As a restaurant owner, you provide your diners with prompt service and quality food. From the moment customers walk through the door, their experience at your restaurant begins. How you market to them while they're journeying from the hostess stand, to their table, to the bar for an after-meal cocktail are contributing aspects of their overall experience. Your in-restaurant marketing should reflect your distinctive brand, engage diners, and gently advertise the daily specials, seasonal entrees, and happy hour drinks.

If you have been using printed menus and handwritten signage, it's time to consider switching to digital signage and digital menu boards. Digitally displaying all that your restaurant has to offer with digital signage has proven to be cost-effective in the long run compared to printed menus and signage; and it also enables you to share exponentially more items, combos, specials, and informative messages with your customers than printed signs.

Have you been holding back from investing in digital signage menu boards because you own a smaller establishment and therefore are working with a much smaller budget, which doesn't allow for the expense of hiring a graphic designer or marketing specialist?

If so, you have valid concerns. You understand that the job of digitally marketing to your customers won't be finished just because you've installed digital signage in your restaurant. Rather, the work will at that point officially begin. What work? Content creation, of course! And content creation can become complicated if you aren't trained and experienced with designing digital menu board content yourself.

Don't worry. There are alternative options to hiring a content creator. What if we told you that you could create, design, update, and schedule all of your restaurant digital signage and menu boards yourself? You can! And if you want to learn how, keep reading.

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DIGITAL MENU DESIGN TIPS

Digital signage and menu boards are powerful marketing tools. That being said, you don't want to over- or under-do it. You could easily overdo it by using bright, flashing graphics that hurt your customers' eyes. If you under-do it with bland menus that blend in with the walls, your diners won't even know there are signs installed suggesting meals and food items to order. Let's take a look at some digital menu design tips.  

Factor In Screen Location & Size

The purpose of displaying beautiful digital content on screens in your restaurant is to inform your diners of menu options and other information they would be interested in. Bearing this in mind, if you are using smaller screens, you'll have to use larger text with less verbiage per image. Make sure that all your content is legible considering each screen's proximity to its audience.

Use A Grid Format

If you're unsure of where to start, try designing your menu boards on a grid of columns and rows. Yes, this will produce a more basic-looking board, but it will get the job done in terms of clearly presenting your menu options to your diners. Break your menu into sections with legible, consistent headers to help customers easily navigate.

Pick Easy-to-Read Fonts

You don't want your customers to have to squint to read your menu boards and you also don't want them to give up and ask their waiter, deli clerk, or barista to read aloud all the options. Be sure to pick fonts that will be easy to read from a distance, and try to avoid fanciful typography. Also, if possible, try to import your branded text font or logo font into the design software so that all of your menu boards present your uniform brand professionally.

Use Realistic Food & Beverage Images

It might be tempting to peruse all the food and beverage images on Shutterstock to use the best of the best photos in your digital content menu boards, but try to resist the urge. Your menu board items should resemble the real meals that will show up on your customers' plates. Utilize real photos and even videos of your restaurant's actual food. For professional results that don't appear flat when displayed, try photographing the dishes in natural daylight and avoid using a flash.

Keep Colors to a Minimum

Too many colors, especially juxtaposing colors that are similar, can lead to a bleeding, washed-out result. What are your brand colors? Try using those strictly, especially if they highly contrast one another, like red and white, or black and yellow. This refers to the background, headers, footers, and any boxes that frame the photographs of your food items. The photographs themselves should be colorful, vivid, and true to the real meals.

Use Video & Movement

Multimedia content has been highly popular for a while now, and that's because it works. It's attention-grabbing and engaging without being overbearing. But remember, a little multimedia goes a long way. Avoid rotating your images too quickly or cutting from one video to the next. Rather, try piecemealing your video clips and moving content in-between static frames. 

Include Clear Calls-to-Action

Depending on the menu content you're displaying, you may have reasons to include calls-to-action, and if so, be sure to make them clear. For example, does your restaurant offer a combo meal with a choice of sides to select? Make this extra step clear on your signage so that your customer is ready by the time he or she reaches the counter. For sit-down restaurants as well as quick-serve ones, advertising your loyalty rewards program on a particular screen of your menu board can be very effective, so long as there is a clear call-to-action about how to enroll.

Omit Unnecessary Info

You don't have to include every last detail about the food items on your menu boards. In fact, the more information presented as text or images doesn't actually lead to a clearer message, but oftentimes produces an adverse effect. When customers are overwhelmed with way too much information, their eyes tend to glaze over and they give up. Instead, it's okay to omit unnecessary information and only display key product points. Remember, anything the sign doesn't include, your waitstaff can tell your diners directly.

