Benefits of Implementing Digital Restaurant Menus

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Digital menus extend far beyond restaurant signage and displays, providing plenty of strategic operational value for modern restaurants.

Digital restaurant menus encompass much more than just screens and signage. 

Dynamic screens displaying menu items are no doubt a critical component to your overall digitized ordering experience. It’s just that a robust digital menu strategy involves much more than digital signage.

Tons of restaurants implemented digital menus during the pandemic in the form of QR codes.

While sanitization may have been the initial driver, digital restaurant menus provide plenty of value for operations. Read on to learn more about the combination of QR codes, dynamic POS systems, and digital signage can help streamline your front-of-house and improve guest experiences —  leading to a new .

Digital menus are more than just digital signage

A digital menu is quite literally a digitized, soft copy of a restaurant menu. This could be dynamic signage above the service counter or out at a drive-thru. Or it could refer to advanced guest and server tools, including QR code enabled menus, self-service kiosks, terminal and handheld POS, and more.

As long as the content of the menu is in digital format and dynamic — able to be quickly and easily updated — then it’s a digital menu.

Operators can even consider online and in-app menus for takeout and self-operated or third-party delivery part of their digital restaurant menu strategy.

How do digital restaurant menus work?

This dynamic new technology is powered by digital restaurant menu software. Cloud-based digital menu software enables users to make real-time changes, such as updating prices, removing items, or adjusting ingredients and featured items.

Here are a few nuances to consider as you zoom into different digital restaurant menu applications:

Digital menu board software

Digital menu boards, essentially smart TVs and displays, are perhaps the most common use case for digital menus. 

This digital signage software can enable users to push menu updates through in real time, whether the board is hanging above a counter, next to the ordering queue, or even out at a drive-thru station. Digital displays showcase food menus, drink menus, ingredient and nutritional information, prices, and more.

Digital menu board solutions can help deliver an engaging, memorable aesthetic experience for your brand with eye-catching menu design templates, tons of font options, and other customizable components — all very social media friendly too.

Toast integrates with Cirrus and Raydiant for restaurant digital signage.

POS-enabled QR code menus

It took the sanitization needs spurred by a global pandemic to truly usher in QR codes being used in restaurants. 

QR codes can simply be a 1:1 replacement for paper menus, bringing up a digital version of the day’s menu upon scanning. QR codes really shine in restaurants as part of a new service model and customer engagement tool that empowers guests to see the menu AND order AND pay all from the prompt that originated with the QR scan. This enables guests to dictate their experience.

Toast's Mobile Order and Pay enables guests to scan a QR code, browse the menu, order, and pay, all from their mobile device.

Self-service kiosks

Kiosks are another avenue where digital menus can shine. 

These self-service systems can ease the rush-hour pressure on counter-service restaurants, helping keep lines down via efficient self-ordering and paying. Kiosks can also work to proactively enable guests to order exactly what they want, benefiting restaurants via upsell, modifier, and add-on prompts.

Toast's self-serve restaurant kiosks help enable quick and easy ordering experiences.

Server-facing updates

There’s a steady pour of activity over the course of a restaurant server’s shift. This can make relaying menu updates difficult to do, let alone having servers remember them. 

That’s why servers-facing digital menus can be impactful. Managers and kitchen staff can push through updates as items are 86’d, adjust prices if employing a dynamic pricing model, and substitute featured items as services change (breakfast to lunch to dinner). Servers see the updates come through on their handheld POS or at the terminal. It’s more impactful on their portable POS as it enables them to better manage customer expectations and get in front of potential 86’s.

Toast Go® 2 can unlock portable order and pay with real-time menu updates.

Online ordering hubs

Guests ordering takeout and delivery may interact with your digital menu across your site and ordering platform, multiple third-party apps, and more.

You have to consider how you can manage these menus as well as how orders from them flow into your system. You don’t want last month’s specials hanging around a third-party digital menu. While it’s their platform, customers are seeing and engaging with your restaurant brand. That’s why it’s critical to have a system and/or processes in place that help make it easy to regularly update these digital menus.

Toast's online ordering system empowers restaurants to control guest relationships and manage margins by allowing guests to order pickup or delivery directly from you – commission-free.

Toast Mobile Order & Pay™
Give guests the experience they're looking for with mobile order & pay - easy access to what they want, when they want it, from their own device.

3 benefits of digital restaurant menus

Meet guests with digital hospitality across ordering channels

Restaurant operators must manage and cultivate intentional, ideal customer experiences across all the digital menu channels a customer may use to place and pay for an order. 

This is nothing new, though it’s worth constantly repeating. And though it could be seen as a chore, perhaps it’s more helpful to think of these channels as ways to implement digital hospitality — meeting your guests on their preferred channel and offering as seamless an experience as if they were walking through your ordering line.

This applies equally to in-store digital restaurant menus as it does to online or in-app experiences.

For example, 61 percent of all consumers — and 78 percent of millennial consumers — say they would be likely to use self-service kiosks if they were offered by a restaurant in their area that they patronize. If you’re offering that experience, it needs to include an updated menu and a simple ordering and paying process.

Provide more guest-centric order and pay processes

Guests want to interact with digital menus. They want to place their own orders. They want to dictate when and how they pay. And the technology exists to enable this guest-centric experience.

Toast’s New Steps of Service outlines why it’s so critical to and how restaurants can provide a service model that features guest-centric order and pay procedures. It boils down to the strategic implementation of all this modern restaurant tech innovation. 

While there have been loads of new restaurant technologies developed in the past 20 years, most have been forced into the same service models we’ve had for centuries. 

Flipping these technologies around can empower guests to control their experience and dictate the flow of a service. Not all guests will want this. It will vary by demographic and restaurant segment while being especially meaningful for those that do want to engage with it.

Boost sales of featured items

All shapes and sizes of digital menus enable restaurant managers to highlight specific items. 

It could be as simple as placing a daily rotating special at the top of the menu prompted via QR code. Or it could be a callout on digital signage to try new limited-time offerings. 

While servers could always and still can make these recommendations, the self-service features are proven to help boost sales for individual items.

For example, 37 of polled restaurants revealed that digital signage helped to increase their promotional item sales, according to Raydiant*.

Toast Online Ordering
Learn how a better online ordering system can help you save time and grow revenue.

More than meets the eye with digital restaurant menu software

Dynamic displays and signage are what most people think of when discussing digital restaurant menus — and rightly so as digital restaurant menu boards are highly popular and growing.

In fact, prior to the pandemic in 2019, 54 percent of restaurants had started using or planned to increase their digital signage, according to Raydiant*

The pandemic shook things up for digital restaurant menus. QR codes jumped to the forefront. Online ordering and delivery skyrocketed. 

All of these solidifying new avenues for digital sales and thus, digital menus. Restaurants can benefit from these channels by being intentional and diligent with their digital menu management so they can meet guest expectations and maximize their contribute to overall restaurant sales.

*According to Statistics for Success: How Digital Signage Improves Your Business, published Aug 16, 2022 by Raydiant.

DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.