How to Create a Digital Menu Board: 7 Best Free & Paid Tools

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Restaurant digital signage displaying promotional offers


How many times have you experienced this— you walk past a quick-serve restaurant, you notice the outdoor digital menu board displaying the mouthwatering images of a burger or sushi…and now, all of a sudden, you feel HUNGRY!

Can’t tell about you, but the marketing trick always works with foodies and gastronomes.

digital signage screen outside restaurant showing offers

And, that is precisely why your restaurant desperately needs a digital menu board, if it already hasn’t got one. Both indoor and outdoor digital menu boards act as visual magnets to draw customers towards the counter and increase sales.

Therefore, irrespective of whether you are a five-star hotel or a local cafe/QSR, it is essential for you to think through the outlook and design of your restaurant digital menu boards.

Hey, but wait…what about the cost of designing a digital menu board?

Well, creating a digital menu board for a restaurant doesn’t have to be expensive or even priced at all. There are many design software that allow you to download as well as edit free digital menu board templates.

In this blog, we will tell you how to create digital menu boards for restaurants using both free and paid software. We have listed the six online menu makers that can help you create stunning and professional-looking digital menu boards for your QSR, food truck, restaurant, hotel, or school cafeteria.

Before choosing the design application, make sure that you know what file formats are supported by your digital menu board software. For example, Pickcel’s software for digital menu board supports all kinds of images, video formats, and URLs.

7 Best Tools to Create Eye-Catching Restaurant Digital Menu Boards Without Any Expert Guidance!

Guess what? You don’t need to be an expert in technology to develop impressive menus that engage your clientele. Here are seven accessible tools that simplify the process of creating attractive digital menu boards, helping your restaurant stand out while conserving your valuable time and energy.

1. Pickcel Digital Menu Board App- Free with the Pickcel Software

As a food business, it is only natural that you will be having the impeccable skills of Auguste Gusteau, and not Pablo Picasso. Thankfully, of late, you don’t have to be an artistic genius or even hire one in order to infuse creativity into your business.

Pickcel provides a perfect solution for digital menu boards with its user-friendly software, catering to all your creative needs. Its drag-and-drop interfaces and pre-designed templates make it exceptionally easy to use, significantly reducing the learning curve. For example, Pickcel offers a streamlined dashboard where users can effortlessly create, edit, and deploy digital menu boards with just a few clicks. This software is especially beneficial for businesses in the food service industry, including restaurants, cafes, QSRs, hotel restaurants, office canteens, and drive-thru stalls.

Pickcel’s digital menu app offers an excellent collection of digital restaurant menu templates. Here’s an example:

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menu template
Image screenshot taken by author

Clean and organized menu design, fancy but readable texts, and a whole lot of breathable space to avoid confusing or overwhelming the customers. Believe it or not, creating such clever designs on your own is not really as simple as it may look.

But, that is the advantage of using ready-made templates of the Pickcel digital menu board app: They are designed by professionals and you can simply select a digital menu template and edit it to the very last detail like:

  • Food item names

  • Meal description

  • Food category

  • Food image

  • Price & currency

  • Restaurant logo

  • Formatting (fonts, color, etc.)

  • Background graphics & the background image or video opacity

This is how the Pickcel digital menu board app interface looks like:

pickcel menu app interface screenshot
Image screenshot taken by author

Image: The page view of the editor: users can edit food name, meal description, food image, restaurant name, category name, category description and add predefined tags here.

pickcel menu app interface screenshot
Image screenshot taken by author

Image: The page shows advanced settings: here users can change the text formatting, background graphics, background opacity, currency, logo, add or remove tags, etc.

  • Wow! :thumbsup:
  • Exclusive for digital menu boards: As you scroll down through this list, you will see that there is hardly any software that is so fine-tuned to the requisites of the food service industry. When you use a dedicated software, the chances of your objective getting fulfilled (in this case, your menu board being an instrument of temptation so that your customers can’t avoid buying from you) increases strikingly.

    You can do so much more than just design digital menus: We are not bragging, but the Pickcel digital menu board app surely emerges as a winner if you consider the additional benefits you get. This is a software that not only allows you to create excellent, professional digital menu designs, but also happens to be a complete package of your restaurant’s digital signage management.

