4 Lived and Learned Menu Board Experiences

Living and learning from experiences are a part of everyone’s life.  Even my father who “jokingly” claims that he is right 90% of the time allows himself 10% room for error. It is simply a fact of life - no matter how much or how little thought you put into something, there is always that possibility that it doesn’t work out the way you expect.  Shed in another light, there are instances when people choose to duplicate actions they have done in the past because the result was exactly what they had hoped and expected. This is usually done in blind faith without considering what other options may be available to them.  In each scenario, we have come across instances that we have been able to rectify and/or guide in a more effective way. The purpose of this blog isn’t to pound our chests but to point out goings-on that we see all the time goings-on that you would probably like to avoid.  The following four situations have come up in the last 2 months.

#1- Where to go?

We recently completed an install with all of the fixings. We did custom menu boards, dimensional signage, window displays and framed graphics on the wall.  Throughout the process the owner was convinced that the dimensional signage was going to be enough for people to know where to order and pay. His thought was that terms like “pay here” and “order here” were a little bit invasive and could rub people the wrong way.  Needless to say, the upscale deli opened in the heart of New York City along with free breakfast and 50% off lunch offers.  As a result they were mobbed.  Very quickly they have developed a loyal clientele and have a steady stream of business.  After about a month in they took a look at their Yelp.com account. All in all the reviews have been great.  People are quick to point out the feel, look, and cleanliness, not to mention the quality of food.  However, as in many cases, businesses and people alike tend to focus more on the negative comments, for this is where change and growth is often spawned. Although few and far between there was a theme on the negative side.  That theme was that people were having problems knowing where to order and where to pay.  In a high volume location with people stacked 3-4 deep all along a 30’ plus display case, things can get hectic.  To put it bluntly, the owner was wrong, they needed directional signage.  Because of the length of their counter we quickly identified that a single sign for paying and a single sign for ordering wasn’t going to cut it.  So what we did was add “reminder” signs that hung slightly below the menu boards that had arrows pointing where “to order” and “to pay.”  Always keep in mind, going in customers know they are going to have to “order” and they know they are going to have to “pay.”

Menu Boards#2- I want more digital

The benefits of digital menu boards are well documented; how you are able to make quick and easy changes, the fact that you can test market and control inventory and most importantly captivate your customers and influence their purchasing decisions. Certainly, another huge part of digital signage is being able to create and change promotions on a semi-regular basis to drive sales.  One of our best digital menu board clients understands all of this.  I don’t consider him one of our best because he has purchased system after system but because he had a vision for his menu boards and he continues to execute it.  As we support our systems we are able to tell what kind of activity has been had on the accounts.  Month in and month out this gentleman is the most active.  Looking to add more digital displays he contacted us.  His idea was to put another couple of screens in each sitting area of his restaurant.  This guy loves the system, I could have very easily said “run the same card on file for payment?” and he would have said “yes” and we would have been off and running with another media player and software license.  But we got to talking.  He was using a 4 screen system.  While he was on the phone I logged in to his account and noticed that he had maintained 1 of those 4 screens for promotions.  It was a simple question, “are you looking to have the same promotions that you have on your left-most screen be the same promotions shown in the seating areas?”  His answer was “yes.”  Let’s just say we saved him a couple bucks by splitting the one channel on the media player so that it was distributing the same content to the other areas of the restaurant.  He had become a master of the software so he could create his own designs and he picked up his own LCDs so his cost to us was for a single splitter.

#3- Why is it taking so long to get through the drive-thru?

We have seen this many times.  People get so excited about their new drive-thru system and all the bells and whistles of the communication package that the most important part to their bottom-line is given the least priority.  That most important part happens to be the layout of the graphics.  Rewinding 6 months, we sold an average sized drive-thru and 2 headset communications system to a family-owned location that had been around for more than fifty years.  As is sometimes the case, businesses develop relationships with other businesses that precede you and sometimes certain services overlap.  In this case it was the graphic design.  They had worked with this company to clean up their branding, create a website and design a bunch of marketing collateral.  Understandably they wanted the same company to design and print the graphics for the drive-thru so that the look would be cohesive with all of their other work.  No problem, we offered our two cents and sent the graphic parameters over to them.  Now scooting along to a month ago, I had this company on my list for one of my “client touches” for the week.  I like to catch up and see how things are working out with our clients.  The good news was that they were getting a lot of traffic through their drive-thru, the bad news was that they were getting complaints about how long it takes.  My first question was if they were preparing food that was quick to turn around.  I was assured that they were, in fact they had rough data to support it.  Well unless they were getting CRAZY volume through the drive-thru there could only be one other reason, the layout of the graphics.  I asked her to send the layouts over to me and within half an hour they landed in my inbox.  To say I was mortified may be a stretch but we certainly found the route of their turnaround problems.  The graphics read like a short story novel.  Aesthetically, sure it looked good, but the font was difficult to read and there was entirely too much text.   It took a few iterations but after a couple of weeks we were able to trim the menu offerings in to bundles, introduce some combos and we utilized pictures to make identifying the different categories easier.  Having spoken with them earlier this week, it has made a world of difference.

#4- I added breakfast, what do I do?

Having established a solid lunch and dinner crowd a client of ours finally gave in to the requests and near demands from their loyal customers for a breakfast menu.  It took a couple of months but they got their menu together which meant they had to get some other ducks in a row to accommodate the new meal and its time.  One of those ducks was the menu boards.  There was one problem, they had no room to add new panels and needed everything that was existing.  In addition to that the panels were on a bulkhead that was already almost on top of the customers so they couldn’t go with one of those swiveling solutions that require depth. To give you some perspective, they had a four panel metro menu board series system.  The two panels on the left were lunch and the two panels on the right were dinner.  The industry standard is to leave at least 1-2” between each panel and in this case that number was 2.  Knowing that we couldn’t add any depth to the system became the biggest challenge.  After spit-balling a couple of ideas around and doing some drawings, we finally figured out a solution.  Using the 2” of space between the right-most panel and the one next to it, we fabricated a stainless steel piece to fit in between.  A part of this piece had a hinge on the top and a hinge on the bottom; what was connected was a double sided metal panel.  Now in place, when you look at the menu boards during lunch, you still have your two lunch panels to the left and two dinner panels to the right.  In the morning and prior to opening for breakfast, they simply have to take the right-most panel that is magnetically connected and flip it like you would a page in a book to reveal the breakfast menu on the two right-most panels.  Make sense?  In the end, a 2” wide piece of stainless with a double-sided menu panel was all that was needed to avoid breaking down walls or trying, probably in vain, to find another solution that would work.

Do you have any menu board experiences that you have learned from?  We’d like to hear it!  Contact us or give us a call today at 888-235-2579.