Custom Digital Menu Boards: Hardware 101
- On April 5, 2023
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Custom digital menu boards are one of the best evolutions of QSR and restaurant technology since the digital cash register. Gone are the days of fading deli menu cards behind yellow plastic or trying to decipher menu items from dusty chalkboards in local coffee shops. If you are a restaurant planning to update to digital signage, no doubt you are excited to say goodbye to the hassle of static card menus.
So many restaurants today are ready to embrace the ease and flexibility of digital menus, which allow restaurants to update menu items based on the time of day, revolving special deals, and daily availability to improve every customer experience. Custom digital menu boards are also known to cut down on customer wait times and make it easier for restaurants to upsell to guests.
But before you get into any of these benefits, you’ll need to get those custom digital menu boards installed. Today, we’re talking about what it takes to achieve the hardware installation of your new responsive menu boards. If you don’t have a design already in place, now is the time to make some very important decisions.
At Keyser, we specialize in digital signage and know that every custom digital menu board system is unique – inspired by the existing design of the business and each with a custom selection of hardware to fit those needs.
The first step is to choose the right display screen type for your digital menu boards. The screens should be of high quality and able to display clear, vivid images in both bright and dark conditions. The crispness of your image also matters, as reading small details like ingredients and pricing will help shape a better customer experience.
The right screen size will depend on your restaurant’s layout, customer flow, and available space. Very large screens are ideal if you have a wide open space and often have customers lining up toward the door, while smaller screens are more intimate, space-efficient, and effective for customers who can stand closer to read the details. Keep in mind the design tool you may use and the custom designs that will be displayed on the screen you select. Consider the size, shape, and even the resolution when determining the best fit for your restaurant.
Your choice of media player will influence how you manage and present your digital displays. A media player is necessary to run any digital menu board, as it provides your ability to control, edit, and update the board’s content. You’ll want a player that can handle digital menu board software so you can adapt your menu items as needed.
Your choice in the media player can be any number of devices. It will need to be able to connect to the internet or an internal device to receive menu board updates and handle high-quality video and image files. You also want to decide whether your media player will be mounted to the wall behind your digital menu boards or if you will run cables to a separate system that you can access directly from the back office. Your media player might be a mini-computer, a laptop, or a custom display device.
Mounts and Brackets
Mounting is going to play a major role in how you install the hardware. You will need durable mounts and brackets designed to hold your screen in place. If you choose a monitor-type screen, you may wind up using a VESA x-shaped mount, or you may choose a screen with custom screw-in mounting gear. You can have a slot created in the wall for a slide-in screen or use custom mounting brackets to hold your screen at a convenient downward angle. There are so many ways to mount commercial digital signage and you can explore them all when looking into the type and size of screen you’d like to display your digital menu.
TV screens are the best way to achieve a very large digital menu display, but monitors are more likely to provide an extremely crisp presentation. The type of mount or bracket will depend on the size and location of your screens.
Every digital display must be connected with cables. Most likely, you will need HDMI cables or, for very modern devices, USB-C cables. However, extremely high-end video can also be conveyed using a fiber optic video cable, sending signals through glass fibers instead of typical copper wires. Choose cables that are durable and flexible, rated to transmit data quickly and efficiently so you can update your food menu at lightning speed when the need arises.
Cables will need to be strung into the wall and lead to the power source and media player, which might be located nearby or deeper into the building in a place you can reach them. Most brands have their cables run through the wall to ensure they remain invisible to the customers. Some with a smaller space will instead choose short cables and mount the media player behind the screens to minimize the total amount of cabling needed or the risk of a loop of cable showing where it shouldn’t.
The right power supply will depend on your choice in screen for your custom menu boards, along with the media player. The most efficient route is to choose a combined power supply that can handle the load of all your screens and the media player at once. You may choose a power strip to support multiple power adapters – one for each screen and device, or a more complete power solution to provide continuous electricity to your digital menu system’s core features.
We advise choosing an uninterruptible power supply, which includes multiple plugs and an internal battery so that any interruption in electricity will keep your screens powered through the blip – meaning you won’t have to reboot your digital menu if there are power cycles or rolling power disruptions in your city.
In order to maintain control over your menu board system, your media player should be linked to a network connection. Because cybersecurity is a concern for businesses at every level, it’s best to use an internal network cable that cannot be wifi-hacked instead of relying on a venue-wide wireless network. This will protect your menus from the risk of unwanted content or a broken operating system image appearing to your customers, should your business be targeted by serious or even casual hackers.
A high-speed network cable like a Cat6 will provide the ability to connect to the network, download content and updates, and ensure your network connection remains secure and reliable. Like your visual and power cables, your network connection can be strung through the wall and connected to the router in your restaurant’s back office.
Audio equipment is an optional hardware component that businesses may choose to include in their digital menu board installations to enhance the customer experience with background music or audio promotions. There are several types of audio equipment that can be used with digital menu boards, including speakers, soundbars, and amplifiers.
When considering audio equipment for digital menu boards, businesses should think about the type and quality of audio they want to offer. For example, some businesses may choose to play background music to create a specific ambiance, while others may use audio promotions to draw attention to specific menu items or promotions.
The type of audio equipment used will depend on the size of the business and the environment in which it is installed. For small businesses, a set of speakers may be sufficient, while larger businesses may require more extensive audio systems such as soundbars or amplifiers.
Businesses may also choose to customize their audio hardware to suit their specific needs. For example, they may choose to install directional speakers that direct audio towards a specific area, such as a queue or seating area. This can be useful for businesses that want to control the direction of the audio and prevent it from disturbing other customers or staff.
When it comes to choosing audio equipment for digital menu boards, it’s important to consider the compatibility with other hardware components such as media players and displays. Working with a reputable digital signage provider can help businesses identify the most suitable audio equipment for their specific requirements and ensure compatibility with the rest of the digital menu board installation.
Cameras are another hardware component that some design teams may choose to include in their digital menu board design. The cameras can serve multiple purposes, such as monitoring customer behavior, foot traffic, or conducting market research. For example, maybe your business is a popular happy hour area and you want to get data on what demographics frequent your restaurant during happy hour so you know who to market to.
One type of camera that businesses may choose to install is a surveillance camera. Surveillance cameras can be used to monitor customer behavior, track foot traffic, and prevent theft or other security issues. They can also provide valuable insights into customer behavior, such as which menu items are the most popular or how long customers spend in certain areas of the store.
It’s important to note that businesses must be transparent about their use of cameras and comply with relevant privacy regulations. In some jurisdictions, businesses may be required to obtain customer consent before using facial recognition technology or other types of cameras.
Installing Your Custom Digital Menu Board System
Preparing for the installation is key to nailing the execution of restaurant menu boards in your business. Keyser specializes in digital signage for commercial venues and can help you choose the perfect screens, media player, mounting brackets, and support features necessary for a seamless digital menu experience. We can give pointers on the best digital sign software to choose from and how to set up your end-to-end digital menu board solution.
If you are interested in starting the journey to displaying a customizable digital menu, Keyser is here to help. We look forward to providing the expert installation and IT support you need to make it happen. Get in touch with Keyser to get started today.