Beyond Menuboard: A review of fast food signage trends in Sydney - How to stand out from your competitors

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Blueprint Concepts undertook a detailed review of fast food signage trends in the sydney market - looking at whats effective to stand out amongst competition.

It all started with a simple question: What are the most common menu boards in the fast food retail industry? 5 food courts, 60 retailers, 100 photos and 3 km later, our Blueprint trend-spotter team scanned the signage tendencies of the fast food retail industry in presentation of menu boards.

All retailers want their shops to stand out in food courts. We decided to have a closer look at this war for differentiation. From fast-food restaurants to Asian cuisine and French gastronomy to organic food, this study aims to identify the most widespread signage strategies for menu boards.

The majority of menu boards are acrylic panels, which are stronger, cheaper, more impact resistant, safer to use, lighter and more cost-effective than other materials

Light boxes were second most popular, favoured by 20% of retailers. Light boxes are effective because they can easily grab the attention of passers by with attractive designs and luminous glow. Light boxes are highly suitable signs for businesses that frequently change their promotional design because the snap-open feature allows the graphics to be changed easily.

Digital screens ranked third: 12% of retailers chose this type of high-tech, in-store marketing display. Digital screen menus are used frequently by fast-food retailers like McDonald’s, Subway, Hungry Jack’s, etc., who were the early adopters of this form of advertising. Digital screens allow instant updating of content, infinite possibilities for visual effects and high capacity for data. Digital signs are likely to soon be standard in the signage industry, replacing traditional light boxes and vinyl menu boards and exploding in popularity.    

Although wooden panels and blackboards were once used frequently by retailers, this is no longer the case.    

26% of shop owners chose an illuminated sign: ultra slim, traditional or flex face light box. This 26% was composed mainly of Asian restaurants.

The main aspect to consider for menu boards is design, which includes selection of material and colours. Most retailers chose simple colours. This is why the most common combination of colours were black, white and red; green, beige and brown; and black and yellow. Out of the 50 restaurants surveyed, two chose to handwrite menu boards, which gave a familial look to the shop. It seems that shop owners chose legibility and readability over originality.

50% of retailers that used acrylic panels selected a glossy finish, which adds a vibrant and sophisticated touch to menu boards. Glossy finish is more expensive and requires more labour, but the results are eye-catching. However, glossy finish is closely followed by matte finish, with 41% of retailers attracted by its simple and efficient style. Picking a finish option is a subjective choice dictated by the corporate identity of each shop.

Among all the shops surveyed, a few of them grabbed our attention. It seems that Guzman and Gomez choices reflect the current trends in terms of colours (yellow/white/black), material chosen (light boxes) and panel configuration (4/5 panels).

Depending on the type of food, menu boards can take different shapes and colours, and adapt their configuration in order to match the business identity of each shop. The challenge is to ensure that the menu board is legible from a distance and to choose intelligible fonts over decorative ones. All menu boards should be large and visible and should be placed at least at 1.80m off the ground in order to optimize sales.

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Mark Epstein
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