Kitchen Supplies

What You Need To Know About Menu Covers

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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Kitchen Supplies

Types of Menu Covers

The search for the perfect menu cover is a quest that will take the discriminating owner or manager on a mind-numbing journey.  There are so many little points and differences in the different styles that sometimes it can be hard to choose.  One of the best things to do first is to decide on what you want to portray with your menu.  This will ultimately come down to being a reflection of what type of restaurant you have.  Luckily, you’ve already done the legwork of deciding all of this.  Your dreams and ideas have all come to fruition in this place of yours, now it is time to highlight what I hope you think is the best food around.

It doesn’t matter the type of menu cover you choose so long as it is congruent with what your guests are expecting.  If you have a family-friendly local mom and pop type of restaurant, you can get away with a less we’ll say glamorous cover for your menus.  What you need in this type of restaurant is function first and looks second (at least as far as this aspect is concerned).  Don’t fool yourself, people still want to dine in style, just because they have children, doesn’t mean they want to be picking crumbs up off their seats and reading a greasy, sticky or cracked menu.  In fact, you could argue that they are going out to eat exactly to avoid this type of stuff at home.

However, where your menu covers will come into more sight and need to be a class act is if you have a fine dining establishment.  This is where the discriminating tastes in decor, food choices and service will all make a world of difference in the success of your restaurant.  It is one thing to talk about all these facets of a congruent and well-blended experience, it is quite another to actually implement policies and design choices that take these things into account.  This is where getting very good quality menu covers will make the difference.

If you have the choice of sitting down and holding a nice solid, well made and smooth feeling leather menu cover or some cheap menu cover, which one impresses you more?  Of course, right!  But even the most intelligent owners and managers sometimes miss these basic points.  When it comes to the expenses of opening and running a restaurant, there is always a pressure to reduced overhead, costs and other variables that can boost profits.  So, even though this whole cover issue may seem like a minor point, it can make a big impact.

How Do You Know What Type of Menu Cover To Choose?

Well, as was alluded to above, there are several styles that make this whole process a bit more daunting.  Keep that original point in mind, let your restaurant theme and image dictate the details.  You could see this as being the other way around, regardless, the details matter.  A brief list of restaurant menu covers would include leather, metal, fabric and even plastic menu covers.  Also, keep in mind that whether we are talking about a restaurant or a café menu cover, the same ideas apply.  Let’s discuss these different styles briefly here, though they are discussed in more detail on pages dedicated to each type elsewhere on our site.

Let’s start with one of the most elegant or substantial and work our way through the other styles from here.  The leather menu cover is likely the most common type to be used in the higher end restaurants.  You will, and should expect, find these covers used in more expensive establishments relative to the menu pricing.  These are possibly the finer steakhouses in town, the classy ‘go to’ places for special occasions and anniversaries.  If you want to be known as a nice place in town, leather will make a big impact as your choice here.  It has properties that allow it to be both functional as well as aesthetically pleasing.  The knock-off version of the leather style is the leatherette or faux leather menu cover.  This one would be more like what you might expect for the check presenter.  It simply doesn’t have the same feel and impression factor as the real leather cover.  Not a poor choice for certain restaurants, just a different one that should be treated as such.

So, this is a bit more of a trendy cover choice for your menu.  Metal will be found in restaurants that have a bit more modern edge or feel to them.  Food choices will typically be more geared towards eclectic preparations or a modern twist on an old dish.  New up and coming chefs like to prepare foods in a non-traditional way and these metal menu covers will give a little insight into this break from conformity.  Typically, the metal choices will consist of aluminum, stainless steel or even copper.  The aluminum and stainless steel styles will often have a brushed appearance, softening that hard metal feels.  Copper can make a great statement on its own and now there are even metals, like copper, that has a chemical patina added that creates a very unique and artistic feel to the look of the metal.  Metal is a great choice for the more modern feeling restaurant.

