Menu Board Terms From A to Z

The restaurant industry isn’t the most technical, nor is it the most confusing when it comes to the verbiage that is used, however I get the sense that there are instances when people on the other end of the phone are left scratching their heads when I use certain terms.  To help curb some of the confusion, I have created an A to Z list of menu board terms that I often use.  As you make your way through the list you’ll notice that they aren’t all exactly “technical terms.”  Some refer to feelings you may have along the menu board process.  And to be frank, coming up with terms for some letters was tough!

A – Artwork

People often ask, “What do I have to provide in terms of artwork?”  Depending on who you are working with, the answer to this question varies.  In most cases, getting an idea of colors and pictures you are looking for, accompanied by your menu items and pricing is enough to get started on the artwork.  From there an initial layout is provided and it goes on to be tweaked and changed until your approval.

B – Banners

Banners come in many shapes and sizes and help serve many advertising needs. Origin has solutions that will stand the test of time against the elements outdoors as well as those that compliment and reinforce messages being deployed indoors amongst more cozy confines. Much like counter displays and window graphics, nothing spurs spontaneous buying behavior quite like a well-designed and intelligently hung banner for a reasonable cost.

C – Content Management

Content Management addresses the following four areas when it comes to digital signage:

1) Where am I going to get my designs from?

2) When I want to update/change my items and pricing, how do I do it?

3) When I want to completely revamp my look, how is that accomplished?

4) How do I access or upload new media items and how are they stored?

The good digital signage companies have software that allows you to easily manage all of these areas.  The average digital signage companies provide templates that you can swap pictures and media items in and out and change items and pricing with relatively no problems.  The shortcomings typically arise when pictures and text characters exceed the predefined space.  The bad digital signage solutions do all of this outside of the software, leaving you at the mercy of their availability and responsiveness to make any sort of changes.

D – Digital Menu Boards

Whether it is Electronic Menu Boards, Electronic Signs, Digital Signage, Digital Displays, etc., they are all a part of the same family.  However, Digital Menu Boards speak solely to the food service industry where the frequency of changes is much greater than those in other retail environments.  This is what makes the content management capabilities so important.

E – Examples

Before deciding on any menu board system it is important to take a look at some examples of work from the company you are considering.  Doing so will allow you to determine whether they have the capabilities and creative wherewithal to develop something that will work for you.

F – Fabrication

You never want to be a square peg that is forced in to a round hole.  This is where fabrication comes in.  Whether it is done in-house or they have a strategic partner, it is important to know that you’ll be able to develop, customize and produce the system or accessory you need should the situation come up.

G – Graphics

There are several different types of graphics; backlit, magnetic, mounted, window, etc. The ways in which they are used vary.  Some graphics are a part of the menu board, some are for décor and interior design purposes, and some are used for way-finding.  No matter what their purpose, there are high and low end options that can work given any budget.

H – Header Strips

When looking at a menu board system, there are typically different categories that make up the content of the panels.  The header strips are typically larger and more pronounced to distinguish between each.  Examples of header strips are APPETIZERS, ENTREES, DESSERTS and so on.

I – ION System

The ION IQ all-in-one is half the size of any drive-thru headset on the market. It is super-compact, super-lightweight and brings unparalleled balance and comfort to users.

J – Journey

Once you have decided to move forward with your menu board purchase, there is a journey that you go on before you receive the package in your hands.  The “X-Factor” in all of this is the layout and revision process.  The length is determined by a variety of factors; how much information you provide, how clear is your vision, how close the designer gets on his or her first attempt, etc.  With that said, you should never sign off on a design unless you are 100% satisfied.

K – Knife Cutter

If you were ever wondering how all the strips and digits are cut so precisely, well you need not put any more thought in to it.  Along with production files, flatbed knife cutters are programmed to cut the strips and digits specific to the design layout.

