Menu Board Glossary – Part I

Traditional Menu Boards

Backlit- Menu boards that have light that shines through translite graphics from the back.  More and more of these types of boards are moving from florescent based lighting to LED to save energy and money.

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.

Static Menu Boards- This is a synonym for “traditional menu boards.”  Magnetic, backlit, non-illuminated, illuminated, chalkboard, etc. are all examples of static menu boards.  When it comes to movement, “static” means that there is none.  Therefore, anything other than a digital or LED type menu board system could be considered static.

Digital Menu Boards

Cloud-Based- When the menu board system is hosted by either the company you are working with or another 3rd party.  More and more systems are moving this way because of the upfront cost to set up your own network.  Also the redundancy and maintenance tends to be far superior through reputable companies.  When cloud-based, you can access your account via the Internet from any computer in the world.

Commercial Grade LCDs- They are built with purpose of constant use in retail and commercial environments and with heavy-duty parts and components designed to handle wear and tear. These quality parts also extend the lifespan of commercial screens far beyond that of consumer models, something that is critically important when one considers the difference in operating hours between the two.  Many deployers demand 12-15 hour days out of their screens and locations like airports may never turn the screens off.

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?

Day Parting- Many locations have breakfast, lunch and dinner; different parts of the day.  To accommodate this, most software platforms allow for the screens to be changed automatically based on day-part.  For example, 6AM-11AM breakfast, switches to lunch from 11AM-2PM and then to dinner from 2PM-close.

File Management- The ability to display it when and how you want it on the screens.  Consider, for a moment, file management in the light of iTunes.  You can download music (media items), set them up in a library and create a playlist for you to listen to when you want to.

Media Player- They 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.

Portrait Mode / Landscape Mode- Commercial grade LCDs/LEDs allow you to flip and flop your screen around.  Portrait refers to the orientation where the screen would be places vertically and landscape refers to the more traditional, longer width vs. height, orientation – the way it is hung in your house.

Self-Contained- Typically a local area network where no one from outside the four walls of the restaurant can access the digital menu board software.

Backlit Menu board Drive-Thru Menu Boards

Canopy- A drive-thru accessory, canopies are often added in areas that see a lot of precipitation and wind over the course of the year.  It covers the car and the driver at the position they place the order.

Clearance Bar- Used as a preventative measure, clearance bars are placed as vehicles enter the drive-thru lane and restrict trucks of a certain height or greater from entering thus keeping them from damaging the building.

On-Board Speaker/Microphone- When the location doesn’t have the room for a speaker post, an alternative is to put the speaker and microphone in the drive-thru unit itself.  Not ideal for voice clarity, it is the “next best thing.”  

Order Confirmation- Commonly seen at Taco Bell and Wendy’s, order confirmation screens display your order back to you and help with minimizing food waste and increase order accuracy and overall profitability.  This is a function of your POS system. 

Presell Menu Board- These are most often used at high volume drive-thru locations.  They are commonly used for limited time offers, day parts and specials and are the smaller drive-thru-like units that appear before you get to the actual drive-thru where you place your order.

Wings / Toppers / Appendages- Used to add more real-estate to the basic drive-thru unit.  If a menu expands or if there is a need/want for more branding (i.e. a logo up top), or specials to be displayed, these can be added to the left, right or top of the drive-thru.

Drive-Thru Communications

Base Station- The hub of the entire drive-thru operation.  Communication from all aspects of your drive-thru system is channelled through your base station.  The speaker and microphone, the loop and vehicle detector, and the headsets themselves all tie in to the base station/center module.  It resides inside and is what makes everything functional.

Headsets- What the drive-thru workers are wearing.  Nowadays you have the choice of a belt-pac headset system or an all-in-one headset system.  The belt-pac system has the controls on the waist with a cord that runs up to a lighter headset.  The all-in-one is pretty self-explanatory.

Saw Cut / Preform Loop- A magnetic, inductive loop in the ground that senses your metal car above it, sending a signal inside.  This pre-formed or saw-cut loop is buried 2 inches below the surface in the pavement of the traffic lane.  The ‘loop’ is a continuous wire that is ‘looped’ in pavement in a rectangular fashion and enters and exits at the same point.

Vehicle Detector- This device works in conjunction with the loop.  It resides inside and transmits the signal being sent from the loop to the base station to the headset that is being worn by the employee inside.

Next week, in Part II of II we’ll take a look at some buzz words from Display Fixtures, Light Boxes, Banners and Graphics.

Are there some terms in one of the categories above that we didn’t mention that leave you scratching your head?  If so, let us know and we’ll de-code them for you. Email us at or give us a call today at 888-235-2579 and let us know!