This article will help you to set up a digital menu board for your restaurant, take-away, bar, or coffee shop. Back in the old days, people used menus on paper, but they were expensive to create, and expensive to update because you had to reprint them. Or they used changeable letterboards where you can build your menu boards with letters and numbers. Nowadays, people use digital menu boards because you can now use a television to display and promote your menu boards. You don’t have to wait till your new menus are ready, and printed. No, you are now in control. Out of stock of something? Remove it from the menu board and nobody will ask about it. Have some overstock? Put it first on the list or emphasize that item or menu a bit more or better. With digital menu boards, you will see, it will be worth the investments and offer lots of advantages.
Get a Television
Get started and buy yourself a large television with bright colors, and in a decent size. Of course, you can buy 86″ television screens, but first check out the space you have. How large is the room or shop? What is the distance from the door to the counters? How many menu items will you have on the screen? Maybe you need multiple screens.
All the answers to those questions will give you an idea of what size and the number of screens you need. There is no simple formula. Everything depends on your shop or restaurant, the items that you offer, your audience, your budget and so on. But let it be clear that you first have to decide on the hardware or television that you need, and you can afford.
A first constraint is maybe already the space on the wall that will force you to hang your television in landscape or portrait mode.
Secondly, think about the number of items that you need to show. Maybe you have 3 columns like breakfast, lunch dinner, or 3 categories like starters, main courses, and desserts. In that case, you might consider landscape mode with 3 columns for your digital menu. When you have a coffee shop, and you need a list of just all variations of coffees, then a portrait mode is maybe better.
Digital Menu Board Design Tool
Everyone can design digital menu boards. You don’t need special and expensive software for this. You don’t need to be an Adobe expert for this. Use PowerPoint for this. That is a perfect tool to create menu boards and price lists with. Place a text box on a slide and enter your texts. Insert a picture. PowerPoint is easier to do this with, compared to e.g. Word because there you have (by default) floating pictures and texts. Nothing is fixed to a given position. In Word this moves around while you are working. PowerPoint does not have this problem. And more, PowerPoint supports transitions and animations. Reasons enough to choose for PowerPoint if you want to create an easy but attractive menu board yourself.
The television that you have selected has a given resolution. Look that up at the specifications. This might be 4K, so the resolution is 3840 by 2160 pixels. That is the resolution you will have when you hang your television in landscape mode. In portrait mode, you can switch the resolution as being 2160 by 3840 pixels.
In PowerPoint, start with a new presentation and click Design, Slide Size, Custom Slide Size. We have to adjust the width and the height. You probably see 13.333 and 7.5 inch (or the equivalent in centimeters). Note that we are creating a presentation for your television, and not for the laptop, you are working on now. So we have to respect the dimensions of the television.
Enter the resolution as pixel values in PowerPoint. So, select that ‘13.333 in’ and type in ‘3840 px’ for landscape mode. PowerPoint will translate your input into inches or centimeters automatically. Do the same for the height value. Click OK to close. Now the presentation is ready for designing. Add more slides if you want to alternate pages on your menu board.
When you will have multiple columns or menu categories, then it is best to add guides to your slide design, so that you can place the guides already before designing. This will help you to place, and align texts and images better.
Right click your slide and open the sub menu ‘Grid and Guides…’. Choose to add as many horizontal and vertical guides, so that, you can place your columns, white space between the columns, and headers.
Digital Menu Background
First choose what background that you want to use on your digital menu slides. A coffee shop would probably use a kind a brown color as the background. Or some color of the brand logo. You can place a solid color as background, or a gradient that flows over from one color into another. Also, often used, is a picture on the background. Like e.g. an image of fresh green crispy salad leaves. A bit more daring is when you use a video in the background. With a picture, you can put some smooth animation on it. While with a video you already have movement included. If you don’t want a picture or video to use, then why not use a popping and contrasting color that screams.
Logo and Name
Next thing, and very important for your brand and recognition, is to place the name of your shop or brand at the (probably) top of the screen. When you use a logo or picture, make sure that you are using a high quality image (high resolution). Otherwise, you will see blocks in your image, no smooth rounding, etc.
Check your menu items. Try to group your items like e.g. alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, or lunch and diner, or eat-in and take-away. Create logical groups. Then insert columns, so that, you can place all logical groups on your slide. Or, another option, is to use multiple slides in your presentation. One slide per logical group. With PowerPoint, you can display every slide for a number of seconds, and then move on to the next slide. Or you can use software to schedule your menu boards. With software, you have the capability to schedule your lunch menu slide from 11AM till the late afternoon, and then switch to another presentation, exclusive with dinner menu options only. It makes no sense to show the slide with lunch options at dinner time. You will have to say “no that we don’t have right now, that is an option of the lunch menu”.
Per section, add the name of the category to the top of every section. Optionally you can add an icon or image to it.
Menu Items And Prices
Now the important things; your menu items. Add your products and meals to the categories. Use a name to identify your product, a short description or list of ingredients, and a price. The name is typically placed in bold, the ingredients in a smaller font, and then the price again in a bold and larger font.
TIP: don’t separate the ingredients with a boring comma, but use for example a • as separator in between in the ingredients.
Do you have some special occasional slides to show? Promotions? Special opening hours due to holidays? New product launch? Just add a new slide to your presentation, add your promotions, and hide or show the slide when needed. Right click the slide in the slide view at the left, and choose to hide a slide. You can leave your special slides included in your presentation, but they are not shown in the running slideshow, but those can be enabled again, when you need them, maybe next year.
Schedule and Distribute
You can now export the PowerPoint video as MP4 video and put it on a USB stick or SD card. That can be inserted into your smart television for continuous playback. You will have to replace the video every time that you have an update, and you have to go physically to the shop(s). Maybe you want to automate this, maybe even access your menu screens from home, or distribute the same content to your multiple locations and shops? For that we have a better solution. With SignageTube you can log on to your SignageTube account, see all your television screens, and upload a new presentation via your laptop at home or at your office, via a browser. On your smart TVs, you install the SignageTube app, and connect to safely to your account. We will then take care of your presentations and make sure that your menu boards are displayed on the televisions when you need them. Full remote monitoring and instant feedback of what is showed on all your screens of all your locations. All from behind your laptop.