L – Light Boxes

The use and type of light boxes range.  In most cases they are either used as menu boards or for general retail signage purposes.  Nowadays you are seeing less and less fluorescent light boxes and more LED light boxes.  The price difference between each is nearing par and the benefits and aesthetics of LEDs are leaving the old fluorescent boxes in their dust.

M – Media Player

The media players are what store and power all of the design files on to the screens of a digital menu board system.  The capabilities vary, but most have the ability to be networked and allow you to predefine sections of the screen.  Further, these files and sections can be scheduled to display at different times.


Menu BoardsN – Networked System

Networking your digital menu board system allows you to access your system from any computer within the network.  Put another way, if you have location A with digital menu boards that you want to make changes to, but you are at location B, you would be able to log on and make changes to location A from B.

O – Organization

The surest way to get to a quick approval on your menu board system is by being organized.  This is a two-way street.  The more clear and concise the menu copy and initial feedback is sent, the easier it is to make changes.  On the designer side, it is on them to check off the changes you have sent in a chronological manner.

P – Placement

The placement of your various signs is very important to the success of your business.  Take a look at the monsters of the industry - they have signs all over their windows that face foot and vehicle traffic and everywhere you turn inside there are promotions blasting you in the face.  This is not a haphazard process; there has been strategic thought put in to where each of the signs are.

Q – Quality

“Price is what you pay, value is what you get.” ~ Warren Buffet

A lot of people, me included, seem to lose sight of this fact at times.  We’ve discussed economical/cheap options in the past and for the most part they do offer relatively durable solutions.  What you want to make sure of is that you are getting equitable quality for the price you are paying.

R – Rail System

Many of the traditional menu board systems have a rail system for hanging.  These are especially helpful when your system has 4+ panels.  Leveling off a single light weight rail system versus each panel individually is much easier and takes a lot less time.

S – Signage

Signage is anything on your wall, hanging from your ceiling, indoor or outdoor that conveys a message or feeling.  Some may be decorative but, for the most part, they are used to display company names, way-finding items, promotions, specials, menu options and pricing.

T – Toppers & Wings

Most drive-thrus start their lives without these being a part of them.  As locations grow, sometimes their menus do the same and they run out of real-estate on the menu board.  Topper and wings can be added to increase the square footage and add space for more items and promotions.

U – Upsell

When going through the design process of your menu boards, you should ask yourself, “How can I upsell more items?”  The quickest and most effective way of doing this is to use combo graphics.  By bundling items together you automatically sell more of what you have.  Another effective way is to have “with a purchase of…” incentives.  For instance, “With a purchase of a bagel, get a medium coffee for $0.50!”

V – Validated

Hopefully this is the end result.  You have decided on a particular company and have made it through the entire process.  You have received your panels, hung them and they look great.  You can now pat yourself on the back for choosing the right company.

W – Window Graphics

As previously mentioned, windows provide ample and available space for catching the eyes of passers-by.  These graphics should be changed from time to time so that they do not become tired and unnoticed.

X – X Marks as Approved

When you have received what you deem as your final layout, be sure to cross reference the entire layout in detail.  Remember, the designers you are working with are human as well and are susceptible to spelling errors and oversights.  Once you have done this, mark an ‘X’ in the approved box and it is on to production.

Y – Yuck

This may be your initial reaction to your first layout.  Do not become discouraged and second guess your decision to go with the company you chose.  In most cases there was something lost in translation or the designer was taking some shots in the dark based on a lack of initial information.  It sometimes becomes a longer process than you’d like, but you will get there; patience is a virtue.

Z – Zeroed In

Usually after the second layout you and the designer become locked in on the direction you are looking for in your design.  This is a good feeling as you are able to visualize how the sign will look in your location and how it will impact your business.

There you have it, an A to Z of menu board terms.  In fairness, there are a lot more words for some letters and very few (if any) for others.  Keep an eye open for volume 2.  In the meantime, let me know if any X, Y, or Z’s come to mind.  Give us a call today at 888-235-2579.