It’s a fact: digital signage is one of the best investments you can make for your operation. There’s plenty of research and stats to prove it, too. 

But just because you have digital signage doesn’t mean people are looking at it.

The reality is you can’t just hang a TV on the wall of your café and expect amazing results. Sure, you can strategically choose mounting locations and create eye-catching designs, but those decisions only do so much. What you really need is to understand why your digital screens aren’t working for you when they should be.

So with that, let’s dive into a short history lesson!

Here’s how digital signage got started...

Digital signage is older than you might think.

While manual signs and print advertisements have been around for centuries, consumers weren’t exposed to digital signage until about the mid-1970s, when TV advertising overwhelmingly became the ad medium of choice. As sales of color TVs started to outpace black-and-white units, ad agencies invested heavily into TV spots, creating a nearly $6 billion industry by 1976.

Retailers saw this big potential in TV ads, too. After all, this type of advertising seemed to easily attract the attention of consumers compared to older forms, especially as more of them bought and watched TVs in their homes. In fact, in the 1970s, the average person was exposed to about 500 ads per day.




Not wanting to miss out on this opportunity, retailers used TVs to play in-house, pre-recorded commercials and advertisements via VHS tapes for customers as they searched through their stores. By producing and playing information again and again, the hope was to draw attention to specific products and drive sales.

And of course, all of this led to the digital signage and advertising we know of today. 

There’s a problem with today’s screens, though.

Remember how the average person in the ‘70s saw about 500 ads per day? While that might seem like a lot, we modern-day consumers are exposed to around 5000 ads per day. That averages to about 312 ads per waking hour. Insane!

As a marketer, be forewarned: the increase of consumers’ advertising exposure over the years has created a problem for you (especially for your digital signage). This gruesome fight for our attention has created a type of consumer who has an intense ability to give you their full attention… or none at all.

More and more consumers — especially those in the younger Gen Z and Generation Alpha groups — hate anything that looks like an ad. Within seconds, they can filter out any data or information that doesn’t matter to them and ignore it. 

This behavior has not only shaken the advertising and marketing industries, but it has a direct impact on your foodservice operation. While your digital signage will certainly grab more attention from your customers than static signs, it has to be created with the customer’s desires in mind in order to truly turn heads and make an impact. 

So how can you best use your digital signage?

By now, it’s clear you can’t just hang that TV in your cafeteria and call it good! You need to use your digital signage wisely in a way that gives consumers a reason to pay attention beyond their rumbling stomachs. After all, they could be dining with someone else and have that need met.

As such, here are five ways to create amazing digital signage experiences:

  1. Leave customers feeling empowered. Anyone can create a basic digital menu board, but do yours empower customers to make the right decisions? For example, do they have the nutritional and allergy information they need to make a safe, healthy selection for their next meal? Are customers aware of your weekly specials? Can they see informational screens before arriving at the register? All these elements and more contribute to making your customers feel confident about dining with your operation.

  2. Don’t waste customers’ time. Jennifer Tejada, CEO of PagerDuty, said at a conference that time is the most invaluable, irreplaceable, difficult-to-find currency in the market. One way you can avoid wasting time is by making sure your digital signage displays accurate, up-to-date menu information so your customers don’t make a food choice they can’t actually get. If you run out of an ingredient or product, for example, you don’t want these items to show on your screens.

  3. Create value beyond your menu. This may seem like it’s easier said than done, but even the littlest change can give value to your customers. Use some or all portions of your screen(s) to provide helpful information; for example, you could show your hours of operation, featured meals available at specific dates and times, a video of new menu items, and even the latest news and weather updates.

  4. Make the operator’s job easy. Amazing, impactful digital signage can’t truly be accomplished without access to simple software and customizable designs. When your backend solution is the easiest it can be for your operator to learn and manage, their frustrations are reduced and they can focus on setting up beautiful signage that will truly delight customers. Ultimately, this will make your digital signage experience a win for both your operators and your customers!

  5. Align your screens with the purchasing process. The physical implementation of your signs is key to creating a good experience, too. For example, are your signs at the right height/level for customers to see them? Are the screens placed in the right spots, such as near food items and stations, to provide accurate information customers need to make informed choices?

Want to know how else to create amazing digital signage? Check out this blog post on how your signage software should help you create a holistic, positive customer experience with your operation.