Screens are all around us, even in places we might not expect. They are on wristwatches and shopping carts, on gas pumps and bus stops, and even in a growing number of restaurants and bars.
What might first come to mind are the large digital menu boards of quick-service restaurants like Chipotle or Panera. And while digital displays might be more prevalent in quick-service and fast casual restaurants, even fine dining can reap the rewards of eye-catching and easy-to-change displays.
Having digital signage visible to display menu information is a top restaurant technology demand for 41% of diners surveyed, according to @HospitalityTechnology 2022 Customer Engagement Technology Study
There are three ways restaurants can incorporate digital displays. Depending on your restaurant and brand, some will work better than others, but each serves a purpose and comes with its own advantages over more traditional printed options. Let’s look at them one at a time.
Digital menu boards can entirely circumvent the need for a printed menu. This comes with a lot of advantages, though it might not be realistic for every restaurant.
The main advantage of a digital menu board is that it makes changing or updating your menu a cinch. Instead of spending time and money reformatting and printing, you only need to change your digital menu, and it’s instantly reflected on your menu board. This is handy for seasonal dishes and specials, but also if you need to temporarily 86 an item. For a server, nothing is worse than telling a guest that the dish they were excited for is sold out. Digital menu boards help you avoid this common problem altogether.
Digital menu boards also make dayparting easy. There’s no need to collect lunch menus at dinner, or collect dinner menus at night. With a digital display you can quickly and easily change your menu to match the time of day, whether it’s breakfast, brunch, lunch, happy hour, or dinner.
Large screens can help you squeeze more information onto your menu. You can include ingredients, mouth-watering descriptions, and customer reviews. This is harder to do on a smaller, printed menu. Large screens also allow you to offer high-quality food photography as a way to upsell your Insta-worthy dishes, like those desserts and cocktails that look so tasty they practically sell themselves.
While digital menu boards come with a lot of advantages, they won’t fit every restaurant’s brand. For some, they can feel too informal. If your restaurant is large, digital displays mounted to a distant wall might be too hard to read. But with a bit of creativity, most restaurants and bars could use digital menu boards to replace parts of their menu. Digital displays can work well for your seasonal items, weekly or daily specials, rotating taps, and other parts of your menu that frequently change.
If you’ve never created a digital menu, there are a lot of helpful resources online. You can even find free digital display menu management software that can fit any restaurant and any brand.
Taken from the fast-food industry, interactive kiosks can replace, support, or streamline more traditional methods of ordering and payment processing.
Digital kiosks put the customer in charge. Customers can scroll your menu, select exactly what they want, and option it the way they want, all from one screen. This has the benefit of educating your customers, cutting down on incorrect orders, and reducing food waste.
Interactive kiosks also make it faster for customers to order. They don’t have to wait for a staff member, which leads to a reduction in perceived wait times, and it allows your staff to focus on the quality of your food and service. When a customer can order at their own pace, your staff doesn’t need to wait around for them to decide, or return to a customer who needed more time with the menu.
Like digital menu boards, digital kiosks offer your guests more information than a standard printed menu. They can check ingredients, read descriptions, scan nutritional information, and peruse photographs from your interactive display.
You can also use your kiosk as a promotional tool. Your kiosk’s landing page can advertise any food promotions or upcoming events. You can use banners on pages to promote your social media accounts or customer reviews. Any part of your digital marketing could be incorporated into your interactive kiosk.
Finally, in a post-COVID world, kiosks are a great option for customers looking for contactless dining. Customers don’t have to speak to anyone, touch any menus, or be in close proximity to your staff. An easy-to-clean screen can keep your COVID-conscious customers healthier and happier.
Promotional displays are where your physical presence meets your digital one. As a restaurant owner, you know the importance of digital marketing. You work hard on your online marketing campaigns. So why not use your physical restaurant as a place where customers are certain to see them? Strategically placed promotional displays do just that, which can lead to more engagement in person and online.
Whether it’s social media accounts, digital flyers, customer reviews, or food and drink specials, promotional displays replace printed marketing materials with digital ones. Unlike menu boards and kiosks, which are best suited for more casual settings, promotional displays can work in almost any restaurant.
Digital displays near the front of your restaurant can be used to not only promote your social media or current specials but also to entertain customers waiting for a table, reducing perceived wait time. If your restaurant is full service, digital displays can be mounted behind the bar, where customers can easily see them while they eat and drink. They can also be arranged thoughtfully throughout the dining area, keeping them in sight of your tables.
Digital displays are more expensive than printed flyers or posters, but the glow of a display draws the eye to your content. Like digital menu boards, promotional displays are also easy to change. No need to run to your local print shop. If you can design it on a computer or on social media, you can easily promote it on your digital display. You can even set up a slideshow, shuffling through a handful of your current or upcoming promotions.
If creating beautiful digital marketing promotions isn’t your forte, you aren’t alone. Another advantage of digital displays is that you can find a range of restaurant marketing templates online. These are visually appealing, customizable, and easy to use, which can get your digital displays going in no time.
The digital world is more important to the restaurant industry than ever before. In the future, it will only become more important. As our lives become more entwined with the digital, so will our restaurants.
Ultimately, for a successful merger of the physical and the digital, you’ll need to know your customer. Digital menu boards and interactive kiosks aren’t for everyone. Even if you offered a kiosk at every table, some customers would still prefer a living and breathing server, an expert that can provide them with recommendations and answers to questions. As restaurants race to streamline and incorporate technology, don’t forget about those who would still prefer a human touch.
About the Author
Mark Plumlee is the senior copywriter at MustHaveMenus, which offers free social media templates and sharing tools. He enjoys writing about trends in the food industry.