This article is part of a larger series on POS Systems.
Digital menu boards are electronic screens that display menu options, pricing, images, and videos. They are an excellent way to inform customers of your cuisine style, showcase specials and promotions, and encourage upselling. The screens themselves can be pricey—ranging from $325 to $1,400—and the ongoing cost for software can be as low as $7.99 per month.
With advances in smart TVs and streaming devices, it has never been easier to set up digital menu boards and displays. If you’re thinking about adding some to your shop, here’s the easiest way to do it.
Creating & Managing Digital Menu Boards
There are two ways to set up a digital menu board, both involving a television screen with HDMI or USB connections. Once you have your TVs, you can either connect a signage player or a thumb drive. The most popular setup is using a signage player because it is easier to manage multiple screens from a single dashboard, and most signage players come with easy-to-use menu templates. So we’ll start with that strategy.
When to Call Professionals
Smart TVs are getting lighter every year, but they are still expensive, sensitive equipment that can do some real damage if they fall. If you are even the slightest bit stressed about installing screens yourself, call a licensed professional. If you buy your screens from a big-box retailer like Best Buy or Home Depot, you can use their referral tools to find a local, independent installation technician. These professionals tend to focus on basic wall-hanging installations; you may need to shop around for more complex, ceiling-hung installations.
If you need a large scale digital screen installation, platforms like Samsung and Peerless-AV provide professional installation for a fee. Rates vary depending on the complexity of your installation. When hiring a professional installer, it is important to ensure that your technicians are licensed and insured. Using an unlicensed installer may violate the terms of your lease or liability insurance or void hardware warranties.
If you are mounting several screens in walls without grounded electrical outlets, you should also call an electrician. It may be less expensive in the short term to connect your screens via lengths of extension cords, but daisy-chained extension cords can be a fire and trip hazard. It is far safer to have a professional install a few more electrical outlets exactly where you need them.
Digital Menu Board Costs
Clearly, there are a few different costs associated with digital menu boards. Most small businesses can expect to pay about $400 to $1,700 for a single digital menu board with all its necessary components. The biggest cost variance comes from your choice of screens. The larger your televisions and the higher their resolution, the pricier your setup will be.
Here’s what you can expect when purchasing digital menu boards and associated software.
Pricing for a media player can vary wildly, depending on the brand, amount of memory, and whether you purchase it directly from a provider or a third-party; costs range from $40 to $500 each. In most cases, you’ll need one media player per screen.
Most digital menus can operate with LCD or LED television screens. Though LEDs tend to be better for digital signage because they are lightweight and thinner than LCD screens and generate less heat. LEDs are also less prone to a phenomena called “screen burn,” where traces of an image remain after the screen has changed to a different image.
Costs will vary depending on the brand, specifications like LCD or LED, size, and bulk discounting; costs range from $325 to $1,400 each for 43-inch to 65-inch displays. We’ve listed some popular digital menu screen options in the slideshow below.
Mounting hardware is unavoidable, and prices range from around $30 for a basic, flat wall mount up to $550 for a complex ceiling mount. If you need to boost your Wi-Fi signal, antennas and mobile access points range from $50 to $350 each.
Cloud-based software comes with a monthly fee, and some require a contract. Typical prices range from around $8 to $30 per screen, per month, though some platforms that cater to small businesses offer free basic subscriptions.
Depending on the complexity of your setup and whether or not you need to wire new electrical outlets, your installation costs can vary from around $300 to over $1,500.
Implementing digital signage can be an affordable upgrade from the paper or plastic sign solution you have now. If you’re outfitting your space with multiple screens, it could be a sizable investment. The average cost of a full-scale, multi-screen restaurant installation is around $12,000, but many small businesses find that their systems pay for themselves in 12 to 18 months. This makes sense as you’ll be saving on printing and design services and have increased potential for upsells.
Pros & Cons of Digital Menu Boards
When it comes to the pros and cons of digital menu boards, the positives stack up quickly. Using a digital menu board can help drive sales. They are incredibly convenient, and you can display calorie counts easily. Yes, a digital menu is pricier than a printed menu, but it’s an investment that will likely pay off within a year.
|Digital screens drive sales||Upfront costs can be high|
|Digital menus can be updated quickly if prices or offerings change||Many systems require internet access|
|Digital boards can display complex information, like order ready status or nutritional information||Screens need energy to operate, while paper menus don’t|
Here are the detailed highlights of going green and getting a digital menu board:
- Increased sales: An oft-cited statistic from Nielsen indicates the overwhelming majority (over 80%) of small businesses noticed an uptick in sales after they installed digital signage.
- Better customer service: Vermont bar and restaurant Pro Pig Brewery added digital menu boards behind its bar during COVID-19. They found that it freed up their bartenders to have more in-depth conversations with customers about the rotating beer selections.
- Increased customer engagement: Retailers that use digital signage report increased customer engagement, including improved branding, reduced perceived wait times, and reduced walkouts. About three-fourths of respondents in a survey by Future Stores said their customers have very well or exceptionally well to the use of digital signage.
- Convenience: Updating printed menus requires time and ink. A digital menu can change as often as you’d like, and it’s as easy as filling out forms online.
- Time savings: Spend less time changing menus, ordering menus, and waiting for them to be delivered.
- Nutritional info: It’s far easier to display nutritional information on your food menus with a digital menu board; if you make any changes to an item, you won’t have to reprint a menu with the new calorie count.
The drawbacks of introducing a digital menu board have to do with cost and connectivity, such as
- Upfront cost: To get started with digital menu boards, you’ll have to spend a sizable amount for TVs or monitors and media players, and you’ll have an ongoing monthly fee. Plus, if you want professional photos or graphics, you’ll have to hire talent for it.
- Power usage: Most smart TVs are designed to be energy efficient, but even the most efficient smart TV uses more energy than a paper menu. Every hour your restaurant is open, your digital menu boards will need electrical power, which will have a definite impact on your energy bills.
- Outages: If your internet connection goes out, your menus are down; it’s a good idea to have a mobile hot spot ready to go as a backup, but this could come with extra costs as well.
A digital menu board is an excellent way to entice customers to engage with your restaurant. It is easy to operate and is a relatively affordable solution to the static menus, directories, maps, and in-store advertising you may currently use. Not only do digital displays give your business some extra polish, but they have also been shown to drive sales and increase customer affinity for your business. They can also free up your staff to build more authentic connections with your customers and drive repeat business. You can find plenty of freestanding solutions or integrate with your POS system.