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CHOOSE THE RIGHT SOFTWARE SOLUTION

You want professional-looking results, i.e. digital content that your customers assume was designed by a real pro. What you don't want is to have to become a real pro to convince them of that, which means you're going to want to find user-friendly software that, frankly, is simple enough for a total novice to use. In order to weed out complicated design software solution providers and ensure that you go with a platform that is perfect for your needs and (lack of) skill level, there are six main criteria you should look for when choosing your cloud-based graphic design software.

Make Fast Changes to Daily Food Specials, Seasonal Dishes & Discount Item Prices

The graphic design software you're interested in purchasing should come with an online control center. This cloud-based control center should include a dashboard, timeline for scheduling, and straightforward sections to create, save, upload, or import the graphics you've made. The control center should not however resemble anything that NASA's ground control base would use to launch a rocket into space. If the interface doesn't look simple, don't invest in it. 

Streamline the Transition Between Lunch & Dinner Menus

When you can schedule all of your rotating menu boards within an online control center using dayparting tools, you will be able to streamline the transition times between breakfast and lunch, lunch and dinner, and even issue a warning when the kitchen is closing and only the bar will remain open. By scheduling this in advance within the control center, your diners will never be unpleasantly surprised to discover they have to wait to order lunch or they just missed their opportunity to order dinner before the kitchen closes.

Create & Deploy Digital Menu Boards From Anywhere

You really can't beat cloud-based software. Being able to create and update your digital menu boards no matter where in the world you happen to be, means that you won't have to feel anchored to remaining in the restaurant. Even if you're on vacation and your manager contacts you to say the produce vendor has been delayed, you will be able to quickly and remotely update your menu board panels so that dishes that include produce do not appear.

Let Your Displays Upsell & Cross Sell for You

Usually, upselling and cross selling falls on the shoulders of waiters, baristas, and cashiers. But when your digital menu boards alert customers to opportunities to save money by ordering a larger size drink, for example, or to receive an overall discount by adding fries with their meal, then your waitstaff will only need to use a very light touch to reinforce those deals. This often will result in a long-term increase in sales. 

Even Food Trucks & Mobile Snack Stands Can Benefit from Digital Menu Boards

Just because your business isn't nailed down, literally, doesn't mean you can't greatly benefit from using digital menu boards and signage. In fact, if you own and operate a food truck or mobile snack stand, you will stand out from the competition if you display digital signs of all your tasty meals, mainly because digital signage has barely caught on in your niche industry.

Use Pre-Designed Templates

Perhaps the most critical tools that your graphic design software must include are templates. By starting with pre-made templates, you will save massive amounts of time, because you won't have to conceptualize your menu boards from scratch. Also, templates will provide a professional look, guaranteed. Once you select the most fitting templates, you can simply overwrite the place-holding text, drag-and-drop images, use layering if need be, and voila, a finished menu board or boards in a matter of hours.  

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BENEFITS OF DIGITAL MENU BOARDS

There are many benefits to upgrading from printed menus and signs to digital screens, which we'll take a look at in this section. Most importantly, however, is the long-term financial savings. It's very important to stress this, and to understand that the savings are the result of a long-term investment. Yes, the expense of buying the hardware, i.e. digital signage screens for your restaurant, and the expense of subscribing to use the software, could be significant at first. But once you have these critical assets in place, the month-to-month cost becomes negligible compared to the month-to-month cost of printing menus and in-restaurant signs. 

Quick Updates

Do you really want to keep going down the printed menus road? How long does it take to receive your designed menus, i.e. .JPEGs, .PNGs, or .PDFs from the graphic designer you hired? How long does the printer usually take to turn the digital files into printed materials? How often does your menu change? How often do printed menus become damaged by day-to-day wear-and-tear, resulting in you having to print more? We're exhausted just thinking about it! Digital menu boards can be changed in minutes or seconds. Every update is quick.

Better Customer Experience

Today's consumer is accustomed to seeing attractive, entertaining content wherever they go. While there's nothing displeasing about paper printed menus, printed materials certainly aren't engagement and they definitely don't enhance the customer experience. Digital signage, however, has the power to better your diners' experiences when they are visiting your restaurant.

Decreased Wait Time

Admittedly, this is a time-bending illusion on par with installing mirrors in dreadfully slow elevators--yes, people rarely complain about how slow an elevator is when they can stare at themselves during the ride. Using digital menu boards won't actually decrease your customers' wait times before their waiters arrive or while they wait to get to the quick-serve counter, but the wait time will seem reduced, because the customer has the option of entertaining themselves by watching the digital content that's displayed. Plus, by the time their waiter arrives, or they reach the order counter, they will know exactly what they want.

