Restaurant Development & Design

FALL 2014

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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6 4 • R E S T A U R A N T D E V E L O P M E N T + D E S I G N • F A L L 2 0 1 4 Menu Boards W hat's the most important communication item in a restaurant? It's the menu board, according to Adam Limbach, vice president of brand communications for Chute Gerdeman in Columbus, Ohio. That's because the menu board is one of the frst items a consumer interacts with and it not only impacts check average, it also helps shape their entire experience. "Everything that is used, from the images to the fonts, communicates some- thing about the brand," Limbach says. "If it is plastic and back lit, that's more fast food. If it's chalkboard and hand written, that's more craft driven. Even the hard- ware that's used should align with the expectations and the brand experience the customer will get." Indeed, menu boards play an integral role in a restaurant's success and getting this part of the operation right tends to be equal parts art and science. "You have to balance what the operation can support, what the food offer is and how big the restaurant is," Limbach says. "What's their business model? Will they change it all the time or will it be more stable, like Chipotle's?" Technology also factors in to menu board selection decisions. Digital menu boards are an exciting new option due to their fexibility and the graphically enhanced customer experiences they can provide. But, as with any new technology, restaurants should carefully research their options before going digital. The success of digital menu boards depends largely on the restaurant's ability to populate them with good, eye-catching content, and that includes quality photos of food items and other messaging that enhances the customer experience. "Everyone is talking about technology and menu boards, but is there a budget for it?" Limbach says. "People just know they want to do it. They are not sure about how they will get the content and what it takes to maintain it." In some cases, he adds, simple, technology-free menu boards can provide plenty of bang for the buck. It all comes back to the desired customer experience, and the type of menu board a restaurant chooses should support that. "We try to look at it from the customer's journey and what they will see when," Limbach says. "If it's really complex, do you need to break the menu board up so they see it at different times? Chipotle, for example, has a super-simple menu board that refects its simple process and simple ingredients. In some places, the process is a lot more complex and the menu board needs to support that experience. You want the menu board to refect your food offering." A restaurant's sales volume will also impact the menu board it employs. "If you are trying to move a lot of people through, a complex menu or menu board can slow things down," Limbach adds. When it comes to best practices for menu board placement, once again, it's important to view things through the customers' eyes. And that starts with what's known as the cone of vision. "It's what you see without lifting your head. So you have to position the menu board at a height that works for average-sized men and women," Limbach says. "Look at the typography and make sure it's friendly and easy to read. Then consider how to layer in embellishments that support the brand promise and even some imagery. Some places, such as Chipotle, don't have much imagery while others rely heavily on imagery. So it's a craft and a science." Despite their profound impact on a restaurant's success, the fact remains that menu boards have limited real estate. As such, deciding what informa- tion needs to appear there tends to fuel many internal debates within restaurant companies because nobody wants to miss out on sales opportunities. How can you tell when a menu board has what it needs? Limbach suggests asking the following questions: • Are all of the right points being emphasized? • Does it include a decision tree? • Does it support add-ons? • Does it clearly communicate the brand attributes? • Is it integrated into the space? • Is it easy to scan, and do you know where to start? Common mistakes to avoid when purchasing and installing menu boards, according to Limbach, include not thinking of placement, making it hard to read and selecting an option that's not fexible enough, meaning it does not accommodate multiple dayparts well or is too complicated for franchi- sees to operate. "Some of this sounds like common sense, but sometimes common sense is not there," he says, adding that a basic key to success with menu board messaging and functional- ity is to "embrace the KISS methodol- ogy" — in other words: keep it simple, stupid. + Consider This

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