By now, digital signage menu boards may be such a standard part of your on-campus dining infrastructure that they don’t inspire much thought. They’re up, they seem useful, that’s that. 

Or is it?

We surveyed nearly 800 current college students about all things on-campus dining, from what information they expect to see on menus to how operators can make their foodservice stand out. 

Among our findings, we discovered that the humble menu board isn’t so humble after all. In fact, students consider menu boards to be a critical piece of their decision-making process

It’s high time we give the digital menu board the respect it deserves; let's look at two key reasons why. 

Students don’t decide ahead of time.

For starters, students are on the hunt for information. From mobile apps to online menus, there’s no shortage of places they can find it. With so much information at their fingertips, it’s easy to assume most students show up to your dining locations with a final order in mind.

However, most students report that menu information they access ahead of time might start their thinking, but it’s only a jumping-off point. More than 75% of students reported that though they arrive with an idea in mind about what they’d like to eat, they don’t have a clear decision made.

And this is where menu boards come in. 

Students rely on in-person displays.

With the majority of students arriving at your dining locations without a clear plan of action, nearly all of them turn to the trusty menu board to make a final decision. 

Just 22% of students say menu boards don’t matter, while 53% use them to confirm their choices. Another 18% are even more reliant, saying that they usually haven’t decided ahead of time and actually need menu boards to guide their decisions, while another 7% look carefully for nutrient and allergen information before making a selection. 

All told, this means that nearly 80% of students consider your digital signage before they make a purchase. It’s little surprise, then that 70% told us that menu boards play a crucial role in helping them decide what to eat

Over 70% of College Students Say Menu Boards Matter – Here’s Why

Just how influential are menu boards, exactly? Even if students rely on them to make a purchase, does signage actually influence behavior? According to our survey, the answer is a resounding “yes!”: Nearly 80% of respondents said they had made an unplanned purchase because of a menu board or sign. 

The takeaway: students welcome your guidance.

Menu boards aren’t just a static fixture of your on-campus foodservice — they’re an important part of students’ dining experience. Far beyond confirming existing ordering plans, digital signage helps guide students in their decision-making and even nudge them toward purchases they may not have considered otherwise. 

Students turn to menu boards to enhance their on-campus dining experience, which means it’s up to foodservice providers to make the most of students’ interest. Whether you’re using the opportunity to share important information or offer promotions, you can be sure that you have your diners’ attention.

Next up in our higher ed. survey series, we’ll take a closer look at what you can do outside of your physical spaces to impress and retain student customers. Don’t miss it!

And make sure you read our previous post about the digital menu information college students want to see.