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10 Tips for Designing an Effective Digital Menu Board

In the age of digitalization, restaurants, cafes, and other businesses in the food service industry are switching from traditional menu displays to dynamic, visually appealing digital menu boards. Not only do these interactive displays modernize your establishment, but they can also streamline your operations, boost sales, and improve customer satisfaction. However, creating an effective digital menu board that balances cost and efficiency can be challenging. Below, we’ve outlined ten tips that can help you design a digital menu board that’s both cost-effective and functional.

1. Understand Your Opportunity

The most important thing to understand is that a menu board is not just an operational way to present your offering. A digital menu board is a marketing tool to present your products. A successful digital menu board is tailored to your business opportunity. This means understanding your audience through time and making sure your menu is taking full advantage of the opportunity to provide a refined marketing message. Understanding your customer’s demographics, preferences, and behavior can guide your design process and content selection, allowing for an engaging and user-friendly experience.

For example, If you own a cafe in a business district that caters to busy professionals during their lunch break, your digital menu board should feature quick, easy-to-eat items with a clear and fast ordering process during this day-part.

We have found that businesses who take advantage of the ability to dynamically change their menu on a schedule have had the greatest results. This feature of digital menu boards is one of the key differences between digital menu boards and their static predecessors.

2. Choose High-Contrast Colors and Legible Fonts

Your digital menu board should be easy to read from a distance. Opt for high-contrast color schemes and legible fonts to ensure your menu items and prices are clear and visible. You may be tempted to use highly stylized fonts and typography to present your brand in a unique way. It is important to balance this with readability. If your customers are struggling to read what is on your menu they will not be able to quickly and easily order.

3. Use High-Quality Images

Investing in high-quality images can significantly enhance the appeal of your digital menu board. These images can draw in customers and stimulate their appetites, leading to increased sales. More and more we are seeing that people order with their eyes. If they see an appealing item on your digital menu they will be more inclined to order that item. Conversely, if they see an image that is not appealing they will opt out or even not order at all. 

PRO TIP – One thing we have learned is that if you don’t have high quality images of your food you can opt for beautiful pictures of the ingredients such as vegetables and herbs.  This can help enhance the visual appeal of your menus without the need for actual food photography.

4. Keep it Simple and Organized

Overloading your digital menu board with too much information can confuse customers. Keep your design simple, well-organized, and easy to navigate. A clean, minimalist design can also lower your digital menu board cost, as less complex designs typically require less graphic design work and fewer resources to implement.

One of the successful processes that SmarterSign has used is to use wire-frames prior to any menu design. A wire-frame is basically a blueprint of where items can be placed and how much space each will occupy.  This can help you prioritize high value items as well as get a clear understanding of how much content you can or should fit on your menus.

5. Update Content Regularly

One of the key advantages of digital menu boards is the ease with which you can update content. Using this benefit will allow you to highlight daily specials, seasonal items, or limited-time offers to keep your menu fresh and exciting. Digital menu boards allow you to iterate and test often without needing to reprint menus. We recommend using this feature to test new ideas and see how you can get the most out of your menu marketing.

6. Optimize for Readability and Scannability

Arrange your menu items in a way that guides the customer’s eye. Placing high-profit items or specials in ‘hot spots’ — areas that naturally attract the eye — can enhance your sales performance. At SmarterSign we use a tool called the Prominence Pyramid™ which allows you to organize your content into categories of importance for your business. For example, you may want to use a prominent portion of your screens for bundles or combos in order to improve your average ticket size.

7. Consider the Operational Costs of Your Digital Menu Board

Consider the time and resources required to regularly update your digital menu board’s content. While the flexibility to make instant changes can be a major advantage, it’s important to ensure you have the necessary manpower or automation capabilities to keep your content fresh and relevant without draining too much time or adding hidden costs. This has always been a focus for SmarterSign. It is the primary reason that our software is designed for ease of use and no need for technical or design expertise..

8. Make Use of Dynamic Content

Digital menu boards allow for dynamic content like videos, animations, and rotating menu items. This type of content can grab customers’ attention and create a memorable dining experience. 

PRO TIP – Just because you can use a lot of video and animation doesn’t mean you should. Putting too many moving items on your digital menu boards can be distracting and annoying. Always use balance and discretion in your use of these engagement elements. A good rule of thumb is to use no more than one animation per menu board or screen.

9. Incorporate Your Branding

Ensure your digital menu board aligns with your brand’s image and identity. Consistent branding across all customer touch-points enhances brand recognition and loyalty.  Digital Menu Boards give you unlimited options when it comes to design. Make sure that your menu design is consistent with your brand and helps enhance the overall customer experience. Keep in mind that incorporating your brand does not necessarily mean putting your logo on the screen. The customer is already in your restaurant in most situations or your logo is prominently displayed in the fixtures of your space. The key is that the menu boards match and complement the aesthetic of your brand.

10. Test and Get Feedback

One of the most important benefits of digital menu boards is the ability to quickly modify your menus. In order to take advantage of this, it is vital that you iterate often to make sure your menus are optimized for results. You can do this in a number of ways but the key is to refine your approach often. Collect feedback from customers and staff to identify areas of improvement. Make changes quickly and test the outcomes.

In the digital age, a well-designed digital menu board is a powerful tool that can enhance your customers’ dining experience while boosting your sales. While there are many factors to consider when designing your board, including digital menu board cost, the key is to create a design that is clear, engaging, and consistent with your brand. With these tips, you’re well on your way to designing an effective and cost-efficient digital menu board that will keep customers coming back for more.