5 Goals of an Effective Menu Board System

According to Wikipedia, “a menu is a presentation of food and beverage offerings. The original menu boards that offered consumers choices were prepared on a small chalkboard. Foods were chosen from a bill of fare, described as ‘à la carte’ or ‘according to the board.’”  Reverso.net defines a menu board as “a list of dishes that can be ordered in a restaurant.”  Dictionary.com describes a menu board as “a board on which a food menu is written.”  A web definition from a quick Google search defines a menu board as something that “lets patrons see the day’s specials or new dishes.”  But is that really all a menu board is?  Simply a list of foods served at a restaurant?

Restaurant menu boards have significantly evolved from their original purpose. According to David V. Pavesic, Ph.D, of Restaurantinformer.com, “there are five goals of an effective menu board within the scope of today’s standards.  A well-designed menu board should:

  • be an effective communication, marketing and cost control tool;
  • emphasize what the customer wants and what the restaurant prepares and serves best;
  • obtain the necessary check average needed to realize sales goals and bottom line return;
  • utilize staff and equipment in an efficient manner and leads
  • to more accurate forecasting of the menu, sales mix.”

What an interesting concept – using a menu board as a tool to drive business results!  Now, let’s touch on each of these goals:

Menu Boards

1- Be an effective communication, marketing and cost control tool:

Your menu boards are one of the first things your customers will look at when entering your restaurant. Why not use them to your advantage? Here’s where you can communicate about specials or upcoming events, or market a promotion you have going on. Further, specifically with digital menu boards, you are able to change items, pricing, and specials on the fly which allows you to control cost and maximize your profits. For example, you own a deli and close in 2 hours for the day. Wouldn’t it be nice to pick and choose the days and times to offer ‘½ off’ your salads so that you are selling more of what you would otherwise be throwing out?

2- Emphasize what the customer wants and what the restaurant prepares and serves best:

In most cases, what a customer wants is what the restaurant is known for. When people visit Burger King, the masses aren’t ordering an ice cream cone. Brand recognition, advertising, and marketing are the main reasons for this, but the menu boards also do their part. By showing what their customers are looking for makes them inherently more likely to buy the product. This way, the restaurant and its workers can prepare to fulfill this order and optimize the entire process. By splashing dessert options on the menu boards and making them the focal point, there would be a disconnect between the customers (who went to Burger King for a burger), the menu boards, and the restaurant employees.

3- Obtain the necessary check average needed to realize sales goals and bottom line return:

Overhead and general operating costs are a part of any business and are areas that have to be given a lot of attention. The challenge QSR’s face in this regard is balancing their popular items with their most profitable items when it comes to their menu boards. For example, the fictitious “Bros. Pizza” is known (obviously) for their pizza, but their pasta dishes are more profitable. This is where you have to analyze volume vs. a cost of each of the items and the findings should be reflected on your menu boards. If Bros. Pizza is selling 3 times more pizza than a pasta dish, it would more than make up for the marginal profit gain that the Baked Ziti would net. So when setting up your menu boards, your signature items should be front and center with the highly profitable items complimenting them. This is often accomplished through combo meals and/or party platters.

4- Utilize staff and equipment in an efficient manner:

Recently menu boards have become more useful in educating people on how to order and where to order. For example, Chipotle uses a step-by-step method that pulls people down the counter to create their burrito.  Many QSRs are now using 2-3 sets of menu boards over 2-3+ queuing stations (POS) so that people line up in an orderly fashion. Using your well-designed boards to “herd the cattle” is easily the most effective way to reduce turnaround time and overall efficiency. Minimizing the “can I help who’s next?” questions and cranking people out one after another should be an objective of every QSR.

5- Lead to more accurate forecasting of the menu sales mix:

This is particularly relevant for new concepts. We see it all the time, what people think is going to sell sometimes doesn’t and changes need to be made. This is yet another reason why a flexible system (digital or magnetic) comes in handy. Although you are unlikely to change the staple items of which your restaurant was established, taking a look at sales data and tweaking and changing side items, appetizers, beverages, etc. will help you reign in on a mix that will work for you. Once this process has been fully rolled out you should be able to forecast your sales with confidence.  This simply cannot be accomplished in a QSR without a menu board.

For those who are in the market for their first menu board system, or those looking to swap out and change their current menu board system, you’re in luck. Knowing this information, you can and should now bear the importance of well-designed menu boards in mind as you speak with menu board companies.ady for a new menu board solution?  Shoot us a message at info@origindisplays.com or give us a call today at (888) 235-2579.