Random Menu Board Thoughts

As I sit here on a crisp Friday morning trying to collect and organize my thoughts for this very blog I have quickly realized that I can’t.  I have some random thoughts going through my head about menu boards, drive-thrus, digital menu boards, and design but I cannot seem to put together enough about any one of them to write an entire blog about it.  So what is a guy to do?  (Insert light bulb over my head.)  I have decided that this week I am going to touch on an array of unrelated topics.  I think this should turn out to be useful information, but I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.  Here goes nothing…

Another spot for your pricing

When it comes to menu boards, the most common objective for most QSR owners is to have the boards set up in a manner where their customers can find what they are looking for, order and be on their way as quick as possible.  This is why an alternative to traditional pricing placement (aligned to the right) is counterintuitive to most people’s thoughts.  There is no question that turnaround is important, but profit trumps everything.  What tends to happen when the prices are all aligned is that consumers naturally do a quick inventory on price points and will subconsciously eliminate some items from consideration simply because of the cost.  This is why there has been a movement by some to place their pricing in the same size, color and font directly following the description of the item.  Of course this doesn’t entirely eliminate the fact that some people are going to look until they find the price. However the conventional thought is that since this way of listing prices is out of the norm it will fall out of the customers conditioned ways and will “force” them to read the descriptions.  The result is having customers ordering what they want and paying more to do so.

Picking the right digital menu board system

This topic is particularly frustrating.  In the past we have defined the difference between a file management system and a true digital menu board solution.  If you didn’t read that blog, let me break it down for you.  There are a few true digital menu board solutions, content management and file management under one umbrella/software, and a LOT more file management systems, that manages where the content will be displayed and when.  There is no question that there is a market for both of them.  The problem is there are a lot of smaller mom-and-pop customers who think that the solutions are for the “chains and big guys;” they couldn’t be more wrong.  You see, the chains have an infrastructure that usually includes IT personnel and more importantly marketing/graphic design personnel.  People in this capacity can handle the content management side of the solution.  What they require is a user-friendly file management system to do so.  Mom-and-pops and smaller chains usually run a bit more lean and do not have people in these types of roles.  This is why a true solution makes much more sense.  Owner/operators are not afforded the time to learn Photoshop or design promotions from scratch.  They need a SOLUTION that is user-friendly, easy to upkeep and that doesn’t hand-cuff them to the provider.

Understanding the cost of menu boards

I kind of get a kick out of consumers (of which I am obviously one) sometimes.  When you go to a deli, you never look at what you want to order and think to yourself “well I know what lettuce costs, I know what turkey cold cuts cost, I know what tomatoes cost, etc.” and proceed to question the guy over the counter about his pricing.  The value is the convenience that your meal is going to get prepared for you and by someone who is an “expert” in the industry.  Now shifting to menu boards; too many people look at the bottom line and begin to question what the material cost could be.  Putting the simple fact that all companies are in the business of making money aside, there are several other factors that drive the price.  Every company has operating costs (payroll, rent, equipment leases, etc.) but on top of that, and what holds great value, are the industry specific design capabilities and knowledge and the consultative services.  This reminds me of a story I first read on todaysengineer.org.  It really emphasizes why being an expert carries extreme weight.  I love this tale:

As the story goes, after retiring from GE, Steinmetz was hired back to help fix a malfunctioning machine. After carefully inspecting the machine, testing various parts, looking thoughtfully here and there, he produced a piece of chalk from his shirt pocket and marked an “X” on a particular part. Later, after dismantling the machine, GE technicians were amazed to discover the flaw was exactly where Steinmetz had made his chalk mark.

They were almost as astounded when, several days later, Steinmetz sent them a bill for $10,000. Seeking some sort of explanation from its long-time electrical guru, the company asked for an itemization of his bill. GE received this breakdown: “For making one chalk mark on machinery, $1. For knowing where to put the chalk mark, $9,999.

No website?  You should still list your site online

When I do business with anybody I always like to offer some unsolicited advice in other areas if I can.  Case in point are our two last local clients.  When we engage with anybody I always want to see if they have a website.  Websites are usually good for providing direction on branding, style and appeal.  In both cases they didn’t have websites, which is fine, however they weren’t found anywhere on Google, Yahoo or Bing either.  A lot of people not only do their shopping online, but these search engines have all but replaced the big, bulky phonebooks that for some estranged reason still get left on your doorstep.  If I am looking for a Chinese restaurant in and around my town and you aren’t listed, you have already lost out.  This is why it is vitally important to register on these sites.  Click on the following links and register:




http://www.getlisted.org – This is where you can see what local sites you are listed on

Also, if you haven’t already, create and optimize your Google+ and Google Places pages. These have become more valuable than they used to be as well.  Here is a relating quote I found:

“The power and influence of Google Places continues to grow which makes it even more critical to local businesses. In the short term, this means that good local optimization becomes more essential and competition even more intense. Long term, it puts Google in an extremely dominant position which it could use to hold local businesses to ransom.”

Start with a drive-up

So many people are looking at drive-thrus as a way to add revenue to their location.  In most cases, given the right circumstances and location, these people would be right.  There is only one problem, it isn’t cheap!  You do not have to do a lot of research to find out that a new drive-thru and communication system will run you in to the thousands of dollars.  Permitting, concrete, saw cuts, and electrical only add to the expense.  As a result, a good intermediate step would be to add a drive-up window.  There are inexpensive outdoor rated menu boards (mostly non-illuminated if you really want to keep costs down) available.  If you have the space, it should be wall-mounted AT LEAST 1-2 car lengths from the order/pay/pick-up window with clear instructions to pull forward to the window to order and pay.  What you have now eliminated is the cost of the drive-thru, any and all electrical and concrete work and the communication system.  Doing this will help you determine whether opening the drive-up has netted you any new business and whether your existing customers are finding the convenience in it.  Most importantly, it is the best indicator of whether a full-blown drive-thru would be a wise investment.  If you do choose the drive-up approach, you should have a limited menu offering that you can turn around quickly.

After reading this back, I think we recovered nicely from our spotty start.  What do you think?  These five topics resonated with me because I have come across all of them a couple of times recently.  Some even opened my eyes and it is my hope that they did the same for you.

We love things out of left field.  Do you have any random recommendations?  We’re always looking for new perspectives!  Give us a call today at 888-235-2579.