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How to Optimize QSR Menu Boards

By Miller Zell

When customers arrive at a quick-serve restaurant, whether they are using the drive-through or going inside, it’s fair to assume they are hungry. This means the client’s first experience with your QSR menu layout should invoke a mouth watering, informative and efficient path to purchase. 


The customer wants the easiest path to a quick, tasty meal that hits the spot. The QSR wants two things:


1. Customer satisfaction

2. Best possible price per check


Yet customers often encounter menu boards that are cluttered and confusing, which results in their eyeballing lower-priced offers off the board as guides for making orders.


The old school method of menu board design amounted to loosely grouping food categories and offerings, including meal deals, with photos and pricing. There was little strategic thinking about configurations, the path to purchase, and what customers want.


That doesn’t optimize the customers’ experience, nor does it serve franchisee profitability.


Great menu board design requires an understanding of customers in terms of loyal and new, likes and dislikes, and demographical and generational preferences. It should include data analysis of their buying patterns. Also critical is an analysis of customer interactions and engagement with the space before, during, and even after their review of the menu board. Do they continue to read the board even after making their order, perhaps seeking more understanding or planning for their next visit?

Miller Zell partnered with a QSR to upgrade its interior and drive-through menu boards from good to outstanding. To us, that meant starting with research and focus groups. We didn’t want just to evaluate the available technology or what competitors were doing. We wanted a deeper understanding of how customers interact with menu boards.

We didn’t just want to evaluate the available technology or what competitors were doing. We wanted a deeper understanding of how customers interacted with menu boards.

We conducted two types of research with QSR customers. Initially, we interviewed a variety of QSR users to gain an understanding of their ordering process and their impressions of the current menu boards, both inside and at the drive-through. Then, we conducted a series of focus groups with users and non-users. We asked participants to build their own ideal menu boards, which they organized based on what would be most helpful to their ordering process.


Members of the groups were asked to explain their menu layouts and why they worked for them. While they were still focused on menu board layout, we exposed them to a variety of creative concepts to gain their feedback.


Our research also included stakeholder interviews to capture their insights and aspirations. This provided us with the information needed to infuse strategic visual cues that clearly communicated the brand’s messaging and would inspire customers to select higher-yield, more profitable items in the final designs.


This research and attention to detail paid off for our client. The new, redesigned, and simplified menu boards motivated an increase in customers ordering off the menu boards, improved customer satisfaction, and increased price per check. They helped foster increased traffic and comp checks, with both company and franchisees expressing satisfaction with the measurable success.


Of course, Miller Zell’s obsessive interest in signage, research and data-driven design and customer experience is difficult to duplicate. While some might opt to go in-house with quick service restaurant design, that means committing associates to work where their breadth of knowledge is limited. It also means they’ll be taking focus away from their existing responsibilities.


Ultimately, a great menu board helps QSRs nail the dining experience. It’s part of the engagement and fulfillment that creates brand loyalty, transforming a hungry customer into a satisfied one. It also helps the franchises achieve full-margin purchases and increase profits.


Miller Zell is committed to high quality restaurant experience design for all of our QSR clients and knows that in a fast-paced and hungry environment, making the path to purchase and satisfaction is the most important one. Let us help streamline the process for you to maximize profits with an efficient yet simple menu board design.

End-to-end branded environment services under one roof to craft the optimal customer experience wherever people gather, shop or learn.