Sometimes ‘Less is More’ When it Comes to Menu Boards

When it comes time to buy your menu boards or to revisit your existing ones a lot of thought has to be given to how you set your menu boards up and what is actually going to go on to the panels.  As far as how to set the boards up, a lot depends on your location and how you can make things work in the most effective way.  Different footprints and different concepts should lead you in the appropriate direction.  As for what goes on the menu boards, that is a different story.  We live in a world where it is becoming more and more difficult to carve out a niche in the restaurant industry.  I see Chinese restaurants now offering sushi, Italian restaurants with burgers on the menu, convenience stores with fried chicken and the list goes on.  As a result these types of restaurants are ending up with enormous menus in an attempt to be “everything to everyone” and are spending way more than they should on their menu board system.  In an attempt to minimize this, you should entertain the following 5 suggestions.

#1 – Be who you are!

In the past I have alluded to the notion that “imitation is the highest form of flattery.”  Put another way; look at how the big dogs are doing it.  When these companies got their start they had a clear focus and although there has been a maturation process to include other offerings, they have not wavered too far from their core items. Burger King does burgers and KFC does chicken. This isn’t to say that you could not add a breakfast menu or a named brand coffee to your mix, but I don’t see McDonald offering penne ala vodka any time soon.

 #2 – Chill on the adjectives

A lot of menus that come through our building have descriptive text that outlines what is included in/on the pizza, burger, sandwich, etc. What many fail to realize is that these descriptions eat up the valuable real estate of your menu boards. This is an example of a real description:

Stuffed Club Turkey Sandwich

Mouthwatering Boar’s Head Oven Gold Turkey topped with sizzling bacon, fresh lettuce, chopped onions, plum tomatoes, sliced pickles, provolone cheese and signature sauce on a fresh roll or hero


Stuffed Club Turkey Sandwich – bacon, lettuce, onion, pickle, tomato with signature sauce

***The bread choices would be at the top or bottom of the panel and apply to all sandwiches and it should be made known that all sandwiches have Boar’s Head meats.***

The difference is clear.  Simply by trimming your descriptions you’ll be able to free up some significant space.

#3 – Use printed menus

Don’t be afraid to advertise and hand-out your printed menu.  It is well documented that your menu boards are the most influential way to drive sales in the way you want.  The people are already in your store, so now it is on them to decide on what they want to buy.  It is not a major concern if you cannot fit everything on your menu boards.  Promote and list what you WANT to sell – high profit and signature items.  However, with every bag or tray that is handed over should be a printed menu.  Further, don’t be afraid to list the following on your menu boards, “For a full list of menu items, please take a printed menu.”  Besides, you want people with your printed menu to take with them to call in orders!

#4 – Trim your menu items

Take a look at the data.  If you are listing items that rarely sell, take them off the menu.  If you are a sandwich and wrap place, why sell pizza?  Since most of our menu systems have the ability to add or change items I am often asking myself, “Where are they going here?” when they send in their strip orders.  Some of the items are far removed from where they started.

There are two questions that you can ask yourself that will put this in to perspective:

1- What are people visiting your restaurant for?

If you are a pizzeria, people shouldn’t expect to get the world’s best chopped salad and you should not be able to create one.  As in sports, you should stay within your strengths and do what you do best.  Trying to capture or capitalize on a trend (i.e. healthy choices) will only confuse your loyal patronage and take away from your bread and butter.

2- Why do you go to specific restaurants?

Most people have their favorite burger joint, Chinese restaurant, sandwich shop, etc.  Similar to the first question, I don’t go to a place for a specific purpose and decide to do a 180 and end up with something that isn’t in their wheelhouse.

#5 – “Build it yourself” 

Too many times I see people who want to get fancy with their menus.  The most common offenders are pizzerias and sandwich locations.  There seems to be this lure to name your pizzas and name your sandwiches, quite often after family members and regional landmarks.  The “Yankee Sandwich” and the “Boston Supreme Pie” come to mind.  What is the “Yankee Sandwich?”  My thoughts exactly.  What follows are descriptions that look like those in #2 above.  A quick and easy fix is to “Build it yourself.”  For example, list your different sandwiches by the type of meat.  Have a note that spells out how many vegetables you can have and a price point for everyone thereafter.  Then simply list the toppings, dressings, cheeses, etc.  Voilà, you have just trimmed 4 menu boards down to 1.

To Summarize:

  • A lot of people are spending more than what they need on menu boards because of the number of menu items and descriptive text.
  • Trying to cater to the masses rather than staying within your strengths is a common reason menus evolve.
  • Save your catchy adjectives for your print menu and website.  People are already in the store and want to find what to order, quickly and easily.
  • Setting up your menu boards to have people “build it themselves” is the single easiest way to minimizes the panel quantity.

Looking up and realizing you have way to much stuff?  Need some help trimming?  Give us a call today and we’ll do our best to help you out!  888-235-2579