Display Nutritional Information

Diners have grown extremely mindful of the food they eat, and that's because consumers on the whole have become more health conscious. People appreciate knowing the nutritional information of the meals they're considering, and if you own a quick-serve restaurant, you might be obligated to display such information. With digital signage and digital menu boards, you can present this information in an organized fashion that your customers will appreciate.

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SOFTWARE FEATURES TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF

When you fully commit to running your business in the fast--digital--lane, you open your restaurant up to a whole world of automation, machine learning A.I., and customer data collection that is simply impossible with pen-and-paper order pads, printed menus, and paper punch cards for your loyalty rewards program. While this article has focused on DIY-style graphic design creation for stunning digital menu boards, your menu boards are just one aspect of what you can do. The real benefit of going digital is that doing so will provide you with dynamic marketing capabilities. With that in mind, here are additional software features to look for and take advantage of.

Content Management & Automation

Larger, fast food restaurant chains can't always rely on their franchise owners and managers to deploy the chain's new promotional items and menu updates. But when your digital menu design software comes with automation, everything you design can be disseminated across all of your locations. Even if you run a single restaurant location, you'll still benefit from the online content management and automation that comes with your graphic design software. 

Targeting Your Audiences

As we mentioned earlier in this article, digital marketing provides customer data collection capabilities that printed marketing campaigns can't offer. By collecting customer data and analyzing who your diners really are, you will be able to develop a successful content creation strategy for all of your digital signs and digital menu boards. Once you segment your customers into groups, you can issue targeted marketing campaigns, which will help improve the customer service at your restaurant, as well as help you define which items to upsell and cross sell.

Adding Your Logo & Branding to all Content

Simplistic yet professional cloud-based graphic design software will allow you to import your restaurant logo, colors, and other branded identifiers for you to artfully layer over and around your digital menu boards so that every screen your customers see presents your professional, uniform brand. 

QR Codes

To increase on-premise interaction and also speed up the ordering process, consider including QR codes in your digital menu boards. By using this small square of blocky black-and-white symbols, you can connect your customers with pre-programed menu information that they can peruse on their smartphones. There are many QR code generators, and while not all of them are free, QR Code Generator is, which means that you can test out whether or not including QR codes in your digital signage will benefit your particular business.

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ADPRO FEATURES

FTx AdPro is an online graphic design software that takes 100% of the guesswork out of creating digital content, including dynamic menu boards, for your restaurant's digital signage. You can create ads, promos, and menus for all of your marketing campaigns with our user-friendly cloud-based software. AdPro's large assortment of ready-made menu and ad templates are completely customizable. Peruse our extensive library of restaurant industry templates and choose one that best fits your needs. Using easy drag-and-drop functions, simply change the text, photos, and background, and create professional-looking digital content in no time. Our most popular templates are ones that feature a static menu with rotating banners to promote daily food specials, sales, and events, but you can also schedule dayparting in advance so that your menu boards shift from breakfast to lunch to dinner at designated times.

  • • Automatically update menu images, prices, and display times with dayparting
  • • Manage displays from your home or office PC, or from anywhere using a tablet or smartphone
  • • No more expensive and time-consuming printing of promotional materials
  • • FDA health warnings for alcohol products have been built into the design software to keep you in full compliance with state and federal law no matter how often you change your digital signage promotions

    FTx Digital Signage and FTx AdPro come with a full library of video tutorials, perfect for those who prefer step-by-step how-to help. AdPro offers pre-made templates and restaurant-specific marketing campaigns to get you started fast. You can schedule your menu boards and other digital promotions days, weeks, months, or even years in advance. Simply design, save, schedule, and forget about it! And with AdPro, you never have to worry about losing your work. Our software is cloud-based and accessible online wherever an internet connection exists.

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FTx Solutions provides all of the business services you need to increase sales, prevent losses, and implement wiser business decisions. Our full suite of restaurant marketing solutions bundles every digital tool available on the market today for your benefit.

Elevate your establishment's dining options to an art form with a state-of-the-art POS system that's specifically designed for table service and dining room management. You can add a customer-facing Uplift screen at each table with QR capabilities to enhance the digital interaction and increase the chances of your customers ordering more for themselves even if their waiter doesn't stop by.

Our restaurant POS system comes with a built-in Loyalty Rewards Program to keep your loyal diners coming back to your restaurant because they are eager to act on time-sensitive deals and discounts.

To learn more, visit www.goftx.com or contact us today!