Digital menu boards are still a relatively new technology and many limited service restaurants have yet to install them. However, for those restaurants that have made the switch from static to digital menus, we’ve noticed there are several common mistakes that are often made when deploying them for the first time.
The mistakes are minor and easy to make, but they can make a big impact on whether or not you’re fully maximizing the digital menu boards installed in your restaurant.
Here are the six most common digital menu board mistakes we see here at WAND:
1. Your digital menus are a digital copy of your static boards. The biggest mistake we see, by far, is restaurant operators who make their digital boards look exactly the same as a static board. One of the greatest benefits of digital menus is the ability to use animation and rich media to make your menus pop and sizzle. We’re not saying you need to animate every cheeseburger or pizza slice, but you should strategize about your digital menus and think of them differently as you do your static boards. If you have difficulty recognizing the difference between static menus in one store and digital menus in another, then it’s probably a good idea to re-work your digital menus.
2. You’ve over animated your boards. As we referred to in the above point, you definitely don’t want your boards to be so animated that customers have a hard time following everything that’s going on. You’ll want to animate your boards strategically to match your menu design, enhance your guest experience, and promote your most profitable menu items. It may be as simple as animating your highest margin items so the eye is drawn to them more quickly. Or it might be as impactful as doing a 10 second full digital takeover (all boards suddenly displaying a special promo or LTO) to really push a product hard. It all depends on what strategy will work best for your restaurant.
3. You haven’t placed your menu boards strategically. Digital menu boards are unlike static boards in many ways, one of which is they need to be placed strategically to capitalize on traffic patterns, avoid glare, provide directional/instructional signage, etc. Some of the common mistakes we’ve seen over the years are; menus not angled for optimal viewing, menus in the direct path of sunlight and glare and not enough menus (digital POPs are increasingly popular at the front of lines to push high profit or LTO items). Be sure to conduct a thorough assessment BEFORE installing your digital menus so you know exactly where and how to place them.
4. You haven’t planned out your content schedule. Another awesome benefit of digital menus is you can update your menus way more than you ever could with static. This means you can test more products, push more LTOs, include more dayparts (second breakfast anyone?), capitalize on holidays or weather conditions and much more. All this sounds great, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a schedule mapped out in advance. We recommend mapping your content out 3-6 months ahead of schedule to make sure your digital menus are ready to be updated easily when it’s time to capitalize on those peak promo or shopping periods. Be sure to consider when you will implementing a full menu refresh, introducing a line of new items or adding calorie counts to your boards when making your schedule.
5. You’re cutting costs in the wrong places. Digital menu boards are an investment. The good news is the return is there – studies show most companies recoup their costs in 12-18 months. Unfortunately, a common mistake we see is people trying to cut costs in the wrong places. Our recommendation is don’t cut costs on hardware (you’ll want commercial grade screens and reliable media players) or software (jump drives won’t cut it if you’re a multi-unit restaurant operator; you need an enterprise solution that lets you manage multiple restaurant locations at once). However, you can cut costs by bundling your fees (ask to pay service fees annually instead of monthly), signing a multi-year contract (usually a discount is offered when you do this) or working with an exclusive provider to secure a corporate discount. You can also save creative costs by using a software system you can easily upload your own content into, rather than having a third-party create your menus for you.
6. You’re too late to the party. Digital menus are here and they are here to stay. Not just indoors but the growing opportunity is digital in the drive-thru as well. When the FDA caloric count menu labeling mandate hit the East coast a few years ago a huge number of restaurant operators decided to make the jump from static to digital and it seems to have spread like wildfire. Additionally, many mall operators are now requiring stores to go digital. And even when it’s not required as soon as one restaurant goes digital the rest soon follow. You don’t want to be scrambling to catch up while watching the competition steal your customers.
Have more questions about going digital? Download our checklist on 25 questions to ask before you make the switch.