Some people have a distorted view of menu boards, but I hope the image above is not representative of any of my readers. As I continue with the history of menu boards I realize when we first started using them we were not very creative. They were just simple printed signs on paper or plastic. Then they became menu strips and price chips on plastic panels in tracks that could be moved around and changed on the panel.
A little later I learned, from one of my daughters that worked in a restaurant, it was not so easy to change the items in the menu board. The workers had to get up on a ladder to change and rearrange the items. None of the employees liked to do that so it was usually assigned to the junior employee. To correct that problem I developed what we called a “Lift and Drop” panel. The employee could simply stand below the board, lift the panel up by the bottom track and pull it out of the board to change it on a table.
We began to learn more about how to make menu boards much more valuable as marketing and merchandising tools. At that time the restaurants with menu boards were called “Fast Food” (eventually referred to as “Quick Serve”) and the boards had to be organized and designed so customers could find what they wanted quickly and easily. We also learned that where you placed specific items influenced the number of those items sold.
The next major change was the addition of “Combo Meals” or “Value Meals”. This change increased the average ticket and increased profits. These improvements increased the need to change the layout of the panels much more often. Every time that was done all the plastic panels had to be replaced so the new layouts would fit in them. In order to solve that problem, I developed an adjustable aluminum panel. All the tracks snapped in and out of the panel to provide an endless number of layouts. The aluminum panels were also a huge improvement for the outdoor boards.
Although not many people even know about the adjustable panel it turned out to be one of the most profitable products I developed. I received a patent on the product and it got us into almost all the major chains. That was the primary product that allowed me to start LSI Images, a menu board company, and eventually, obtain over 40% of the menu board business in the United States and Canada.
At about that same time period I developed a product, still popular in the industry, referred to as an “Order Confirmation” system for the Drive/Thru. Most people would think the product was simply developed to confirm orders as it states and as it does now. Actually, it was developed for Burger King to solve a theft problem they had with some employees. We learned some of their employees in the Drive/Thru window simply told customers the order total was a dollar more than the actual total. They rang up the correct amount but kept the extra dollar. They developed a very clever system to accomplish this. We installed the first system in a Burger King restaurant in Florence, Kentucky. We invited the President of Burger King up to check it out and the product was rolled out to the system and several other chains.
The order confirmation product started me on a quest to find a color LCD panel that would work outdoors. At that time we had to use LED panels so we could not use good food shots. Outdoor color LCD panels were made but only for the military.