There is that old saying, “you can’t judge a book by its cover”. Well, we all know that we do it all the time whether it is for appearances on a first impression, CD covers (at least until digital music totally takes over the world), actual books, magazine and, yes, your restaurant’s menu. It is just human nature to make or form an impression from what we take in on a cursory first glance at something. This is why making your menu cover stand out is such a key piece to putting together a great menu.
You already know that you’ve got the best food around. You wouldn’t be in this restaurant business if you thought otherwise. It doesn’t matter if you are the manager of the restaurant, owner or both. Every team member in your dining establishment is telling people about your food and service from how they act, present the food and serve up a night of entertainment for your guests. However, this all happens after they get their menus in their hands. From that first moment that they touch the cover of that menu until they open it up and browse the selections, you are telling them something. Going cheap here will give that impression.
This doesn’t mean that you need to spend a fortune on your menu covers, but you do need to make sure that the food you are serving is not cheapened or downgraded in your guests’ mind before they even taste it. This goes for misspelled words, typos and other menu errors that of course, your menu cover itself have little to do with. Think of it as simply an overall, taking-it-all-in experience. You know what it is like as patron yourself, though you have a different eye for things having been in the restaurant business.
What Are The Purposes and Types of Menu Covers?
If you read more about the menu cover here, you might learn that the only purpose of the menu cover is to simply hold the menu in place for your guests to see what is available, right? Wrong! This is certainly one of the more primary or functional aspects to the cover, but it is not the only reason you have one. Like many things in life, there are reasons behind the reasons. In this case, one main reason behind is to showcase you are fine food items. If your restaurant only serves up a cheap fare, then you will probably just need something like the vinyl menu covers, a type of plastic menu cover. There is nothing wrong with this type of menu. It protects the menu from food, drink, and grease or other restaurants ‘debris’ and they are easy to wipe clean. A common and great menu cover for the purpose it serves.
However, if you are looking for a more elegant feel to your menu, something that you want your guests to experience before they even see what you offer, then nice leather menu covers might fit the bill – so to speak – a little better. Leather has always had a nice ‘hand’ or feel to it. In fact, leather will even age very well and looks even more comfortable and welcoming with time. These types work well in steakhouses and other places where meat is considered the specialty.
Another type of theme style of cover that is becoming more popular is metal menu covers. These are great for the modern bar and restaurant with an edgier feel to them. They are usually made of aluminum or light gauge stainless steel to prevent rust. However, the treated copper menu covers make for an exquisitely unique look. These metal covers can also be etched or cut to create a logo or some type of image, even restaurant name, cut into the metal itself. It would be similar to how an image, logo or writing can be embossed on a leather menu cover.
Cafe Versus Restaurant Menu Covers
There is really only a difference in these types of things as they pertain to the style in which you present your menu. A cafe style will usually offer fewer items on their menu and so the cafe menu cover will not need to have as many pages or features as traditional dining restaurant menu covers. This isn’t to say a cafe is not traditional dining, just not known for being a dining establishment.
You might find that you can display your food choices with a little more flair and uniqueness in the cafe menu versus a three page or tri-fold leather menu cover. Your smaller menu can allow for a much simpler cover that will appeal to the type of patron whom you are serving. There are also considerations for the price of a wine menu cover, check presenters, tabletop menu holders and such.
So, you are looking for menu covers for your restaurant’s menus and you are wondering what options are available. Considering what to use for your cover choices is a step that will pay big dividends for you in the way that your guests enjoy their food and time in your restaurant. You don’t want to spend too much on the menu cover, but spending wisely is a smart move.
The one thing you should keep in mind, then, is what image and since you want to portray to your guests. A simple no-frills menu cover is an option and it portrays a certain feeling to your guests. Something with more substance and presence about it will convey a very different feeling to your guests. Again, these are some subtle distinctions that ultimately will affect their experience in your establishment.
Think about it from a dining experience. When you go out to eat, you notice the little things. This is partly because you are either intimately involved in the industry or have been and you know how these things matter. Well, they matter to all of your guests too, they just don’t have the same level of conscious attention or awareness about such things. But, one thing they will know is how they feel. If their first impression is one of elegance or comfort, then they will be more inclined to carry this attitude with them regarding your restaurant.
Now, let’s not get carried away and think that the food has less importance than the cover that tells your guests what is available. That would be silly to assume or try to suggest such a thing. When we go out to dinner or a nice lunch, we are looking for both a quality meal but also great service. Part of great service involves helping a guest have a more pleasant experience in your establishment. They are partly there to be entertained. Not entertained in a dance around and sing sort of way, but by the way, they are treated. Being greeted by a less than present young server with a plastic menu cover is one way to set a tone, it just isn’t the one I would recommend. Age has little to do with how well someone feels treated. A quite young person could deliver superb service and quite honestly wow your guests. In fact, this would be a great way to make an even greater first impression. Many people will be making all sorts of judgments about your restaurant, the food, the decor, etc. If you wow them by surprise, they will remember you.
So, we’ve discussed how restaurant menu covers are part of the picture and a bit about how to make your guests get a great first impression with them. But, what if you have more of a café style dining establishment?
Cafe Menu Covers
There are only some slight modifications from the restaurant menu cover with a cafe menu cover. Mostly, these differences have to do with size. With a traditional menu cover for a dining establishment, the menu will usually measure like a standard sheet of paper (8 ½ x 11”) or slightly larger. With the cafe menu, the size is typically made to be thinner and sometimes the same height, but can be taller than a regular menu. This makes the menu options stand out differently and gives one the impression that they are there for a lighter meal.
Cafe menu covers come in essentially the same types of materials. One thing we haven’t really discussed is fabrics. Often, with a larger menu, it isn’t as conceivable to use a fabric that has a burlap-type texture or silky feel to it. With use, these will simply wear out and break down. Also, a dinner restaurant is not really the best place to utilize such fabrics. However, they can still be used. They would work great in a themed restaurant where you want a bamboo covered menu at that Asian restaurant. For a cafe menu, you can get away with more playful ideas and use more single-sided covers. It is also possible to utilize the more costly metal menu covers because you don’t need as large a surface area to cover. They may or may not be a different price due to this, but you can always inquire. In the end, think about the message you are trying to portray. Whether you own or manage a cafe or a more formal restaurant, the types of covers you utilize will make a difference, so choose wisely.
What Do Menu Covers Cost?
Why not just go for cheap menu covers? Well, you certainly could – but just be cognizant of what you’re looking for.
Cheap could mean inexpensive or cheap could mean you’ll end up having to buy more of them in no time because, well, they are cheap!
There is a range of prices based upon the variety of menu cover styles. Additionally, the brand of the menu cover you choose will affect the price. The ‘big dogs’ can command a higher price based upon years of experience and stability in the fragile restaurant market. As a starting point, you should determine the look you are after, the number you’ll need and any type of customization you will require. Of course, custom menu covers will command higher prices as you will be ordering ‘off the menu’ if you’ll allow such an obvious pun.
Basic prices can start as low as around $15 USD each for a simply bonded leatherette or vinyl menu cover. This price would typically be for a minimum order of lots of 50 or 100 menu covers. Prices could go up to the $40 USD range for a soft grain leather cover. Then, the price jumps to ‘custom pricing’ for those great metal and other custom menu cover options. The best practice is to determine what your budget will allow for your covers, then work backward from there. If you find you just can’t make it work for what you want, you may have to re-analyze your budget or negotiate with your vendor.
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