Plastic Menu Covers

More than a specific type of cover, the plastic menu cover is more of a class or category of covers.  This is due to the fact that the plastic styles can encompass thin, clear plastic to the more heavy duty variety.  The thinner type is more common with the menu that is printed on an 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper and then inserted into the cover.  These covers are designed really more for function.  They are helpful in that they can be cleaned easily with a damp and soapy rag and will provide a minimalist function.  Because these are the cheapest types of covers, it is less important to worry about them.  The restaurants and cafes that use these types are usually offering food choices that would be more for lunch or breakfast.  You will still find some restaurants serving dinner that uses a plastic menu cover, but it will not be found in a fine dining establishment.  This is fine.  Not all restaurants aspire to or serve the same customers and guests.  People looking for a spaghetti meal with the kids are going to have a different expectation than someone going on a date and looking for the chef so and so’s handmade pasta with squash flower appetizers.  So, don’t feel like you are being judged for your choice in covers, they all have a purpose and function.

This category was necessary as there are some special types of covers that could only be called custom or designer.  These would include woods, corks, and even some fabrics.  A custom menu cover is nothing more than a style that is designed for your particular restaurant’s needs or qualities.  For example, a restaurant known for its great wine list might opt to go for a cork cover for the wine menu.  This is one example of how you can keep the congruence that we mentioned earlier.  Similarly, you might opt to have a wood menu cover.  Fabrics such as linens and even silks could be custom designed as well.  These special or custom covers would really be used in a restaurant that isn’t doing a high volume type of business.  Not that every restaurant doesn’t want to be full all the time, it is just that these custom styles are a bit more prone to faster wear and tear and would cost much more to replace.  So, if you are able to serve your guests with more care and attention in this way, your pricing can be reflected here as well.  Of all the types of menu covers mentioned here, the only ‘right’ one is the one that fits the needs of you, your restaurant and ultimately your guests’ needs.

Kitchen Supplies

Custom Menu Cover Choices

You can find that sometimes in the restaurant business that being unique has its benefits.  I hope you could read through my subtly there:  being unique in the restaurant business is all you have!  If you are just like everything else that is out there, then there is really no need for people to come to your place is there.  The thing about us weird humans is that we are creatures of habit.  We like new and exciting things, but more than anything else, what we prefer en masse is consistency.  Now, don’t think that your simple menu cover is going to save you if your food is terrible.  This would be a very silly assumption, one I know you don’t share.

The point is this.  A reliable place to dine out is one of the reasons that many people give as to why they choose their favorite place.  Now, the food has to be good too, but not spectacular.  Did you get that?  Good or even great food is what is expected of your restaurant.  Unless you are going for a brand image like one of the larger chains or fast food places, your food better is the best or at least unique and exciting.  We get excited by very little things.  It could just be that the drinks have a little extra something about them, an umbrella, colored glasses, cool bar top, etc, etc.  Could your menu covers bring people into your restaurant?  Probably not, you get that one.  However, do you think they might be able to turn people away or at the least not wow them? Absolutely.

You see, it is up to you to entertain your guests with whatever means possible.  Since this site is about all the different types of covers for menus, that is what area we focus on here.  This can be an area where you create that subtle but effective congruent and consistent message to your guests.  Think about it. What attracts people to certain dining establishments?  Most often, when a restaurant is new, it has the buzz factor.  You know, it is the new kid on the block.  It gets the write-ups, the free press has the special offers and all the excitement that the staff has over their new ‘baby’.

Over time, some of the glitters can fade.  What will never change is how the food tastes and, probably just as important, is how they feel about their experience in your restaurant.  Your service is a big part of this equation.  Another big part is the small things that all add up.  The cleanliness, décor, table appearances, staff appearances, promptness, food consistency from visit to visit and, yes, your menu cover choices.  As much as you will never know how it affects the experience someone has, it does.

When you are playing at a higher level, the level where you even consider custom menu covers, then you get this.  You get that having a specially treated copper menu cover will definitely wow your guests.  The beautiful colors, the logo or artistic expression it makes.  It is a nice touch.  When you can wow people before they even try your food, this is a good thing.  In marketing, this is referred to as a ‘continuous yes’.  At each step of their experience in your restaurant, your guest is having an internal dialogue.  You want that internal dialogue to be answering, “yes, I like this place”.

