Don’t Make This Mistake With Digital Menu Boards

Stop using USB drives for Digital Menu Boards. Listen… I get it. You might be looking for a cost-effective way to do digital menu boards. So, you build a menu in Photoshop or Canva, export a jpeg, copy it to a USB drive, and then plug it into the back of your TV.  Don’t. Do. This.  I’m Peter Anselmo, CTO and co-founder of SmarterSign and I’m going to tell you why this approach is short sighted and can cost you more in the long run.

Reason 1: Difficult to change content

The USB method means updates to your menu can only happen if you’re physically at the screen.  If you have multiple locations then this becomes even more of a chore. And then.. think about where digital menu boards are located – usually are up high in awkward positions and in most cases are mounted against a wall. Every time you want to update the menu, it’s going to involve a ladder, some awkward reaching, and a lot of unnecessary hassle. 

Reason 2: Poor Playback Performance

The onboard software in these screens that plays media off of the USB drive is often not designed for seamless playback.  If you have video content on that drive, you may see loading or buffering messages which look unprofessional.  I went to this Italian market the other day that I absolutely love.  They have the best fresh ravioli and so many delicious prepared items.  The have these digital menu boards at their counter that are playing through a loop of videos and has the prices of their deli meats.  Before each video plays, there is one of those buffering messages that shows up on the screen.  Maybe I’m a digital menu board snob but this isn’t how I would want my brand represented. 

Reason 3:  Update fatigue

The harder something is, the less likely we are to do it. If updating your menu boards is a complicated, time-consuming process involving ladders and USB drives, you’re going to avoid doing it until absolutely necessary. This means you’re less likely to make the most of your menus as the marketing tool they can be. Running a special promotion? Got a new item to showcase? With a cumbersome update process, these opportunities might just get left by the wayside.  

Reason 4: Inability to Day Part Menus

Even if your menu items are the same throughout the day, consumer behavior is different.  They may be on a lunch break from work or running errands, so they’re usually looking for something quick, convenient, and easy to eat. Customers might opt for salads, sandwiches, or small portion meals during lunch. At dinner, consumers tend to go for more substantial, hearty options and are more likely to try new dishes. They’re also more likely to order sides, desserts, and beverages during dinner.  Your menus need to be be highlighting those items to match customer behavior.  If you don’t, you lose out on the power of targeted marketing, missing opportunities to boost sales with time-specific offers.

If you want more in depth information you can download the The Complete Guide To Digital Menu Boards” for free.  This is a free resource where we answer a lot of the common questions we get and share in greater detail a lot of what we have learned in the last 16+ years of helping clients of all sizes with digital menu boards.

Reason 5: Lack of Central Control and Consistency

When you’re using USB drives for each of your screens, maintaining consistency across all displays can be a daunting task, especially if you operate multiple locations. Without a centralized control system, you need to be in front of the screens to see what your customers see.   You may have incorrect pricing or promotions on your menu boards and not even know it.  If you are constantly juggling USB devices and versions of files, it because very easy to put the wrong content on your screen.

So, yes, while the USB route may seem cost-effective in the short run, it’s a strategy filled with hidden inefficiencies and missed opportunities. 

Okay.. this begs the question, if not USB drives, what’s the better option?

Back in 2006, we started SmarterSign to put businesses in control of their digital signage with our cloud based digital signage software.  Our web based software lets you create, edit, schedule and publish your menu board designs from your browser. 

Here’s how it works..  Instead of a USB drive, you connect a small digital signage player to your screen.  These devices are connected to the internet and run the SmarterSign Player software which will download and play back your content.  There are many different types of players and we have options for most budgets.  Some screens, like the Samsung Smart Signage Platform have them built in so you don’t even need any additional hardware.  Once you do the initial setup, you don’t have to do anything else at the screen.. all updates happen from your web browser.

Once you log in to SmarterSign Manager, you can build menu designs from one of our completely customizable templates.  From there you can add your own images or select one from the millions of images in our content library.  In the scheduler you can set the days and times you want your menu to be displayed and then publish it out to your screens.  Now you can make variations to your menus, change prices, promotions and really make the most out of your digital menu boards.

The SmarterSign digital signage software is a monthly or annual subscription with plans starting as low as $25/month.  When using digital menu boards as a marketing tool like it was intended, the additional revenue you can generate makes this a no brainer.

If you have questions about how you can make the most out of digital menu boards, you can schedule a time with one of our digital menu board experts.