Digital Signage Versus Digital Menus


At WAND we get asked the question constantly; what’s the difference between digital signage and digital menus? After all, when everything is said and done the bottom line is you have a digital menu on a screen so what does it matter if it’s from a digital signage company versus a digital menu company?

Oh…where to start.

Having pioneered digital menus in the restaurant industry, we know a thing or two about digital menus. And believe us, we’ve seen many companies use digital signage for their menus. Sometimes they can work (for smaller operators with one or two locations and a small menu) but for multi-unit restaurant operators it can be disastrous. Here’s why:

  • Digital menus are designed with food in mind. Would you be more likely to purchase a cheeseburger from a digital menu that has the words “CHEESEBURGER – $3” or a menu with a photo of a cheeseburger on a toasted bun, with a succulent burger patty, cheese dripping off the side and steam rising from the burger? Most people are influenced by visuals; in fact, studies have shown that a video or motion graphic will make the consumer change their mind. I think you know where we’re going with this. When restaurants switch from static to digital using digital signage they tend to simply create a digital version of their static menu. They don’t think about where they can enhance product photos, add videos, rotate promos or add animation. When you work with a digital menu company, they should be specialists in using graphics elements to make your menu more compelling so it boosts your bottom line. And they’ll help you maximize your digital menus so you’re using this real estate strategically to drive ticket prices up.
  • Digital menu media players support animation and rich media graphics. As we stated above, one of the biggest reasons to go digital with your menus is to use animation, rich media and motion graphics to make the food on your menus more tantalizing and compelling. You’re not using digital menus to simply list your menu items, you’re using them to create a certain customer experience, tell a story and entice certain buying behaviors. Media players that are purposefully built to support digital menus offer advanced technologies that others do not including the ability to use HTML5. When you’re using digital signage their media players are built for transactional content (think arrival/departure screens at the airport) and don’t offer the same robust graphic media support.
  • Restaurants need a Digital Menu Content Management System. This means software that lets you effectively manage your menus across multiple restaurant locations. By far one of the most overlooked benefits of digital menus for a multi-unit restaurant operation is the ability to manage all menus across all restaurant locations with the click of a mouse from a central location, or from a tablet while you are standing in front of the menu in one location or in your HQ lab. You simply cannot get this kind of control over your menus in any other way. You don’t want to be driving to each of your locations with a memory stick updating the content. Nor do you want to FTP into each site and sit there waiting for files to copy. With static boards, you send out your kits and hope they get put up in a timely fashion. But with digital you can see what is playing at each and every store, you can upload new assets and you can push out new LTOs or roll out new menu items at all stores instantly. This type of brand control and uniformity only exists with digital menus that are equipped with the content management software that allows you to do this. Digital signage companies do not offer this type of software – their software is designed for airports or bus stations or movie theaters. It’s not equipped to handle LTOs, dayparts or multiple franchise units with unique menu items and different pricing in each store.
  • Digital menu screens are built for restaurants. Menu boards are designed to sell. In order to sell, they need to grab the consumer’s attention! This is especially important in Mall locations but is a factor even in stand-alone restaurants. Digital menu screens need to be brighter than you are used to in your living room.  Digital menus use commercial display technology that is specifically built to withstand the heat and grease of quick serve and fast casual restaurants. Commercial displays are designed to operate at least 16 hours a day, and even 24/7 on higher end units.

The bottom line is if you want to use digital menus in your restaurants you need to ditch the idea of using a digital signage solution. There are a ton of vendors in the market, of all shapes and sizes, but they lack the ability to offer you the brand control, uniformity and content management you need to manage your menus, as well as the hardware to support them in a tough restaurant environment.