DIGITAL MENU BOARDS FOR RESTAURANTS
Everything digital menus: How to make them easier for you and your customers
The restaurant industry has experienced indelible change over the past few decades. Customers have been increasingly turning away from traditional restaurant models in favor of more modern approaches. This has placed restaurant owners in a position where they are now reimagining every stage of how their restaurants function.
One of the more recent features to emerge in the restaurant industry is digital menu technology. The use of digital menus has become increasingly popular, particularly with small restaurants with limited space and staffing. Nonetheless, restaurant owners have expressed concerns about their applicability and implementation, arguing that the onboarding process outweighs the benefits.
This page addresses precisely those concerns by discussing digital menu boards for restaurants, including what they are, how they work, and why you should consider them for your small business.
What is a digital menu and why does it matter?
Very simply, a digital menu is an online version of your physical menu that can be accessed with any internet-connected device. This includes:
Digital menus have become an essential tool for small restaurants in recent years. This is especially true with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic still lingering. Furthermore, the subsequent “Great Resignation” has left many businesses reeling with a limited staff. Digital menus allow for limited staffing, as customers can place orders without the assistance of a waiter or waitress.
More importantly, digital menus are a part of the modern restaurant experience. This departure from traditional models emphasizes contactless features that empower customers to shape their visits to their liking. It centers the customer by giving them the tools to help themselves—digital menus play a central role in that process.
How do I create/manage the menu?
This might seem like an overwhelming task for small restaurant owners; in the past, creating an interactive website required hiring a talented web developer who had to jump through numerous hoops to get the site working with your credit card processor.
As a result, few, if any, restaurants offered digital menus. Nowadays, the process is much simpler; depending on your POS, it may be as simple as entering some basic contact information, including the following:
- Company name
- Company contact info (DBA, email, phone #, etc.)
- Menu items with descriptions and photos
Using a method like this, business owners can get their digital menus up and running in as little as one day.
Once your website is created, management becomes remarkably easy. Because the POS is cloud-based, the menu information can be accessed and changed with any internet-connected device. This allows business owners to change information relatively quickly, even if they are not in the office. Daily updates reflecting menu changes or item shortages minimize customer confusion, allowing your restaurant to put its best foot forward.
How do customers access the digital menu?
Once your customers are seated, they will have a QR code available at or attached to their table. The method of attachment is largely up to the business owner (taped down, laminated, artfully posed, etc.). This code must not be removed from the table during business hours.
Customers can access the digital menu using the camera on their smartphones. Both Android and iPhone have different methods to do this, but the process generally consists of:
- Opening the camera app on your smartphone
- Accessing the QR code feature on the camera
- Focusing the camera on the QR code, which will automatically redirect the phone’s web browser to your digital menu
Although this process is remarkably simple, QR codes can have issues when not produced or used properly. When evaluating these issues, there are a few important things to keep in mind:
- Is the camera tilted at an angle? (It shouldn’t be.)
- The code may be poorly printed, leaving smudges or high contrast.
- The code may be too small; we recommend at least 2×2 inches.
- The code may have a broken link, requiring backend repairs to get it working.
Any of these issues can lead to the QR code not working properly. This can be an initial setback, but once the code is properly produced, it will function flawlessly. Furthermore, it will continue to function even as the digital menu changes.
What are the advantages of a digital menu?
Digital menus offer the following benefits to customers and restaurateurs alike:
For business owners, having the ability to update your menu relatively quickly allows you to reflect last-minute changes in inventory, run daily food or drink specials, or introduce new dishes. Using a cloud-based POS enables you to do this using the online site, regardless of whether or not you are in the restaurant. In this sense, where you once would have had to tie yourself to the restaurant to make important menu changes, you can now tie the restaurant to you.
In addition to accessibility, digital menus put your customer in the driver’s seat. Not only can they peruse your selections, but digital menus also give them the ability to:
- Add or remove ingredients
- Leave specialty instructions
- Place their orders
Most impressively, all of this can be done without interacting with an employee. In this sense, digital menus provide your customers with the ability to control and direct the course of their meals in a way that was never before possible in traditional restaurants.
Because the fear of viral transmission is now in the public mindset more than it ever was before, the emphasis on a contactless experience (one in which as few physical materials are transferred between people as possible) has become incredibly important for modern customers. Offering digital menus decreases the physical touching of a menu as well as the potential viral transmission when speaking with a waiter. Digital menus serve as one of your most important tools to appeal to the modern customer who is concerned about a sanitary eating environment.
Combat reduced staffing
Across the board, an ongoing concern for business owners has been the “Great Resignation” in the wake of the pandemic over the last few years. This has left many industries short-staffed, including the restaurant industry, which now faces razor-thin margins in addition to a lack of available help. Using digital menus helps small restaurants operate with reduced staffing, as it eliminates the need for excessive waitstaff to function efficiently. This ensures that no matter how large or small your operation is, technology can find a way to make it work.
Another advantage of the digital menu as opposed to a physical one is that it opens your restaurant to new audiences. While dining customers can access your online menu via a QR code, pick-up or delivery customers can also access the menu via the web. From there, they can place their order online, where the restaurant accepts the order and it is sent to the kitchen for preparation.
With these features in mind, it’s hard to see why a restaurant (particularly a small restaurant that specifically struggles with many of these problems) wouldn’t be excited about digital menus. This is especially true given how easy they are to create and manage as well as the freedom they offer business owners who are no longer stuck at the office grappling with menu issues. That being said, it is important to address potential issues with digital menus.
Are there any drawbacks?
There will be customers who are unable to use a digital menu, including those who do not have a smartphone to access the digital menu and those who forgot their phones at home or who have dead batteries. While this won’t affect your pick-up or delivery customers, restaurants may want to have physical menus available for dine-in customers.
It might be tempting to think, “Why would I create a digital menu if I’m just going to need a physical one anyway?” It’s important to remember that only a minority of your customers may still require a physical menu. The majority of your customers will have no issue accessing your digital menu. This means:
- Printing fewer menus
- Updating those menus less often
With that in mind, it’s clear to see how a digital menu remains an effective cost reduction tool despite the lingering need to print a few physical menus.
Digital menu boards for restaurants; now available through your trusted partner
Digital menus empower customers via contactless technology that provides updated information with maximum accessibility. They similarly benefit restaurant owners with robust options to pad their bottom line and manage a limited staff. While they pose potential issues for a minority of customers, they serve as the exception that proves the rule; modern customers want modern options. Modern technology provides those options with limited investments, making them a reality more than ever before.
Best of all, digital menu boards for restaurants are very little work, provided you have the right tools. POS solutions such as talech offer proprietary software that allows restaurant owners to create digital menus. Reach out today for more information about a free demo and to learn how we can become your trusted partner.
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