Menu Boards, Etc: Uncommon Questions That Should Be Asked

What I am about to talk about isn’t unique to the menu board industry; it is done time after time when making purchasing decisions.  Assumptions are made based on things you have read, seen or heard, but the personal experiences aren’t known until the process is complete.  Unlike buying a loaf of bread or a new pair of shoes, buying a menu board, drive-thru, communications, or digital signage system is either a first-time occurrence or something done rather infrequently.  This is why making assumptions or believing everything you hear is a dangerous proposition.  Each product could have a list on to their own, however I’ll focus on some general questions which should be asked and that will help you maneuver past many unforeseen surprises.

Ask Questions

What is the system made of?

When you look at rendering ‘A’ of a typical menu board against rendering ‘B’ of a similar type menu board it could be difficult to distinguish between the two.  “A backlit menu board is a backlit menu board”- NO!  I can tell you that there are systems out there that are constructed with vacuum formed plastic and others of metal.  Which would you prefer?  And if you think there’d be a big discrepancy in price, you’d be wrong.

What is lighting source?

Amazingly enough, there are still a lot of companies that are putting fluorescent light bulbs in their menu boards and drive-thrus.  In a day and age where the price of LEDs has drastically decreased, this surprises me.  From a consumer standpoint this could have substantial implications regarding maintenance and your draw on electric over time.

What are the warranty details?

It isn’t enough to ask how long the system is covered under warranty.  Quite often different parts of a system are warrantied for different periods of time.  For instance, the length the graphics would be covered would differ from the physical structure and lighting.  Looking at a communication system; the batteries are covered shorter than the headsets themselves.

What is the project lead time?

Try to find out more than “about a month.”  There are three distinct steps that you should keep in mind so you can keep the company you are working with honest:

1- Design phase: layout to approval

2- Production: fabrication, printing, assembly, packaging

3- Shipping: transit time

Getting an idea on these will help you get the truest sense of the time associated with start to finish.

Who else have you done work with?

Credibility isn’t everything but it is important.  There are a lot of hungry and ambitious businesses that will promise the world but will deliver half of it.  You don’t want to find yourself needing another panel, updates to your screens or support for your drive-thru communications, only to get the following sound of death, “doo doo dooooo this number is not in service.”  By finding out some of the companies they have worked with you’ll be able to establish some credence in them.

What kind of support can I expect?

“Support” can take on several meanings.  With digital menu boards it can range from a screen being black to the need for price changes.  With traditional menu boards, it could be the turn around on new strips.  Whatever the product, ask yourself what your needs may be moving forward and ask how they’ll be addressed.  For example, “if the light burns out on my drive-thru, what happens?  When would it be fixed?  How much would it cost?”

What does the overall process look like from start to finish?

You don’t just buy a menu board and a week or so later receive it.  Once the sale is complete, you’ll probably be turned over to a project manager or designer.  Ok, so when and how does that happen and where do you go from there?  Regarding the overall process, you’ll want to know:

- When will I receive my first layout and what is the turn around on revisions?

- From the time of approval, how long until it ships

- How long will it take to ship to me?

- What are the payment terms?

How is the installation handled?

More times than not customers have the install handled on their end. However before it gets handled you should learn what is involved.  This is for a couple of reasons.  One being is that the install could end up being a sizable expense that wasn’t accounted for.  Secondly, you want to make sure you have the appropriate people in place to accomplish it.  Manuals and instructions will go a long way in assessing this.

The list of questions that could be asked would be seemingly endless if we broke it out product by product.  Heck, why don’t we start with digital menu boards next week.

As for this general list, have we missed anything?  Leave a comment below and share!  Or you can email us at and we’ll add it to this blog.  888-235-2579