Digital menu boards continue to be widely-adopted throughout the restaurant industry, with myriad benefits for both restaurant operators and their customers.
Digital menu boards and display screens have become increasingly popular not just in the restaurant industry, but across all public spaces. It’s become more and more difficult to differentiate digital screens from their older, billboard counterparts of 20 years ago.
This shouldn’t come as a shock given the myriad advantages. Digital menu boards give the ability to provide more menu items to customers and supplement imagery and video content to menus. The benefits for restaurant operators are widespread, but in short, these menus offer a better customer experience and increase sales.
Not surprisingly, this has caused a huge migration to digital displays, particularly in the QSR space, where speed is the name of the game. And according to a 2022 survey by Square, nearly 9 of 10 QSR operators who haven’t yet adopted them plan on making the switch.
While we still don’t have Back To The Future style sharks devouring us when we enter stores, digital menu boards take menu engineering to the next level. Let’s check in on where the digital menu world is today and where it might head in the future.
Digital menus have several advantages over the static menus of the past. They can be changed without going to a print shop, they can cycle through displays to make more use of less space, and they allow the ability to insert promotions of certain dishes, specials, or advertisements of any kind that are on brand.
These menu screens have been shown to have real benefits for restaurant operators. They’re preferred over static menus by customers in many surveys and increase sales by giving the opportunity to display specials, menu pairings, and addition options to customers. This availability to display more information to customers more quickly causes a big lift in average ticket amount while significantly reducing customer wait times.
The option to display menu items visually through images and video is also a huge advantage. A picture of a juicy burger and fries is far more enticing to the customer than the words “burger” and “fries” on a screen.
While the initial investment is high — the average screen alone can cost $1,000, not including fees like installation, media players, and software subscription — the ROI of these boards make the cost well-worth it as they’ve become an industry standard, particularly in the QSR world.
With this digital customization comes a big advantage: data. Looking at daily, weekly, quarterly periods of different display content gives restaurant operators huge insights into what items are more or less popular, what specials aren’t selling, and A/B test any number of metrics to understand the reasons why. Should a special should be promoted on a different day of the week or different meal time? Is the price set too high for a certain menu option? There’s no shortage of tests to run and data to collect to better understand customers preferences and make improvements.
Because of this data, dynamic display screens have the ability to bring menu engineering to the next level. Static menu displays don’t just provide less information, but give very little customer data, whereas their digital counterparts prove discrete and actionable information for operators.
Restaurant operators can identify their dogs and stars, and combine other menu engineering practices, from their static menus, and apply the same concept to the digital world. This can reveal a lot about your menu, price points, and in turn, improve sales.
According to AI Screen, a provider of digital menu boards, “91% of customers have indicated that these digital displays have significantly influenced their purchasing decisions” resulting in up to a 38% rise in restaurant sales. These benefits come from a few different areas.
First, these displays serve as powerful branding tools, enhancing brand identity. They also provide consistency across locations, which is crucial for customer loyalty, especially for QSR chains where patrons expect a consistent customer experience.
The flexibility of quick content updates is also a big advantage, where new menu items or specials can be added with a few clicks. This in turn supports restaurant marketing strategies, saving costs and ensuring accuracy. Beyond sales, digital menus enhance customer interactions, setting restaurants apart in a competitive landscape.
Tomorrow’s digital menu board will give restaurant operators new abilities in how they display their menu largely through AI. These menus will allow operators to display real-time price changes automatically, or display menu items based on geolocation, weather, and any number of variables.
These tools will also allow menus to be highly specialized to individual customers. Loyalty customers may experience hyper-targeted menus based on their previous order information, with drive-thru menus updating in real-time as each customer passes through the gate.
The digital menu has already been well-adopted throughout the restaurant industry, and shows no sign of slowing down, especially as the industry continues to invest more of their budget in tech tools and software . While the vast majority of larger brands have already jumped ship to digital menus, even smaller restaurant chains and local establishments are also starting to adopt digital displays as costs come down. Still no word on the sharks, though.
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