Menu Board Examples & Their Lack of Purpose

The title that you read above may be a little too aggressive. To be clear, I am not suggesting that menu board examples serve NO purpose. In fact they can be helpful when trying to get the creative juices going and for you to envision how something would look in your location. After all, how else would you be able to see if something will work for you other than by ordering a system sight-unseen? The instances that I am referring to are those where the consumer has seen examples but want more; usually by going to see something in person or through additional layouts that are specific to their niche (i.e. Pizza, Ice Cream, etc). 

ExampleI do recognize that everyone is different in how they make their purchasing decisions.  I have seen $50K of work sold in a half an hour phone call and have conversely seen hours upon hours spent on a $500 menu board system order.  My attempt isn’t to talk you out of the way you are, but to shed light on to what is truly important and it isn’t whether or not you like an example or not.  There are two things that you should keep in mind when doing your signage search.  One pertains to all products and the other is specific to digital menu boards.

All Products:
Just as everyone has varying ways in which they work towards writing the check, people also vary in their level of imagination.  So on one hand I get the person who wants to see more, more and more.  On the other hand, “what is the point?”  The chief concern should be whether or not the mechanics of the system itself will meet your needs from a functional perspective, will aesthetically work, and will physically fit in your location.  Everything above and beyond that is subject to the design of the graphics, strips and/or digits.

We are not unique in the sense that we will not print any graphics without our customer’s approval.  What this means is you, the client, will sign-off on a design that you like and not before that.  I’ll be the first one to tell you that I have seen many a menu board leave our production facility and thought to myself “what-the-H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks is that?”  Why do I bring this up?  Because just as you look at examples and like some and hate some, I am looking at these systems that were designed to someone else’s preferences and am being judgmental.  Meanwhile, they probably coincide with the interior design and work out great.  The point is, examples tend to infiltrate your brain and can cloud your thoughts when the look of the graphics is ultimately at the mercy of your approval.

So to the next person who says, “I need to see my stuff in a layout so I know what I am getting,” I say, “you will with an order.  More importantly, will the system work for you?”  If the answer is “yes” everything else is secondary.

Digital Menu Boards:
For whatever reason, more people want an in-person viewing of our digital menu board systems than any other product we provide.  I simply don’t get it for reasons described above.  Graphic designers can put together whatever you want (unrelated differentiator- menu board companies employ those with industry expertise).  The one thing that we can agree on is “Content is King” when it comes to digital signage.  Because of the now saturated market let’s assume that ultimately you’ll get the design and look you are going for.  Again, you’ll only receive what you approve.  Now consider Location A having as nice of content as Location B.  With that established the management of the system unequivocally becomes the most important factor.

To make my point here, I will liken digital signage to a Broadway Play.  You have seen “Cats” and liked it; you have seen “The Lion King” and liked it.  Both hit the mark from a presentation perspective.  Meanwhile, “behind the scenes” there are tons of costume changes, set changes, makeup work, etc. getting done.  Unbeknownst to you the viewer, one play ran way more efficiently than the other.  The stage manager of one is much more organized, she has an elite team working with her and has everyone on-point with timing.  Having this structure in place minimizes the chance of failure and moves the needle towards an optimal show.  Do you see where I am heading with this?

Remember, Location A and B each has nice looking content.  However Location A has content and file management capabilities, is fully supported, is accessible from anywhere, etc. and Location B has… nice content.  You have to call for changes, you can’t get in touch with anybody when a screen goes black, you get charged every time you need training; the list goes on and on.

It is imperative that you put your “operator” hat on when making your decision with digital menu boards.  Ask yourself, “What is it going to look like when I need to make changes, or add a promotion or schedule a new playlist?”  No matter which route you take, you will end up with nice looking content (a good show) but you have to be most concerned with what it takes to get it there (behind the curtains).

So go ahead, look at as many examples as you want but hopefully now you realize there isn’t much of a point.  Think about if you went to buy shoes and with it came a custom designed pattern.  Would you be more concerned with the look of the shoe, how it fits and its durability or examples of other patterns?  It will be designed specifically for YOU!

Are examples still important to you?  If so, why?  Leave a comment below and share!  Or you can email us at and we’ll add it to this blog.  888-235-2579

digital menu boards says:

I guess I half agree/half don’t with this. On the one hand, I agree that the function of the software/player/hardware needs to do what the restaurant needs it to do, plain and simple. The operations (behind the curtains) stuff I feel is likely more important to a place where the menu changes a lot vs a diner where the menu has been the same since Kennedy was in office. Whatever the needs are, the system needs to be able to handle them. On the other hand, examples help people to see the possibilities, and frankly I have been disappointed with the industry’s overall creativity and vision in using this technology. In most cases, menu boards have been used more as a powerpoint machine than a full-fledged menu board. Left to their own vision, the owners don’t ask the technology to do much. Perhaps a few more examples of what is possible might drag them out of this rut.