menu board

The new menu boards at McAlister’s Deli are designed to evoke the chalkboard menus that the chain mused when it was founded.

McAlister’s Deli debuts chalkboard-style menu boards

Company says new layout and categories improve throughput and customer satisfaction

McAlister’s Deli has rolled out new menu boards at its 380 restaurants nationwide that have improved throughput and customer satisfaction, according to Robert Dimson, vice president of global marketing.

The new boards are designed to evoke the chalkboard menus that the Atlanta-based chain used when it was founded, with fonts that more closely resemble handwriting.

“Before, we had basically a black background with an Excel spreadsheet listing out our ingredients and our items. Now we’ve got some character and personality in our menu,” Dimson said.

The menu has also been subdivided differently. Instead of previous categories such as “Hot Sandwiches,” “Classic Sandwiches” and “Grilled Sandwiches,” the new menu has categories for chicken, beef, turkey, bacon or ham, and vegetarian. The more intuitive categorization has increased throughput and decreased wait time, as customers are able to arrive at decisions more quickly, Dimson said.

The old menu boards at McAlister’s Deli. Photo: McAlister’s Deli.

The new boards also have a “Craft Your Own” section that encourages guests to customize their orders, which in turn tends to improve customer satisfaction.

“When they can make essentially what they want, they typically have a better user experience in the restaurant,” Dimson said.

The new menu also gives more play to McAlister’s Choose 2 offering, which Dimson said has always been a significant part of sales.

“We wanted to bring that forward, to make it a little more prominent in the overall display,” he said. The new board also has seasonal recommendations for the Choose 2 pairing, currently an Orange Cranberry Club sandwich with Autumn Squash Soup.

The new menu boards were tested in 32 restaurants from May 23 to Sept. 6, and then rolled out systemwide.

Dimson said the company determined the new menus’ performance by hiring an independent survey company to do in-depth interviews with guests. They found that wait time decreased and customers found the menus easier to use.

“Easy to read and easy to understand [scores] became progressively better the longer the menu board was actually in our restaurant,” Dimson said.

Correction: Sept. 19, 2016  An earlier version of this story misstated McAlister’s Deli’s headquarters. The operator is based in Atlanta.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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