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Digital menus and kiosks are cropping up everywhere in quick-service restaurants, cafes, bars, and nearly every other industry selling food. Everyone from McDonalds to universities have implemented digital menus, overhead, as kiosks, and even as part of tables and pillars.

If you’re considering upgrading to digital signage menus, there is a lot you should know. However, your first question is likely, how do digital menus actually drive value?

Installing and setting up a digital menu system is time-consuming and expensive, especially if you’re going for touchscreen and self-service options. Understanding where and how you’ll see value back is important.

While the real value will change depending on your specific customers, traffic volume, and digital signage software, there are a lot of ways to drive return and save money with digital menus.

Educating Customers

Digital menu boards can help to educate customers about menu options, because you have more space and more changing content to display products, options, and variations. This is especially true of digital kiosks, which can be programmed to show customers menu upsells, cross-sells, and options when they click on a product.

McDonald’s uses this tactic to great effect, sharing scrolling presentations with menu options for highlighted products, adding highlight text to offer new items, and promote menu variations. Customers using self-service kiosks are automatically shown menu options such as toppings and sauces, asked if they want menu options like fries and drinks, and given a complete list of available options for each.

All of this happens automatically, meaning every customer sees most of the menu options associated with that product. In McDonald’s case, they claim it’s actually raised customer awareness of what they do serve, increasing diverse menu choices, and sometimes increasing the value per sale.

While this kind of benefit heavily depends on your digital signage software and how you implement digital menus, it is one that a lot of businesses see. Digital menus make it easier to put menu options in front of people and to highlight choice, so everyone knows options and can choose the upsell or add-on.

Optimizing Menus

Modern menus have come a long way from simply putting everything on the menu and hoping for the best. Digital signage allows you to promote products based on real-world factors such as time of day, weather, temperature, and even guests in the restaurant. How does that work?

When you create menu options, you link them to factors such as temperature, time of day, age group, etc. You then link the menu to databases including traffic management sensors and queue sensors, which can feed appropriate contextual information to displays.

Then, your displays can automatically update displayed products based on pre-allocated context-driven rules. Some things you can do with modern digital signage software include:

  • Take time-consuming (to cook) items off the menu when the restaurant is busy or the queue line exceeds a certain length
  • Promote kid’s meals when kids make up a certain portion of the audience
  • Automatically switch promotions such as showing coffee when it’s raining and ice cream when it’s sunny

Each of these updates would help you to keep menu items relevant to the audience, their likely wants, and their needs. Other programmable options allow you to optimize for speed and efficiency, reducing the need to take time out to prepare complex or difficult items during busy periods.

Contextual updating of this sort can become more specific as well. For example, restaurants in airports and train stations can create special menu sidebars showing prep time for specific foods alongside arrivals/departures, so customers know what they can order to catch their flight or train.

While not all digital signage software can handle these kinds of updates, many can. Using context-driven rules to program menus means that menus situationally respond to and update based on predetermined factors. This will dramatically improve how customers respond to your menus, because products will always be contextually relevant to factors you’ve determined as important.

Linking to Inventory

If your digital signage can link menus out to ordering systems and inventory management, they can allow you to create smart digital menus based on inventory. Here, menu order and menu promotions are directly tied to factors such as frequency of purchase, popularity, available stock, and lack of stock.

Options might include:

  • Automatically removing items from the menu when stock gets too low
  • Promoting products when stock doesn’t drop quickly enough or there is excess stock
  • Moving items lower on the menu as stock decreases
  • Highlighting products that sell the most to increase sales

Linking digital menus to inventory is crucial when digital menus serve as self-service kiosks, because it’s important that customers can’t order items that are out of stock. However, this will likely be handled through your order management system, which should link into your kiosk.

Speeding up Queues

Digital menus allow you to speed up queues in several ways, which will increase customer satisfaction and possibly increase the number of total customers you can serve before customers stop waiting. While options vary a great deal depending on the establishment, some of your options include:

  • Making digital menus visible from further back, so customers can better decide what they want while in queue
  • Offering self-service, so a large percentage of customers skip queueing and help themselves
  • Highlighting quick-to-prepare meals that won’t add to queue lines
  • Educate customers about the steps of ordering food (such as Subway’s 3-step process to choose bread, filling, and toasted or not) so customers take less time ordering

When digital menus can’t help you literally speed up queues, they can help you reduce perceived wait-times and increase customer satisfaction. Digital signage links to queue management software, allowing you to display estimated time-of-wait, estimated time-to-prepare, queue numbers and digital ticketing, and even infotainment. Each of these will help customers stay engaged rather than getting bored, which will pay off.

Digital menus are increasingly popular for restaurants of all sizes, largely because they offer real savings, improvements, and increases in customer satisfaction.

One of the largest of those improvements is the ability to instantly update menus, whether manually or using automation and programmable rules, to instantly update menu items.

Another is your ability to integrate smarter data, sharing menu items based on relevance, audience, weather, or time of day.

It also allows you to add dynamic content with multimedia (images and videos of menu items), dynamically switching posters and promotions, and even instructions, such as Subway’s menu which directs customers through three steps to a complete sandwich.

In every case, digital menus add value, help restaurants save money, and improve the customer experience.