    The app offers one single platform from which users can create digital menus and publish them directly to the restaurant’s digital menu boards. Besides digital menu boards, restaurant digital signage can also be used for various other purposes like showing promotional contents, live news, weather updates, social media feeds, order status, and so on.

    Takes less time than making an Omelet: We literally mean it! There is a certain difference between having to curate or contrive something and choosing from a list of options to create something. The difference is the time.

    Within the Pickcel menu board app, users can pick and choose from a range of alternatives and then mix and match them to create a design of their choice. This takes far less time than filling up a completely blank space.

    And yes, of course, it takes less time than making an omelet !

  • Hmmm... :thumbsdown:
  • Pickcel software subscription required: If you are looking only for free digital menu design software, then this can come as a little anticlimactic. Pickcel’s digital menu board app comes free with the Pickcel digital signage software. In fact, an amazing collection of Pickcel apps comes free with the software. But, the digital signage software license itself is not free.

    However, there is an upside to using licensed software. Most free softwares have limitations; they may be suitable for passion projects, but fail to meet business expectations. Proprietary products are secure; they come with rich features, UI, and tech support. Pickcel is a reputed digital signage company that caters to some of the biggest enterprises.

    Pickcel’s giving away digital menu design software like candy to its premium users, and for $13.50 a month, you get superpowers! The software license is available on both monthly and yearly subscription plans, which can be canceled at any time. Additionally, users can enjoy a 14-day free trial period, during which they can access all the exceptional features such as real-time updates, top-notch screen management, and the Pickcel signage player software.

    For more information, visit the pricing page

    View Price

    2. DS MENU - Paid Application

    DSMenu is a company that offers tons of customizable templates for different types of restaurant digital menu boards. These services do the creative heavy lifting for you by designing professional templates that meet the industry benchmark.

    All you have to do is simply select a template and edit it to add all your courses and dishes with their prices. You can also add or create your own restaurant logo for branding.

    screenshot from Ds menu showing hawlloween themed menu design
    Image screenshot taken by author
  • Wow! :thumbsup:
  • It saves time: Hotels, restaurants, and cafes need to update their menu boards frequently, often more than thrice a day to display different meals. On top of that, there are special meals, festive offers, regular discounts, coupon codes, and many other changes that require constant updates. Therefore, unless you have hired a creative team to regularly design and update your restaurant menu board, it is always reasonable to go for a ready-made template instead of designing one from scratch.

    Exclusive for digital menu boards: DS Menu templates are tailor-made for food businesses only. This means that you will get huge collections of industry-standard designs. Moreover, the templates are well-organized under popular categories like ‘Lunch’, ‘Breakfast’, ‘School Menu’, ‘Happy Hour’, ‘Bakery’, ‘Chalk’ etc. You can also request custom designs.

  • Hmmm... :thumbsdown:
  • Not Free: DS menu allows you to register and design your menu for free so that you can warm up to the application. However, in order to download your design, you need to be a paid subscriber.

    Thankfully, we have a solution to that! Pickcel clients get a special discount on DS Menu subscription plans..

    3. CANVA - Both Free and Paid Features Available

    Canva is the ultimate option to try if you’re searching for hundreds of free templates. It’s a one-stop solution for all kinds of creative templates, not just digital menu board templates. While not all templates are cost-free, Canva offers 250,000 free and customizable options. You can easily hover over each template, photo, video, or element to see which ones are tagged as ‘free.’

    In Canva, you can also design your restaurant digital menu boards from scratch, import graphics from your personal devices, share your designs and work as a team.

    screenshot from Canva showing winery themed menu design
    Image screenshot taken by author
  • Wow! :thumbsup:
  • It’s free…for the most part: In Canva, almost every feature has both free and paid options. You can also download your designs for free and without any watermark! as long as you don’t use any paid templates, elements, videos, etc. for your design. Once you fall in love with Canva, you can become a paid subscriber to open up the full Pandora’s box of amazing designs and features.

    Turn your screen into a powerful business asset.

    Design, publish, and manage your screen content with Pickcel.

    Features & Benefits

    It allows video formats: You can add free stock videos to digital menu board design. You can also download them in GIF or MP4 formats besides SVG, PNG, JPEG, and PDF file formats. Adding dynamic graphics (like GIFs and videos) can make the digital menu boards for restaurants 10X more attractive. Simply create a high-quality video of some great food being prepared in your restaurant kitchen, import it to Canva, and insert that video clip in your digital menu design! Isn’t that fun?

