We print so many menus that it's unsurprising that we're often asked: "What would you do?"
You know your brand best, and our advice will very much hinge on your venue and style. The best advice is bespoke, and understanding what you do will help give some stellar suggestions. That being said, we can still plot out some general pointers should you be too shy to pick up a phone or drop in and say hello...
Versatile. If your menu changes daily, this is the perfect solution. It's increasingly popular in hipster venues and has the personal touch of handwritten messages/choices. Does your bar feature guest beers often? Does your menu need to adapt to new plat du jours? There are obvious benefits of having such quick control of adding/removing/changing items via a chalkboard.
However, you need to take in to account the time taken to hand write it. Will this be practical? Is the menu in a location that won't smudge easy? Most importantly, is it clear and visible for all customers? We reckon this style of menu is good for pricing at the bar, when it comes to food it's decent for pop up takeaways or 'order at the counter' style establishments.
Hand writing menus for every table could be a lovely touch, but generally speaking this option is the 'print-at-home' styled solution. If your menu changes a lot or if you just want the control to be able to change an item at any time, printing your own menus could be the best idea. Think about how best to display your printed paper and the quality of paper you print on to.
For example, Le Bateleur in Nice decided that their ever changing range needed advertised effectively. Opting to print in-house, a nice quality of thick paper stock was sourced with a slight textured feel for added boutique impressions. To keep the menu together, wooden clipboards were used to hold pages together and keep the menus looking nice.
However, with the DIY option there are many things to think about! Firstly, ink. Ink can be very costly - you might fly through it faster (and more expensive) than a barrel of oil! When you're printing in-house, you're best avoiding block colours and keeping the paper colour as the background. Invest in a decent printer if you intend to do this long term, otherwise it'll simply not be viable. Graphic design work can be a challenge for in-house jobs, outsourcing here is advisable. There's way more to think about than 'does this look pretty' and an experienced Menu Designer can drive your sales up. Have a look at our Menu Engineering series for more information on this.
Paper gets damaged quickly when handled by so many customers, and precariously always around food and drink. You really shouldn't ever give someone a greasy or tatty menu or they'll feel undervalued and link your brand with poor quality. You're going to need lots of spares as rips and tears are unavoidable.
Paper (Professionally printed)
Getting your menus printed from a professional printer means you can have all the glorious colour you want. The Printer will know to check all the crops and ensure the finished product looks correct. Also, with lots of fancy paper/card stock available, your Printer can find the best solution for your menu display. Maybe you could get an a3 sized throw-away place-mat with the menu printed on it!
The main problem with this route, is that often someone will open the last box of menus without reordering. You need to plan ahead to ensure you give the Printer enough time to schedule, print and deliver the job - customers can't be left with no menus! Also, considering long term strategies, if you're menu will stay the same for a long period then you'll still end up throwing away a lot of damaged menus; whereas if you change one item then your entire menu stock is suddenly outdated. It's easy to be left with hundreds of spare, outdated menus and it's equally easy to run out of menus too soon and be caught short.
Becoming more durable, laminated card is a classier option. The graphic designer can go to town on the design, with it being printed in nice high quality with vibrant colours.
A problem with lamination, is that it's very difficult to recycle and most of the menus will end up in a landfill site. Over time, even laminated card can start looking a little tired and rough around the edges.
Taking the laminated solution and improving it tenfold. This is a sturdy, washable option that copes with drops, spills and time. It'll last longer than most price updates, meaning you can order a small amount of menus to last you over a year. A good investment to cut down menu spends if you have a steady price plan and core choice of items. Obviously we've got a website filled with testimonials and wondrous descriptions about this - plus we can send you a sample to further convince you that this may be the best choice for your menu!
One thing to consider, is the lack of flexibility. If you tend to change your mind on your menu a lot then this is probably more durable than you'll need... unless your customers/environment can be extra messy!
A great way to evoke added style to your menu. A menu holder can protect your menu whilst reflecting your brand in the material/design. Perhaps a leather or wooden holder will work best for your brand! The changeable inserts allow you to update your menu when required whilst keeping it good quality. Being able to simply replace individual pages is a handy feature of this solution.
Pros and cons do interchange here, the money saved with less damaged menus is balanced with the extra money saved on protecting the menus with fancy covers. Your menu covers can also get scraped, scratched, damaged or lost - which can be a pricey replacement (especially if customised).
Time to get super swish, how about having your menu displayed digitally on lovely sleek tablets? Updating your Menu is super easy and can be done instantaneously to all devices. Getting an app developer to create a custom menu app to lock customers in to your menu will give it a more professional finish and you could even consider throwing in marketing opportunities or games for the smallest of visitors to be kept quiet with!
Obviously the drawback here is the vulnerability and cost. Customers and staff alike may drop the tablets, or spillages may occur that'll frazzle the electronics. You'll need to keep them charged in between uses and the initial investment of the hardware and software can be very costly.
Taking the device away from the customer, a big clear electronic display has all the advantages of digital display with much less risk of damage. If you have a big enough display area, this is a cool option. Fast food giants favour this option and it can be centrally controlled providing real time updates to all franchises.
The cost level here is the highest, with quality large screens required and the software likely running up a big bill.