2 - Ok, I've got my menu mix...what's next?
Deciding on the style of your menu board system is the fun part! Do you want to match existing décor? Does your restaurant have a theme you'd like to carry into your menu board design? Is color important to you? Does your counter area have good enough lighting for a non-illuminated system to be displayed?
If you have access to electrical outlets, you have several good options for an illuminated menu board. Some illuminated systems require dedicated circuits; others run on low voltage and are more energy efficient. Traditional light boxes featuring fluorescent tubing are bigger and more expensive to operate than the new LED light panels. LED panels offer more evenly distributed back lighting and transparencies will “pop” with color. Tube lighting tends to show hot spots and is less evenly lit. The visual real estate area for either system will be less than a non-illuminated magnetic menu system because of the framing area needed to hold the transparencies or insert panels in place. Frames can be custom colored to match existing décor. Most systems offer either full graphic panels where you need to change out the entire panel to update menu listings or pictures, or use combination picture and listing strip panels where you can update pricing and menu strips more easily. (Example D)
Non-Illuminated or magnetic menu boards are probably the most dynamic and easily customized menu board systems. They utilize the entire face surface to display menu items and pictures, and can be sized and shaped to fit your available board space. Magnetic panels and strips are removable and easily updated. Depending upon your layout, you can design some areas to be frequently changed out for a “limited time offer” panel, or to change out a listing panel and leave the food graphic. Chalk boards or erasable panels are options for those who have artistic skills and can be creative with time and design. (Example E)
The latest menu board trend is Digital Menu Displays using TV-type monitors. While this is the most expensive menu display, it is also the most versatile. Interspersing moving graphics of food or beverages with a static menu listing makes an attractive and engaging menu board. Initial financial outlays for monitors can get pricey, and operators need some computer skills to design and upload menu content using provided software. On the plus side, menu board changes can be made instantly instead of waiting weeks for replacement transparencies or panels. If you have several locations, some software applications can apply changes system wide using internet connections. (Example F)