Illuminated Menu Boards | What's Best for Your Drive Thru Restaurant?

illuminated menu boards

Looking for outdoor illuminated drive thru boards for your restaurant’s drive thru lane? There’s plenty to choose from, right? However, which offer you the best value for money and the flexibility you need to drive sales at your drive thru?

Illuminated menu boards are a common feature behind quick service restaurant (QSR) counters worldwide. Whether it’s digital displays or backlit lightboxes that illuminate printed menus, the way in which fast food restaurants are presenting their menus is changing.

That’s because more visible, eye-catching menu displays result in a significant boost in sales. However, while the transition to luminous menu boards indoors has taken off, outdoors is a different story.

The uptake has been slow, mainly because installing menus at the drive thru lane is rather more challenging. That said, those restaurants that have installed digital drive thru menu boards, for instance, have reported a sales increase of anywhere between 3 – 8% according to industry experts.

Outdoor digital signage vs lightboxes as illuminated drive thru boards

Outdoor digital signage KFC

'Outdoor digital signage serves as an eye-catching illuminated drive thru board for KFC.'

Narrowing down the options available to you for taking your menu to the drive thru lane, lightboxes, backlit posters and outdoor digital signage tend to be the most common solutions used at the drive thru.

In theory, most quick service restaurants will tend to replicate whatever they have indoors, outdoors. QSRs using lightboxes or backlit posters indoors will likely consider a similar solution for outdoors, the same is true of those using digital displays.

As an outright purchase, illuminated drive thru boards in the form of lightboxes and backlit posters are cheaper than outdoor digital signage. However, when it comes to long term costs and convenience, these displays are fraught with flaws.

While you can pick up illuminating poster cases for less than £200 from some suppliers, you’re still restricted to using printed posters, which will continue to incur costs annually every time you want to change a menu item or feature a menu special. Over the course of a year, such costs will impact your bottom line.

Then there’s the issue of flexibility. With lightboxes and backlit poster frames at the drive thru, you’re limited by how much you can display when it comes to menu items before readability becomes an issue. Equally, every time you want to swap a poster it has to be done manually, which can be extremely time-consuming.

The effectiveness of backlit poster frames and lightboxes in an outdoor environment is also questionable. While such solutions claim to be weatherproof, heavy rain for instance can lead to problems such as condensation, which causes problems with readability.

Printed menus in backlit frames

'Printed menus in backlit frames are prone to weather damage.'

Meanwhile, printed menus in backlit frames and light boxes exposed to bright sunlight have a tendency to fade over time. Not only is that a cost headache, because you have to replace damaged menus, if it goes unnoticed for a while, readability is once again an issue.

Furthermore, because the majority of viewing screens tend to be plastic, sunlight can be responsible for screen glare and reflections and when menu visibility is of the utmost importance at the drive thru, the last thing you want is customers being unable to view your menu clearly.

In contrast, outdoor digital signage is a far more reliable and flexible solution. Although the outright purchase cost is higher, you stand to see a significant return on your investment while cutting out those costs associated with alternative drive thru menu solutions.

Digital signage drive thru menu boards

'An example of how an illuminated drive thru board network can look, using Armagard digital signage.'

The key benefit of outdoor digital signage used as illuminated drive thru boards is the flexibility they provide, which not only saves you time it saves you money. How? No more print runs every time you want to change a solitary menu item or run a promotion, for which costs can mount up if you update your menus or run promotions regularly.

Then there’s the time saving benefits… What makes outdoor digital signage unique is that everything can be managed remotely, simplifying menu updates and running promotions. Equally, everything can be displayed simultaneously. For instance, you can present your full menu, plus high-ticket items as a scrolling display.

Better still, digital signage is adaptive for dayparting, which means you can switch between your breakfast and main menus, quickly and seamlessly.

The practical and financial benefits of digital signage at the drive thru

Outdoor digital signage is as the name suggests, designed to be outdoors. Plus, solutions exist that are purposely built for drive thru use, designed to be at the optimum viewing height for maximum impact.

Integrated systems are available, but they are more costly that’s why those opting for digital drive thru menu boards are increasingly purchasing screens, media players and outdoor digital signage enclosures to form a complete solution. Why?

  • 1. It’s far more cost-effective.
  • 2. End-users stay in control and get the solution that best fits their needs.
  • 3. Troubleshooting is easier to perform on a solution that’s made up of individual hardware components compared with an integrated system that will require expert maintenance.
Drive thru

'Drive thru digital menu boards housed in enclosures function whatever the weather.'

On the whole, drive thru digital menu boards housed in enclosures are better suited to outdoor environments than lightboxes and illuminated poster frames. Enclosures are equipped with temperature controls, enabling them to cope with heat and cold.

Meanwhile, they are fully-sealed, making them waterproof, while viewing screens can be coated with anti-glare or anti-reflective technology to reduce the impact of sunlight and maintain readability for drive thru customers. Enclosures can also house sunlight readable digital signage and high-bright screens for maximum visibility and impact.

Aside from the practical benefits, using outdoor digital signage as illuminated menu boards at the drive thru will deliver a sales boost for your restaurant, while cutting operational costs.

However, perhaps more importantly, digital menu boards at the drive thru will improve the customer experience - more so than difficult to read printed menus housed in illuminated poster frames or light boxes. After all, 74% of QSR customers put an easy to read menu at the top of their priority list according to an infographic published by Panasonic.

This stat alone puts digital signage at the top of the tree if you’re looking for the perfect illuminated menu boards for your drive thru.