    Let's add another great news: Pickcel users can now design and manage their digital menu boards directly through our integrated Canva design tool. Check out our step-by-step tutorial with images for more insight.

  • Hmmm... :thumbsdown:
  • Mostly Vertical Menus: Sorry, we couldn’t find any such downside for this tool. If at all something has to be pointed out, then we can only say that most of the digital menu board templates are in portrait orientation. But then, you can always resize! The standard landscape aspect ratio is 16:9.

    4. EASIL - Both Free and Paid Features Available

    Easil is another user-friendly graphic design software where you can create beautiful content for your restaurant digital menu boards. It offers three tiers of pricing plans. The ‘Basic’ plan is free and is packed with useful features.

    The digital menu board template designs are surely a breath of fresh air, especially if you have a weakness for pastel shades and minimalist designs! If you need horizontal menus, you may be a little disappointed at first glance, as Easil mostly offers vertical menu board templates.

    But, don’t worry, we’ll let you in on a secret that will solve your problem: all you have to do is copy and resize the vertical template into the ‘Digital Screen’ (1920px X 1080 px) size. It’s that simple!

    screenshot from Easil showing italian restaurant themed menu design
    Image screenshot taken by author
  • Wow! :thumbsup:
  • Custom dimension for digital screens: Digital menu boards for restaurants are generally large digital signage screens. For a layman, understanding the technical nitty-gritty of graphic design like size, resolution, and aspect ratios can be a genuine struggle. At the same time, not having the correct understanding of these dimensions can lead you to create a design that will ultimately appear blurry or pixelated on your digital signage displays. Easil completely obsoletes this hassle by providing a standard ‘digital screen’ dimensions.

  • Hmmm... :thumbsdown:
  • Doesn’t support video: As of yet, Easil doesn’t allow you to insert video content in your designs. You can download your content as JPG, PNG, PDF and GIF files only; not as MP4.

    5. APPLE KEYNOTE - Free for Apple Users

    Apple Keynote is another presentation tool that can be used to design beautiful dynamic and static digital menu boards for your restaurant/QSR. You will get plenty of gorgeous templates, to begin with. Apple Keynote comes pre-installed with Apple devices and can also be downloaded for free from the Mac App Store.

    screenshot from Apple Keynote showing recipe themed menu design
    Image screenshot taken by author
  • Wow! :thumbsup:
  • Loaded with useful features: The Apple keynote offers atypical animations, slide transitions, real-time collaboration, and also many unique features like turning handwriting into text.

    Tip: if you are a hip and urban restaurant/QSR with plenty of millennial customers, you can use this feature to give your digital menu board a cool and funky organic look!

    Downloadable as Video file: You can export your digital menu board designs as MP4 or animated GIFs.

  • Hmmm... :thumbsdown:
  • The time factor: With more features, you need more time to figure them out. Besides, with Apple, you might be surprised at the number of new features getting introduced every now and then! So, for creating a digital menu board in Keynote, you might need to sit down with a cup of coffee, watch some tutorials before you can create a ‘wow’ design for the digital menu board. All we are saying is, we hope you are not in a hurry.

    6. GOOGLE SLIDE - Free

    If you want to design your restaurant digital menu board right from scratch, then Google Slides can be your favorite application. It allows a much greater scope of collaboration. You can share your slides with others and can group edit your digital menu board designs in real-time.

    Also, you can import any existing designs in PowerPoint and convert them into Google slides. If you want to get started with templates, that is also available. However, do not expect to find the kind of huge repository of templates that you get with applications like Canva or DS menu, or Easil.

    screenshot from google slides showing bakery themed menu design
    Image screenshot taken by author
  • Wow! :thumbsup:
  • Free: There is no subscription fee at all. Everything is free up to a limit. Supports screencast: Digital menu board designs made with Google Slides can be wirelessly cast on your digital displays directly from your android devices like smartphone, tablet, smartwatch, etc. using Chromecast, Hangouts, and AirPlay. You can get the tutorials here.

