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How Many Menus Does A Restaurant Need? Part 1

How Many Menus Does A Restaurant Need? Part 1

When I get asked the question: "How many menus does a restaurant need?' I think there are two ways to look at this: How many copies of the menu or; how many different versions of the menu. 


In this blog post, I will answer: How many copies? Next month I'll answer the second question; how many different versions of a menu. 


So... 50 copies, a box of 500 or perhaps a pallet of 5,000?


​​So the first thing to think about is how long do you expect your menus to last? Are you an operation changing its menu every day, every week, month, or do you go for six months to a year? Or perhaps even you'll go as long as you can maintain your Margin? With inflation being as low as it has been, that could be a couple of years. 


​​If you are one of those change-every-week operations, then you aren't going to need many copies, perhaps just enough to cope with peak walk-in? If you have 150 covers - how many of those walk in all at once, and are they all seated looking at menus at the same time? 100? that's a lot of orders hitting the kitchen at once? Your menu is replaced regularly, so the copies do not need to last a long time. 

For an operation like this, four to five hundred copies a week. Just simple ink on paper, with no lamination. Please be ruthless about throwing them out if they get grubby. I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it "There is nothing worse than being given a grubby menu!"


​​Disposable menus - love them or loathe them. They can work well. As we've discovered over the past 17 or so months, customers like to see that they are getting clean stuff. There is no better clean message than to scrumple up the menu and visibly bin it once the order is taken. People tell me it gets them down after a bit, all that throwing away, and it's undoubtedly true that constantly replenishing them begins to add up after a while. 


​​If you are a disposable menu operation, then answering the question; How many menus does a restaurant need? It's probably the easiest to calculate accurately. 


​​So how to calculate the number of copies in a disposable situation?

  • ​​How many covers do you have multiplied by how many days a week you are open? X
  • ​​How many times, on average, do you turn your covers in a week? Y  
  • ​​How long do you plan to run your current menu offering for and maintain the existing Margin? M

​​in weeks


​​so potential weekly covers in a restaurant of 100 seats open five days a week= 500

​​tuning tables an average of 2.5 times a week= 1500 covers a week

​​menu to run for six months - 26 weeks 


​​26 x 1500 = 39,000 menus.


​​That's not an insignificant number of sheets of paper. Shop around various printers. If you do not have space to spare and let's face it, you probably shouldn't…if you can store a pallet of paper in your high rent restaurant, perhaps you should be reviewing your use of the precious square footage.

​​Talk to your local printer - there are deals to be done. Regular work is as valuable to them as it is to you. They might be able to store some for you, which will cost less than your expensive high street space.


​​OK, so that was the easy one to calculate. 


​​Now it gets a bit trickier. 


​​Disposable is not for you. You like to get a bit more use out of your menus. You want to try to run with the content and pricing of the menu for a year. Changing costs of ingredients does not always allow you to do that, but that's what you aim for. Keep offering the favourites, your 'house classics' and add things that you have tried out as specials. Drop items that people do not want to buy anymore or that are no longer financially viable. 

Most operations that work with the same menu for the year are using a laminated card menu. It works for them, most of the time. Your team can wipe these menus clean of sticky finger marks, and if your floor staff look after them, they will keep going for quite a while. The trouble is all too often they don't. Laminated card doesn't cope well with liquids. Soggy tatty edges can quickly appear. It would be best if you threw them out. So often, you can visit a new restaurant, a couple of months old, still new and exciting, but the menus are already letting standards slip. 


Five hundred laminated card menus in a restaurant of 150 covers that turns two times a seven day week will go through the hands of more than 8,000 people in 4 weeks. Or, to put it another way, each menu will be handled by more than 16 different people in 4 weeks. 


Hmmm… makes you think, doesn't it? It hasn't been cleaned by any more than a wipe with a damp cloth if it looked sticky or grubby. Five hundred menus doesn't seem like so many now. 


If you are using laminated card menus, think of them lasting no more than six weeks before they really have to be thrown out. Wiping them is good, but it's not the same as a clean, fresh one. In my example above, you are probably better buying 1,000 every six weeks. Or 4,000 in 6 months? Again talk to a printer you can do business with. 


If this sounds a bit much, you could always go and get those excellent leather binders that you see at the tradeshows (we can recommend the team at menushop.co.uk ). A fine foiled logo on the front with reinforced corners has clear plastic pockets that you can put your paper menu into. The pockets are entirely wipeable, and the paper inside is just not going to get wet. If that works for you and your operation, then you don't need many. Two-thirds of your dining room seating capacity should do. You can then run off the pages on your office printer. Change the contents as often as you fancy. 


Of course, I am biased, but I think the answer if it works for your offering, is the SuperTuffMenu. These can be washed in hot soapy water after every use. Or, in less pandemically challenging times, you could have your floor staff clean their own station's menus after every shift. SuperTuffMenus will not go soggy or peel and will last a least a year of continual use. You don't need to buy more than the number of covers you have if that. If the number of menus that your restaurant is using is one of the things keeping you awake at night, then give them a shot. They work for a lot of busy restauranteurs. They remove a headache and let you deal with the bigger issues. 


Next month I'll take the other side of this question - How many versions of a menu does a restaurant need?