Menu Boards- What We Saw in 2014

As we get set to bookend another year (crazy) we always like to take a look back at some goings-on and trends that have happened over the course of 365 days.  In that time we have seen a lot, some of which is good and others not-so-good.  Either way, when you sit back and analyze what has transpired it is crazy to think that it all happened in 2014.

In this blog we’re not going to hit you with hard stats and charts about where things are going from where they’ve been.  It is more subjective; through sales on our end, things we’ve read and thousands of conversations we’ve had.  So without further adieu, take a read of what we’ve seen and let us know if you agree.

Happy New YearDigital Explosion- We’ve been in this business since 2006 and it seems like every year we have been hearing about the pendulum switching from traditional menu boards to digital menu boards.  As a matter of fact, when Origin Displays was born five years ago the initial direction was to be an exclusively digital signage company.  However it didn’t take long in to some marketing research to realize that there was still a high demand for traditional menu boards.  Till this day, the cost for digital signage remains the primary roadblock and this factor was magnified back then.  As for 2014, I cannot specify the reason but digital signage certainly has overtaken the largest piece of our business pie.  The continuing decline in total cost is one cause, but there are a couple of other reasons that come to mind as well.

1- Options: In its infancy there were only a handful of digital signage options for one to choose from; now there is almost too many.  However with several options comes the ability for someone to find some THING that will “work” for them at whichever budget they are working with.

2- Price comparison with traditional menu boards:  As the cost for digital solutions, monitors, etc have decreased over time, the same cannot be said for traditional menu boards.  Whether the products have been altered or not over the years, the amount of design, manufacturing and assembly remains roughly the same.  As a result, when you compare the cost of a backlit LED system and, say, a two screen digital system it becomes almost silly to not spend a few hundred dollars more for the digital which yields much more flexibility.

3- Mandates and/or “keeping up with the Jones’”- It is just human nature that the more you see something you like, the more hell bent some get on having it for themselves.  I strongly speculate that this is a part of digital growth.  You are seeing digital signage in stadiums and food courts everywhere; which brings me to my next point.  A lot of food service contracts are now specifying digital signage for their stadiums, arenas, etc.  Similarly, malls are requiring food court tenants to use digital as well.

Strategic Partnerships- In 2014 we saw one menu board company go out of business (International Patterns), another become a shell of its former self and who now only sell other’s products (IDS Menus), another purchased by VGS (Posterloid) and a mainstay join forces with a communication company (Mainstreet).  So what does this tell you?  I would submit that it says a couple of things about the industry.  There was a QSR boom in the early 2000′s that saw all of these companies make millions of dollars.  Obviously the recession lowered the boom and a lot more locations were closing than opening and those opening sought cheaper or used alternatives.  What these menu board companies were left with was a bunch of unused equipment and a surplus of space; not a good recipe for success.  Now in joining forces, these companies have certainly made themselves more well-rounded and better equipped to serve a number of various clients.  We have taken the same approach as we steer toward 2015.

Custom and/or Cheap Menu Boards- We have noticed this trend continue from mid-2013.  Standard menu board products are becoming less and less prevalent as businesses are either seeking custom or cheap alternatives.  On the custom side, people are looking at their menu boards as a center and show piece for their restaurant- as they should.  In going this route they achieve uniqueness and ultimately develop a product that can be re-purposed and reproduced easily alongside their growth.  On the cheap side, the more cost-conscience folks just want to get something up.  Undoubtedly there is disparity in pricing from custom to standard to cheap.  Most menu board companies can accommodate any which one.

So there you have it.  With that, we’ll tie a bow on 2014 and look forward to another year.  Let us know what you’ve seen and what we might be in store for in 2015.  Happy New Year everybody! | 888-235-2579