How Digital Menu Boards Differ From Digital Signage

I should probably start off this blog by stating that I am going to be using some generalities when speaking about what is needed in each scenario. The truth is, only you would know what would work best for your given situation. With that said, the price is important but should not be the determining factor unless it is absolutely necessary.  When it comes to digital menu boards, we have spelled out what makes a true solution in the past.  As far as digital signage, typically this is made up of one of the two main components of digital menu boards. For the most part this is the main difference between the two; however there are other instances where one make more sense than the other.

The Main Difference

Think of the places you see digital signage other than in quick service restaurants; retail stores, Wal-Mart, the mall, etc.  Now think of the content that is being displayed on them.  In almost all cases the content is made up of internal or external marketing pieces.  Put another way, what is being displayed on the screens are advertisements that have been prepared outside of the digital system itself.  This is ad space that is being sold to products and services everywhere.  So when Nike wants to advertise something on the screen, they send the prepared content.  It is then loaded to the media player and scheduled to appear on screen at the predetermined and agreed upon time and space.

Now consider a quick-service environment where promotions, limited-time-offers (LTO’s), price and menu changes are more frequent.  In this type of elastic situation, relying on one person to make and apply these changes to any number of locations and scheduling them accordingly could be overwhelming.  A true digital menu board solution has both the content management and file management (scheduling) capabilities under one umbrella.  Therefore, when it comes time to make changes to any facet of the system, you can do it all from log-in location.  So wouldn’t it make sense to always go this route for digital menu boards?  Well most times, yes, but there are instances when it makes sense to go the digital signage route.

When to go the digital signage route for your quick-serve restaurant:

Again, this is rarely encouraged however there is a true market for this type of solution.  So much so that we developed our Origin Pro option around it.   This is where we do all the heavy lifting in the beginning and hand over a finished product for you to manage moving forward.  The “manage” part refers to the content.  The age-old digital signage cliché is “Content is King,” which it is.  With that in mind, you must understand the potential ramifications of this type of solution.  Future handling of the content tends to be much more onerous and less straight forward.  Rather than logging in to the software and having design tools at your fingertips, you’ll have to edit or manipulate the content in a 3rd party application like Photoshop or PowerPoint.  I can only speak for ourselves when I say that we provide a workflow that makes this very easy, however the x-factor is the end-users design capabilities and expertise.

(Wait a minute, I am supposed to be explaining when using a digital signage approach would make more sense… That’s right, back to that!)

Most media players nowadays can be networked so that you can control multiple locations at the same time.  You might then find yourself experiencing headaches like these here.  Let’s just assume that you would like to avoid these.  So if you have 3 or more locations, scratch the digital signage/media player solution.  Now, when it makes sense (drum roll) is when you have 1-3 locations in close proximity to each other and you have a TRUE designer at your disposal.  Most of these digital signage companies, us included, will get you up and running with your content.  Where problems tend to arise is when clients misrepresent their knowledge of Photoshop (for instance) upfront and cannot figure out how to manipulate the file and update their screens.  Going back to the company who provided the solution is fine, but you’ll have to pay for the changes.

Don’t be misled by digital signage companies AKA media player companies:

There are certain companies out there (we’re not in the business of slinging mud so we won’t name names) that position themselves as a turnkey solution – content, file management, integration, installation, etc.  This is simply not true.  Their answer to content is simple, unsophisticated PowerPoint templates that 9th graders can create for their History presentation.  Sure – updating the content will be easy in the future, but keep in mind that PowerPoint wasn’t developed for digital signage, it was developed for demonstrations.  Many will also offer “custom” PowerPoint designs but the end product is much the same.

Put it this way, if you lack the design expertise, and you don’t have someone around you who has it, DO NOT go with a media player driven solution.  The result:

I get to my store before business hours, open up my desktop design application and search my computer for the menu board files. Once located, I open my corresponding design file and edit it. I then open my display file to see if it looks right. The same goes for the picture changes I try to make. DARN, it doesn’t look right – which is often the case because the software doesn’t automatically wrap text or scale and constrain pictures. I now have to return to my desktop design application to manipulate my data fields. WHOOPS, I messed something up because I am not a trained designer, nor an expert with this complicated software. As a result I have to call technical support. OH SHOOT, they are not open until 9am but I need to make the changes NOW!!! Oh well, I wait and finally get a designer on the phone at noon who tells me to send the changes I am looking for to their email. A day or two later, they have finally freed themselves to make the change(s) FOR A FEE. The changes are sent back to me via email. I open the email, download my new design file(s), import them into my desktop design application, assign them to my player and pray. WHEW! It worked and it only took 3 days and cost $250.00. At least it wasn’t a week and $500 like last time.   

To Summarize:

  • There is a big difference between digital menu boards and digital signage.
  • There is a market for digital signage/media player driven solutions but you need to make sure it makes sense.
  • Media player solutions position themselves as turnkey providers which is simply not true.
  • Making the wrong decision in the beginning can have a lasting (negative) impact on your business.

Wondering what type of solution would make the most sense for you?  Give us a call today and we’ll do our best to help you out!  888-235-2579