A wood and fabric menu cover can also make a strong statement of individuality in a sea of like restaurants.  Think about it like a woman wears her jewelry.  Sure, there are other rings and necklaces like hers.  But, how about wearing handmade jewelry?  That’s even more appealing.  It is the same concept as your menu covers.  There are other styles, you just want yours to feel unique and special.  The truth is, if you open a place in a city where there is little competition, then you can probably write your menu on a napkin or chalkboard and people will still flock to your place.  However, as more and more restaurants come to town, the details are what will impress your guests.  Imagine presenting your guests with a menu that has a wooden cover, complete with your restaurant name or logo embossed in gold or silver.  You can also get a wood menu cover that has various patterns to it.

The same could be said for custom designed metal menu covers. These could be in the form of wood and metal combinations.  Or, like most custom metal designs, have a logo, image or text cut into the cover itself.  This marks these covers as yours.  They are unique, no other place in town has them.  It is like a brand for your menus.  How do you think someone senses that level of commitment and attention to individuality?  They like it, that’s how.  It makes them feel like there are in a special place, which means they must be special in some way too.  Did you ever

think that this much could be played into your ‘simple’ menu cover choices?  If you don’t think this is true, then you are literally handing over what could be very loyal and regular guests over to the other guy’s place.

Menu Cover Ideas

The search for the perfect match between menu and cover for that menu can seem daunting at first.  After all, you’d like for your guests to experience the best that your restaurant has to offer and feel good about what they see.  Your menu cover will be their first chance to get a sense of the style and consistency with your decor and food choices.  When we talk about topics like these, we are really getting into the nitty-gritty of what gives a restaurant or niche café staying power – these menu cover ideas do make a difference.

What you will notice of dining establishments that stick around long enough to be profitable for long periods of time is that they are consistent.  You’ve probably heard the saying that a huge part of success is just showing up.  In our case, this means showing up and being reliable and consistent.  Being reliable in many respects means that your restaurant’s design is consistent with your guest’s expectations.  Notice we haven’t even talked about the food yet.  When your menu covers reflect a certain personality that is also present in the food choices, you’ve just achieved another level of consistency.  What you will notice is that over time, maintaining this level of consistency breeds loyalty from your guests as well.

When people know what to expect from you – or your restaurant – they can be freer to recommend it to others.  If your style, service, food and other aspects are inconsistent, people get uncomfortable.  This can even mean changes that are designed to improve your establishment.  This doesn’t mean don’t improve, it means change with feedback and notice.  Allow your loyal guests to participate in the process where possible.

Have A Custom Menu Cover Contest

This is an example of something that can get your guests involved and also earn you some free press in the local media.  In this case, you could put the word out that your restaurant is holding a contest to design their new menu covers.  The winner of the custom menu cover contest will win a free dinner for four or something like that.  You could set the parameters such as material choices or even just have a place on the cover where the winning logo or text would appear.  This way, you could still maintain control over the main aspects of your design.

This is important because if you are set on getting leather menu covers with an elegant looking embossed image, you will not be inundated with metal designs or inserts for those simple plastic menu cover styles.  Something that has worked for some is to have a metal menu cover with a circle, oval or square space cut out of the center of the cover itself.  While certainly not a cheap menu cover choice, it will give you a considerably unique appearance.  This can then be fitted with a holder on the rear aspect of the main cover and can be made to hold an image or some sort of logo, shape or other design.

In the end, it is really a matter of choice as to how you will keep the covers for your menu consistent with the overall theme of your restaurant and food choices.  This is one of those things that seems very trivial to someone who has a hard time visualizing the details.  However, when all the little things work properly, it is much easier to work on larger aspects such as service and public relations.  After all, if the guests aren’t coming or returning, more importantly, then you don’t need any type of menu cover in the first place.