  • Hmmm... :thumbsdown:
  • Comparatively Less Time-Efficient: Designing something from scratch comes with its own set of comfort and discomfort. While you may enjoy the satisfaction of creating something all by yourself, you will also need to put a little more effort and time which often businesses find scanty.

    7. MICROSOFT POWERPOINT - Web Version is Free (Most Features)

    It is the most basic application that everyone has on their PCs. The working principle of Microsoft PowerPoint is more or less similar to Google slides.

    Before creating your digital menu board with PowerPoint, do make sure to resize the slides in the standard 16:9 ratio if you plan to show your menu on widescreen. The default aspect ratio of a PPT slide is 4:3. You can change the aspect ratio of your slides from the ‘Page Set-up’ option under the ‘Design’ tab of the toolbar.

    screenshot from Microsoft PowerPoint showing icecream shop themed menu design
    Image screenshot taken by author
  • Wow! :thumbsup:
  • Requires Bare Minimum Expertise: PPT is no ultra-modern application. It is simple and most importantly, user-friendly.

    Intelligent Design Suggestions: The new Microsoft PowerPoint version offers smart design suggestions based on the design of your first slide (as shown in the image above). You can find these suggestions under the ‘Designer’ tab. Some designs are free while others are only for ‘Premium’ members. Nevertheless, you can get a fair number of new digital menu board design ideas from this section.

  • Hmmm... :thumbsdown:
  • A Little Time-Consuming: Same as with Google Slides; you will not get any such pre-baked designs for your restaurant digital menu board. Therefore, it is not a very time-efficient choice.

    And Finally…Some Design Tips to Make Your Restaurant Digital Menu Boards Look Oh-so Gorgeous!

    Once you have learned how to create a digital menu board for your restaurant or QSR outlet, it is time for you to move on to the next level: how to create a digital menu board that sells your products and communicates with your customers at the same time.

    Having a digital menu board template handy is a great way to boost sales. In fact, these templates can help you design a great menu board. Depending on your need and target audience, you can make your menu board, as mouth-watering as the cuisine you serve.

    Here are some of the most important tips that you need to remember while designing your digital menu board:

    1. Add relevant images: Nothing cries ‘amateur’ more than an erratic and unrelated image/graphic in your digital menu board design. Imagine the disappointment of the customers when they walk into your restaurant hoping to get that delicious burrito displayed on your digital menu board but realize that it was just a decorative image and that you don’t actually sell one! You wouldn’t want to set a wrong impression, do you?

    One way is to take a few quick snapshots of your bestselling items and edit the images online free. There are many tools that allow you to improve the quality of your original picture or create a replica out of it.

    1. Less is More: While designing digital menu boards for restaurants, make sure that you do not crowd it with lots of graphics, font styles, and effects. Your customers will feel lost if you do that, and it might also make your menu look desperate for attention. Keeping it simple always works well enough.

    2. Set Yourself Apart: Do a little homework on how your competitors design their digital menu boards? And, what can you do to make your’s a little different from the rest? If your competitors are using colorful images, then maybe you can go for the cool ‘chalkboard’ look. If others are using images, then you can add GIF or video elements to make your digital menu board even more dynamic.

    3. Add Interactivity to Your Restaurant Digital Menu Board: When it comes to customer experience, nothing can beat the fun of interacting with gadgets & gizmos. That is why you need interactive digital menu boards for your restaurant . But the question is how.

      Unfortunately, none of the above-mentioned design software can help you incorporate advanced features like digital interactivity.

      However, on the upside, Pickcel provides affordable solutions like digital menu board solution and digital discount coupon that offer massive scope for digital interactivity along with an incredible range of advanced features that the DIY menu boards fail to match.

      Check out: Pickcel's Software for Digital Menu Boards! The software offers a consolidated platform to design, publish and manage your restaurant digital menu boards from anywhere, with any device!

    The bottom line is, creating digital signage for restaurants, QSRs, cafes, or hotels does not have to be an ordeal. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. You don’t even need to hire a designer for the job. In today’s world of automation, designing your digital menu board can be an absolute breeze.

    Start making your screens more efficient with Pickcel

    Take complete control of what you show on your digital signage & how you show it.

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    Namrata Chakraborty

    Namrata is the content marketer for Pickcel. She enjoys writing and her area of expertise is where art meets science & technology.

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