Blog | What Makes a Smart Digital Menu Board Smart?


May 31, 2022

Digital Menu Boards go far beyond content scheduling to enable personalization, context-driven content, and AI-driven LTOs, and so much more. See how smart digital menu boards increase engagement and customer cart sizes.

Making the move from print to digital menu boards allows you to prioritize customer experience. The value and upsell opportunities the technology delivers is proven and mature. Beyond modernizing the look of the restaurant and improving menu clarity, digital menu boards allow you to make real time updates, delivering relevance and accuracy.

By now, the word “smart” preceding a word or phrase implies a level of advanced functionality — your smartphone or smart car operate on a higher level of sophistication due to technology working behind the scenes. Smart digital menu boards up the ante on customer experience, employee experience, as well as offsetting aspects of day-to-day challenges (labor, supply chain, speed, accuracy) that are all too familiar for any quick service restaurant, grocery store or convenience store.

In any high volume consumer environment, smart digital menu boards speed up service, drive relevance and increase sales. The technology does this by automating and managing menu offering at scale to make your content more timely, attractive and customized to your current customers.

What does a smart digital menu board do exactly?

  • Deliver accurate, relevant menu content that updates in real time
  • Personalize and contextualize promotions based on everything from geographic location, to weather and transaction history
  • Integrate with technology, such as wireless sensors, cameras and AI to deliver responsive content

Components of a Smart Digital Menu Board

Relevant content engages and converts. The tricky part is ensuring that content appeals to EVERYONE.

Smart technology does this automatically, often by displaying a combination of static and dynamic content. Static content would be the menu. This might change for breakfast, lunch or dinner, but these are scheduled changes that most digital menu board content management systems can achieve without being smart.

Dynamic content would be your Limited Time Offer (LTO). A smart digital menu board manages this dynamic content separately, governed by a set of rules that you choose based on the data that your content management system has available. Is it a hot day? Display a cool beverage with crystal clear droplets of condensation running down the sides. Is it cold? Is it morning? Display a hot coffee with the steam rising. As you can imagine, these context-based content are more effective and can drive higher beverage attach, and profitability.

Smart signage allows you to not only separate your dynamic frames, it allows you to programmatically choose what content to display. A handful of unique components enable this (and any) smart feature.

Smart digital displays

Sensor-enabled digital displays improve how you show menu items, offers and promotions with optimal clarity and relevance. At a fundamental level, digital displays deliver a more engaging experience, but advanced technology brings in real-time, conditional information that drives on-screen relevance. This is true for digital menu boards for restaurants, near the deli counter in grocery stores, as well as in-aisle, near the made-to-order, coffee and checkout in convenience retail. Smart outdoor digital menu boards in the drive thru and order pickup areas deliver speed and convenience at a higher rate, moving guests through the line while improving accuracy.


Sensors are key components of the relevance and responsiveness of your digital menu board content. Strategically placed sensors allow you to gather data that gives valuable insight into what’s happening in and around your restaurant or store. Some of these insights include demographics, dwell time, gathering areas, asset detection and pathing throughout the store. By understanding customer and employee behavior, patterns and preferences, you can strategize (and measure, test and adjust!) exactly when and how content will be most effectively displayed. Similar to the responsiveness of online shopping, smart digital menu boards are honing in on what’s most relevant to current audiences.

There are options when it comes to choosing sensor technology. Read our blog to see what technology is best for measuring in-store interactions.

Artificial intelligence

The third component of making a digital menu board “smart” is artificial intelligence. AI delivers decision logic to menu items being displayed — this allows you to tailor the content to what is shown, when, where in the menu design, and even who is seeing the content. With a sound strategy in place and learning over time, AI allows you to personalize, automate and optimize the store, restaurant interior and drive thru experience to improve sales, loyalty and efficiency.

Drive More Sales and ROI

Smart digital menu boards are proven to increase average check in any high volume consumer environment — in the QSR drive thru, inside the convenience store, at the grocery store deli counter, movie theater and more.

Digital displays allow you to:

  • Display your menu with optimal clarity
  • Increase attention with engaging video
  • Drive menu relevance with simple, real-time content updates
  • Ensure clarity or current menu offering, process and status

Smart digital menu boards:

  • Offset labor and supply chain challenges with peak menu optimization
  • Customize content based on conditional factors such as weather, crew, overage/supply changes
  • Implement suggestive selling
  • Personalize menu content. For known loyalty customers, this customization can be down to a one-to-one personalization and suggestion of preferred items or complementary items
  • Give deeper insight into KPIs such as improved average check, LTO sales, speed of service and order accuracy

Connect the online ordering and order pickup journey

Personalization is not only good for businesses; customers love it. Out of 4 consumers, 3 expect personalization and get frustrated without it (McKinsey, “The Value of Getting Personalization Right…”). Customers want personalized experiences because relevant information means they do not need to say no. They feel more connected, understood, and considered.

Omnichannel is a great example of the power of personalized content. Today’s top quick service restaurants use personalization in their drive thru and curbside, allowing customers to pick up online orders as they prefer. This coordination requires smart signage that can deliver order confirmations to omnichannel customers, but then display the menu to customers that have not yet placed their order.

A traditional digital menu board shows images and enticing video of your menu offering, Limited Time Offers (LTOs) and promotions. A modern digital menu board is a dynamic, data-driven communication platform that is truly integrated in your communications strategy, opening major opportunities for customer loyalty, engagement and satisfaction. Connect with your customers on mobile and seamlessly continue the conversation in the restaurant or the store.

The accuracy and convenience of “smart” digital menu boards begins before the customer places their order. Taking into account real-time, conditional insights, digital menu boards deliver a relevant, customized experience for the consumer. This is particularly true in the drive thru. Digital signs and menu boards allow you to greet the customer, highlight LTOs and high margin items, display relevant menu suggestions and ensure accuracy with a menu confirmation board. Digital menu boards in the drive thru open up an opportunity for true one-to-one personalization. By recognizing known, loyal customers when they enter the drive thru, rules on the backend can trigger the digital menu board to update in real time, promoting items that appeal to each unique customer, or highlighting relevant, higher margin menu items.

Digital Menu Board Software: Managing content and hardware at scale

Scale is the most important factor to consider when approaching a new digital menu board deployment. Most content management systems are designed with a small handful of endpoints in mind: mobile, tablet, and desktop. In digital signage, often we see variations in content across locations. Everything from pricing to LTOs needs to be flexible.

Your CMS also needs to be able to accommodate network differences. Rural locations might have far less bandwidth for image downloads than urban locations. How and when will low-bandwidth locations download digital menu board content without interfering with business operations?

Digital Menu Board Software will accommodate locales for both the network and end-users.

Read our blog, Digital Signage Content Management for a deep dive on Digital Menu Board Content Management for enterprise networks.

Digital Menu Boards for Restaurants: Key considerations

From a tactical and future growth perspective, operators should consider these questions as they approach vendors.

  • Does your digital menu board technology partner have direct experience and authority over hardware and software for digital signage?
  • How will you integrate live data into your content?
  • Does your content strategy break out segments by daypart, considering actual work conditions such as the number of employees you have on the floor and how busy they will be? Does it provide goals and hypotheses that your test project will answer?
  • Can your provider integrate with any Point of Sale (POS) or loyalty app, or are they tied to specific technologies?
  • Is the solution proven at scale?
  • What does support actually look like in terms of expertise and ability to solve real problems?
  • Is there room to grow the digital menu board into advanced use cases, including AI- and sensor-driven personalization and responsive systems?