Howard Company Blog

June 27, 2017 | by Doug Watson

Digital Menu Boards: What You Need to Know Before You Buy

desk with computer


For 60 plus years we have been a major resource in the menu board business, and we get asked daily why we see digital menu boards and digital signage as the future technology for our national brands to use in their QSR or Fast Casual restaurants. Here's eight points of discussion we offer to our business partners who are considering the switch from static menu boards to the new digital technology.

1. What advancements are new and exciting in digital signage?

With the advancement of outdoor digital menu boards, many restaurants can now operate the same content format inside and outside, eliminating the need to support two different marketing and fulfillment platforms. 

2. Why is digital signage so important?

From easy changes, to less lead time, to engagement from the millennial marketplace, digital signage is at the forefront of the menu board industry. Add in quick data changes, cost savings and accuracy plus control at the brand level, digital signage is taking off within the QSR industry.

digital menu board example

3. Why should restaurants consider investing in digital signage over static signage? What are the benefits?

Digital signage installations reduce perceived wait times, entertain, and enhance the customer experience. Digital menu boards can integrate with existing restaurants technologies like the POS and Inventory Management software.

Mixing in some value-added content such as trivia, fun facts, or other entertainment helps to lower a customer’s perceived wait time. It also gives customers a reason to continue to look at a screen providing restaurants another chance to slip in promotional or other branded content. Overall, customers are given something to do while they either wait or eat. And, providing them something to interact with will always enhance the customer experience.

Additional benefits:

  • Printing & Shipping Costs – No Más!

Static menu boards require restaurants to design, print, ship, and then install their materials. A digital menu board eliminates those costs – not to mention the good it does for the planet! Once a digital menu board has been designed and installed, maintaining it is as simple as uploading a photo to a Facebook account.

  • Staff training and other company communication

Restaurants can use their digital menu board to communicate with staff either for training or other important news. Pre-recorded training videos can be scheduled to play across all locations at a set time, or send a message from the CEO to all its customers thanking them for their business and support.

  • Community Support

Engaging within the community goes a long way in maintaining customer support. And digital signage allows restaurants to give back! By displaying local news on their menu boards or other digital screens in the restaurant, the community will clearly see how the local support is appreciated by the owners, managers, and staff.

  • Brand Consistency

There’s always a risk of employees forgetting or neglecting to change a static poster menu board. With digital menu boards, restaurants can ensure all their locations are up to date and sending consistent branding messages across the board.

4. Where is digital signage technology heading in the future?

Interactive digital signage is on the next horizon; whether by recognition or beacon/ NFC technology, digital signage can market to different people in different ways. The future will bring a much more personal experience to the menu ordering process, with the ability to tailor messages and marketing materials to individual guests. This will become more prevalent in the outdoor ordering experience where the entire menu board can be personalized based on past order history and loyalty/reward program participation.

digital menu board example

5. What are common misconceptions that restaurant leaders have about digital signage?

Cost is still a concern, but signage technology is getting better, and the price tag is staying the same or decreasing. QSR restaurants now more than ever need a marketing resource that can oversee their whole program and brand message.

Mistakenly, most clients start with hardware and then work backwards looking at software, planning installation, and so forth. Experience has proven this to be totally backwards. Time must be spent upfront on the objective, methodology and strategy of incorporating digital signage into the restaurant, then working towards a software program and a process to support the objectives. Only after those steps should the consumer look at hardware options to make it happen. This process cannot be emphasized enough in order to have a successful digital menu program and not just a few monitors hanging on the wall.

As a restaurant reviews the cost of implementing a digital menu board, the operator needs to make sure the equipment is commercial grade monitors installed by professionals, not equipment piecemeal-ed together with an off-the-shelf software program, hoping everything “plays nice” in the end. The result will be a disillusioned operator perceiving digital menus are not for him because equipment doesn’t last or operate as expected.

Lastly, it is important to work with a vendor who can do it all, not one who simply manufactures or sells one of the elements you may need.  Your resource needs to be able to build a solution that is right for you, putting together all the pieces of the puzzle to create a system which meets your expectations.

6. Why is now the right time to invest in digital signage?

The early adopters have already tried it, tested it and found digital signage makes a difference in their restaurants or retail outlets. Today’s marketplace can use what they’ve learned to build a quality system that meets their needs. Static menu boards are quickly becoming signage of the past; today’s store owners need to embrace the new technology or they will be left behind.

woman making a decision

7. What advice do you have for restaurants on choosing digital signage?

Research, Research, Research.  Many of our clients have tried others, or tried to handle it themselves before turning to us for a real turnkey digital solution.

8. What else should we know?

Digital signage should be an integral part of marketing plans and initiatives. To implement digital, you still need a strategy and brand behind it. Your brand and strategy drive the content, changeability, hardware, software, and guest interaction when utilizing a digital display. Remember, the signage is a vehicle for information delivery!


We feel it is our job to guide our business partners through the maze of digital products out in the world. We've researched what works and doesn't work and are positive we offer a great digital menu board solution that meets the needs of our customers. If you are confused by trying to dig through all the information found on your internet searches, we encourage you to talk to a menu board professional who can help you determine what will work best for YOU and your restaurant! 

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