Digital Vs. Print Menus

Posted by | February 06, 2015 | Brand Design, Restaurateur Resource | No Comments
Digital vs. Print Menus

It is inevitable — we are in the digital era so the battle of printed versus digital menus begins. I will try and keeps this as unbiased as possible — as there is definitely benefits to which ever you choose to use.

Note: When I say digital menu, there are different formats: digital board menus, notebook type menus handled by the customers and notebooks for the server, not the customers. I will mainly be focusing on the notebook for the customers to order.


Like anything, the cost can vary depending on what you are looking for. Eliminating print costs maybe one benefit but with all electronic devices there is always upkeep and chance of digital failure. You may want to consider making the local IT guy your best friend if your not the computer savvy type.


Updating the menus may be simpler and quicker with a digital menu because it is a do-it-yourself system, but with this you have limited design features and may not always look the best. (Said like a true designer, right?) But what happens to menu engineering, are you really effectively setting up your menu to sell your highest profit items? Just a thought.

Menu boards on the other hand seem to be the best area for digital menus to shine. Again; depending on your brand this is suitable for particular restaurants like fast food or restaurants with limited seating.

Screen issues: 

Legibility issues may happen if the type isn’t properly suitable for the device — yet this can also apply to printed menus. Keep in mind the glow or back light of the device, as it may disrupt the atmosphere of the restaurant and customers may just not like having a digital device. Which may apply to some older generations or even families trying to reinforce no devices at the table.

Of course this is subjective to your audience and clientele. So be sure to do some market research before getting a digital menu for the reason that it ‘looks cool’ and ‘everyone is doing it’.

Paper vs. screen: 

It is nothing new — even in the design industry there is a continuous debate whether print is dead, and if digital applications and devices are replacing books, magazines, and well anything printed for that matter.

This surely applies to digital menus and the thought that it may overtake the restaurant experience. My theory is there will be printed menus and digital menus for many years to come and it is a matter of deciding which is suitable for your brand and your restaurant’s experience.

One thing is for sure, many restaurateurs have a rustic and classic nature and I have a feeling it will be many years before the digital menu over takes the printed  (aka more rustic choice) completely.


There is no doubt that this can speed up the dining experience (if you are über busy) and as a result bring in higher overall profit and quick customer turnaround. It is great, not only does the kitchen know the order, seconds after it’s been placed, but your server doesn’t have to go running around with order slips! Very convenient and efficient.

Same applies to updating menu boards. It is a matter of inputting the change and it automatically updates. Fast and much simpler than getting a reprint of menu boards.

Experience & Emotion: 

Experience is key when maintaining the brand ora of your restaurant. With this, emotion plays a huge role and we become nostalgic when subconscious emotions are triggered — we tend to relate to our past experiences and what we are used to.

What does this have to do with digital menus? They have not been around very long and sometimes bringing in a electronic device into the mix may change the emotion of your customer or even develop new ones — so be sure to know the product/device you use to make the experience easy and enjoyable for the customer.


Since there is a lot of theft at restaurants this one just makes me wonder if people would actually take away a digital menu. In this case educate your servers well on how to deal with this kind of situation, if it happens. Or even be vocal to your staff if they have sticky fingers — be sure they are aware of the consequences.

Of course having something new is always a challenge because we are unaware of the long term effects. Like how long does a digital menu last, what are the upkeep costs, what is the lifespan of the menus. etc. So do your research on it and find out if this is the best solution for your restaurant.

It may even come down to the menu deciding for you based on your eye movements — like Pizza Hut did! See below:

The future is here!

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