotional items and update pricing easily in one integrated web-based content management solution that can be managed from anywhere.

With a reported significant 5% increase in sales among restaurants that have switched to digital displays, it is no surprise we are seeing more QSRs joining this trend and seeing rapid returns on investment. Here’s how:

Wider reach

Every restaurateur knows they can’t rely on customer loyalty alone and employing innovative technologies proven to attract new patrons is a vital investment. Interactive signage stands out among static with a host of capabilities that leverage moving images. Striking displays that merge compelling branded content with attractive and inviting offerings will attract foot traffic toward restaurant options they previously weren’t aware of. In turn, you’ll boost your consumer base and profits to match.

Reduced printing costs

Save on print costs with digital signage. All the overheads involved in the ongoing printing and installation of static menu materials are eliminated by restaurant digital signage. Gone are the days of printing hundreds of disposable menu boards and signage materials, posting them out to all your locations, only to then discard them at the end of each season.

Investing in the hardware and software of digital signage screens promotes longevity, standing the test of time as your menus and promotions change without the need for a large-scale update of signage assets – the environment will thank you for it.

Timely marketing

Unlike the pitfalls of static displays, you have the freedom to diversify your marketing and promotional campaigns with a digital display – capturing the attention of your customer at just the right moment. Events, promotions, and limited-time offers suited to one or all your locations can be flexibly managed.

Each seasonal promotion can be scheduled to publish ahead of time and end right at the minute to avoid unintentional misunderstandings. This way, you’ll never miss the opportunity to generate optimal sales for your marketing campaigns – and you’ll be able to entice customers with the latest offerings too.

Increase in unplanned purchases

Digital signage and kiosks have endless capabilities to upsell menu items patrons weren’t initially hooked on purchasing. Smart menu engineering has powerful capabilities to influence the buyer and draw attention to complementary items based on what they have already selected on the POS system.

Price-fitted best-selling items, combo promotions, or add-ons such as sides, drinks, and desserts are profitable items to upsell and can be strategically marketed to customers during the decision-making process using eye-catching videos, images, and animations.

Reduced mental effort

Helping the customer along their decision-making journey is a fantastic way to promote a satisfying experience, easing the burden of choice and reducing their frustrations when scanning a large menu of offerings.

Restaurant digital signage can suggest menu items by taste profile, display dinner menus, and popular dinner combinations, and help entice buyers while they wait.

Suggesting menu items by taste profile, and displaying the menu in colorful, engaging, and easily scannable chunks reduces cognitive load, bringing the customer to a decision quicker than ever before.

The “Dopamine Effect”: The Psychology Behind Personalized Marketing

Personalization helps drive customer engagement, higher retention rates, and can even boost your revenue by over 40 percent.

How to Use Digital Menu Boards to Enhance the Customer Experience

To take advantage of all the benefits that come with using digital menu boards, there are a few key processes to keep in mind – from how you choose images to the layout of your menu to getting the timing right for special offers. QSRs may need to dig a layer deeper into their customer journey to make effective decisions for their digital menu board.

Here’s what you should know about the customer psychology behind menu boards, and what it means for your future digital strategy.

Employing flavorsome, tempting visuals

Tantalizing visuals are a well-known tactic to draw in hungry customers with a proven ability to stimulate appetite.

Restaurant patrons can hardly resist a front-and-center image of a mouth-watering menu item in high definition. Add video capabilities, and you have impressive and engaging content for your diners. According to Brian Mennecke, an associate professor of information systems at Iowa State University, “The more vivid the image, in terms of movement, color, and accuracy of representation, the more realistic, the more it’s going to stimulate your response to it.”

Research from MIT suggested that the human brain can process images in as little as 13 milliseconds. A digital menu board can ditch the busy crowding of text to display a host of animated visual content and direct customers’ attention toward novel dishes they perhaps hadn’t initially considered. And if people are hungry, a vivid image of food on a digital display has an incredible impact.

With video, image, and HTML (or all of the above) capabilities, digital signage capabilities have endless potential to market attractive content to patrons that promote the ‘wow’ factor.

Effective menu engineering

According to recent research, patrons will scan your menu for approximately 109 seconds – just over a minute and a half – leaving a small window to influence their purchasing behaviors. Restaurant digital signage today needs to take this into account and use those seconds wisely.

