A Digital Menu Board Content Rant – Keep it simple!

A Digital Menu Board Content Rant – Keep it simple!

As a digital marketing executive, I’m always looking for new ways to promote products and upsell to customers. With so many tech options, keeping things simple can be tough. Marketers often aim for a “wow factor” with big, bold, and immersive tactics to catch people’s attention.

However, there’s a right time and place for such strategies. I want to advise marketers and those managing digital menu boards at restaurants and drive-throughs to be cautious. I’ll share my recent experience at a quick-service restaurant (QSR) drive-through to explain why it’s better to aim for simplicity in digital menu board content and strategy, instead of overwhelming customers with too much dazzle.

Drive thru Digital Menu Boards: How They Work - Navori Labs

My recent experience

On a warm summer night after a golf game outside the city, I found myself running late getting back home to my wife. The game took more time than I had planned, and I was about 45 minutes away from home. I wondered whether to head straight home and whip up a quick dinner from whatever was in the fridge or to treat myself to some fast food from my favorite spot, which I hadn’t done in a while. Since it was conveniently on my way home, I chose the latter.

By the time I decided to go through the drive-through, it was late and, luckily, there wasn’t much of a line. However, I didn’t get a chance to see the menu before reaching the order point. This experience at the well-known fast-food chain was both annoying and frustrating, leading me to share my thoughts in this blog post.

Let the frustrations begin

Arriving at the ordering area, a voice quickly greeted me and asked for my order. The drive-through digital menu board didn’t display the actual menu, but instead showed a promotional video for a product I wasn’t interested in.

I requested a moment to decide my order, but the digital menu board changed to a layout with limited items. I wondered if that was the entire menu.

Being familiar with digital signage, I pondered content strategy while the person on the other end impatiently asked if I was still there. Without seeing the full menu, I hastily ordered something I knew they had.

On my way home, I realized the QSR failed to serve me as a customer by prioritizing the “wow factor.” If the complete menu had been shown when I arrived and remained until I ordered, I would have been happier. Similar mistakes happen with indoor digital menu boards too.

Drive Thru QSR Digital Menu Board

Lessons learned

The key takeaway is that when using digital signs, it’s crucial to remember their true purpose. It’s important to differentiate between what’s entertaining and what’s useful, focusing on the essentials while adding extras only when they truly enhance the experience.

For marketers and content creators aiming to deliver messages in engaging ways, it’s also vital to ensure these innovative approaches don’t negatively impact customer experience. In my experience, the digital menu boards at the drive-through were meant to boost sales, improve service speed, and make customers happier. However, for me, it did the opposite. I wasn’t interested in new products and felt the ordering process was rushed and confusing, leaving me unhappy, even though the food was good.

Action items

When I finally got home, I was still bothered by how digital signage (an industry and product category I know and love) actually made my experience worse. So, I wrote a short list of things to remember when creating digital signage content for digital menu boards and here it is:

  • Make the content visually appealing but KEEP IT SIMPLE.
  • Remember, digital displays are there for customers to see the menu and order what they want.
  • In a quick-service restaurant, the ordering process needs to be QUICK.
  • Avoid full-screen video takeovers where the menu is not visible for more than 5 seconds.
  • Instead, place your video advertising in a section of the main menu screen so that both play simultaneously.
  • Your digital menu boards are not there to attract new customers. They are there to help your existing customers get what they want.

The above experience with digital menu boards in fast-food restaurants is relatable to other situations, such as encountering frustrating digital signage in airports. Flight status boards are meant to inform, not entertain. It’s frustrating when you’re in a hurry at the airport and the screens displaying important flight information are playing full-screen advertisements instead. It’s counterproductive and exasperating.


The Navori Labs solution to this problem:

QL is the award-winning, intuitive Digital Signage Software platform by Navori Labs. QL includes built-in, data-driven content-triggering features that are very easy to configure and deploy regardless of technical skill level. Here is how data-driven content triggering can be used to avoid the annoying fast-food restaurant and airport examples discussed above:

  • Have a sensor or camera near your digital menu board, or transportation status board that can detect when a person is standing in front of the screen.
  • Use the data produced by your camera or sensor in real-time to automatically decide what content should be on screen at any moment, for example:
    • If a person is present, continue to play the critical information (full menu, full flight data)
    • If nobody is present, play your advertising loop, until the next person is present.

Learn more about this type of context-aware content triggering HERE

smart content automation infographic

In conclusion

Ultimately, it’s important to identify and honor the main purpose of any digital signage, whether it’s for displaying menus, transportation updates, or meeting room schedules. While there’s definitely room for eye-catching “wow factor” advertising within these informational displays, we must remember their true function: to deliver straightforward and quick information to those who need it.

About Navori Labs

Navori Labs, a Swiss software innovator, delivers premium digital signage and AI-driven marketing analytics solutions to businesses and organizations worldwide.

What differentiates our software is the fact it’s developed by our own team of engineers. For the last 20 years, Navori Labs has steadily invested in research and development. This lets us bring to market unique products that outperform other software solutions. It’s also why we back our products with professional maintenance contracts and support services.

We pay a lot of attention to our software’s simplicity, user-friendliness, and ease of use. Our software is designed for non-technical users, under the expert guidance of our in-house artistic director.