Key profitable items or daily specials can be displayed strategically at the top or bottom of lists and through attention-grabbing visuals, increasing the likelihood of selection at decision time.

This includes limited-time offers, special promotional campaigns, best-selling items, add-ons, and other higher-margin items that are placed optimally to drive sales. Considering 30% of customers find digital menus influential when making a purchasing decision, leveraging effective menu engineering in digital menu boards is a superpower that restaurateurs are cleverly tapping into more and more.

Strategic placement for perceivable “less waiting” time

While customers are waiting to place or receive their order, there is plenty of opportunity for value-added content to appear on digital menu boards keeping customers engaged with branded content and subsequently reduce perceived wait times. It all comes back to a better customer experience, with digital displays known to reduce perceived wait times by as much as 35%. If you want to alleviate a long queue and increase sales, then digital signage needs to be a part of your restaurant operations.

Promo boards positioned at the entrance to the dining area, or digital signage placed throughout the drive-thru will give those waiting to order plenty of time to mull over their order, while those waiting are temporarily occupied. Dynamic animations, video content, images, and location-based brand marketing will keep customers actively engaged while they await their services, then satisfied to return soon. Some have also taken to using their restaurant digital signage to also display a social media wall with user-generated content to show how other diners are enjoying their experience.

Up-to-date, accurate information

The nature of the QSR industry is rapid and fast-moving – your signage, marketing, and technology need to be able to keep up too. When operating across multiple locations, digital menu boards can be up updated across one or all premises in real-time, taking the hassle and confusion out of making large-scale menu changes and price adjustments.

Your restaurant’s digital signage should support your operations and strategic goals. The entire operation can be coordinated remotely through a centralized cloud-based system, leaving the in-house team to simply focus on the service delivery they do best.

Prices, product availability, and descriptions can be updated at the touch of a button and integrated across all locations – dodging the headaches of widespread systematic changes and product shortages.

Strategic, time-specific promotions

The freedom and flexibility of digital menu boards and updates in real-time mean displays can switch between multiple menus or variations throughout the day to suit any time of day, season, temperature, and holiday-specific special offers interchangeably. Even better, seasonal promotions can be time-scheduled to begin and end without any disappointed or misinformed customers. Plus, it can be combined with behind-the-scenes operations so that staff members can anticipate busy periods and stay on top of workloads.

Whether you want difference or consistency among locations, an integrated tool is the perfect solution. From minor price adjustments to promotional campaign rollouts, digital menu boards can keep up with your business – and even stay one step ahead.

Brand consistency

Staying consistent across your menu and marketing channels can be tricky when rolling out frequent campaigns across multiple branches. As brand elements, products and messages evolve, it’s easy for static signage and other communications to fall out of sync, running the risk of advertising outdated special offers, price points, and unavailable items.

Consistent branding and experiences across stores are key to establishing credibility and leaving a lasting positive impression among your guests. Anything less is sure to damage customer perceptions of your business.

Digital signage engines are scalable, simple to manage, and have fast-to-action updates across as many locations as necessary. Cohesion among locations and digital assets will weave a trustworthy narrative of the restaurant and make all operations visible to the customer.

Choose the right digital signage software

Our recent QSR survey with NewtonX showed that 78% of businesses have put digital customer engagement as a top priority. The digital transformation is coming – and digital signage is playing a big part in the strategies of QSRs around the world.

It’s not just about having a video panel or order confirmation board to optimize your store layout. Features such as web-based content management make it effortless to manage branded and promotional content instantly and seamlessly across multiple screens and locations – and accelerate your impact. Digital menu board templates can also help you easily create multiple content options with captivating videos, images, and animated assets. Add powerful scheduling tools that keep you ahead of your marketing calendar, and real-time pricing updates that allow small and large adjustments without lag or confusion, and you have an one of the most formidable assets in your QSR’s arsenal.

A digital screen for your menu board will market intelligent content to your guests when it matters most. It will keep them engaged right from the moment you get their attention to service fulfillment – a recipe for an optimal customer experience.

Restaurateurs are reaping the benefits of technological advancements in their operations. Those that are quick to adopt technology that enhances the overall customer experience are those that manage to keep up in a dramatically changing market.

Marketing opportunities are limitless when you take the leap to paperless – will you make the switch?