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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Commercial Printing: Thoughts on Menu Creation

A colleague recently sent me a link to an online booklet called 7 Tips for Crafting an Exceptional Menu, which Lightspeed, a provider of IT services for the food industry, allowed me to download in exchange for my name, email, and phone number.

Personally, I think this is a shrewd use of multichannel marketing. Lightspeed gets my contact information, and I get a useful booklet on designing and producing menus. Fair trade.

Lightspeed positions itself on the back cover of the booklet in the following manner:

“At Lightspeed, we build end-to-end commerce solutions that restaurateurs can use to build, manage and grow their businesses. Lightspeed is an all-in-one point of sale, table management, and analytics platform for restaurants of any size. With the right technology, restaurateurs can make their customers happier, and make the world a more delicious place.”

So the company is not only using electronic media in concert with print media (insofar as you will probably apply their suggestions to producing your next print menu). It is also providing useful content (not just marketing information) in exchange for your contact information.

But I digress. Here’s the menu tutorial.

How to Whip Up a Good Menu

Lightspeed “gets” it. Everything is an ad for your company. If you’re a restaurateur, this is particularly true about your menu. You can win a loyal customer with a good menu, or you can drive the customer out the door. In many ways, the menu is an extension of the interior décor, but even more so it is a direct line to satisfying your customer’s hunger. If you can do this in a pleasurable way (after all, dining out is as much about entertainment as about eating a meal), you will have a lifelong customer and advocate.

Lightspeed’s menu creation booklet deserves a download and a full read, so I’m only going to touch on a few points here. But the booklet helps you, the aspiring restaurateur, define your assets, compare them to your competition’s offerings, and then lay out the information in an easily digestible format. It also tells you when to hire professionals (possibly for the design; definitely for the photography). In fact, since a bad photo of food is worse then no photo at all, 7 Tips for Crafting an Exceptional Menu asks whether you should include photos.

The book even discusses how to present food prices. For instance, removing the currency symbol (in most cases the dollar sign) may distance the customer from the fact that he or she is spending money. In addition, including the price in-line with the menu offering (as opposed to at the far right, in a column, along with all the other prices) may keep the consumer from comparing prices and choosing an entree based on cost.

The booklet encourages you not to diverge from traditional categories (such as breakfast, lunch, dinner, fish, chicken, beef, etc.) except for such categories as “specials” because diners are in a hurry. Think about it. Have you ever been to a trendy restaurant and seen a “build your own” noodle bowl or rice dish with categories such as “choose your protein”? Personally, it takes me a minute to think about this. With a menu, you often don’t have this time if someone is hungry. Make it easy to understand—like a billboard.

Copywriting for the Menu

7 Tips for Crafting an Exceptional Menu even addresses copywriting skills for the restaurateur, noting that a menu item description should be short and evocative:

“The description of a dish should include more than the ingredients; it needs to express the feelings that you would like your guests to experience.”

I have read elsewhere–in marketing books–that good copywriting involves making the customer see, smell, and even taste what you’re selling. This is more than flowery language when you’re promoting a restaurant.

In addition, the booklet notes—numerous times—that you can ruin the perception of both the menu and the restaurant by not catching spelling errors in your copy. I think this is true for two reasons: 1) It distracts your reader from the food, and 2) It implies that you don’t pay attention to details (which, in a restaurant can be anything from annoying to deadly).

Conclusion: Applying These Lessons to Custom Printing

Here are some things to ponder and apply to any advertising or marketing design (which actually means to any copywriting and design work without exception):

  1. Everything is an ad. A business card is an ad, and a menu is an ad. Make it look good, but also pay attention to the copy (its readability, its precision, its evocative language, and its technical correctness).
  2. Content is king. If you want new customers, give them something of value. 7 Tips for Crafting an Exceptional Menu will help the aspiring restaurateur. The book also implies (indirectly) that Lightspeed will help the aspiring restaurateur. This is good marketing. The new sales ethos is all about helping people get their needs met.
  3. Use multiple media channels. In this case, Lightspeed leveraged both the Internet and (once you have followed the directions and designed your menu) custom printing products.
  4. Make things easy for your reader. 7 Tips for Crafting an Exceptional Menu even tells you up front that it will be short and helpful (“7 Tips”). The booklet is easy to acquire (for just a little of your contact information). It’s easy to digest (with simple organization and simple design). The lesson: Provide good content and make it easy to absorb.

All of these points can apply to practically any venue, from a furniture store (Ikea does the same thing and does it well) to a restaurant IT vendor (like Lightspeed).

Go forth and do this. It works.

4 Responses to “Commercial Printing: Thoughts on Menu Creation”

  1. Paige Smith says:

    It is interesting to see how much printing shops can really help out with businesses. My friend is trying to figure out some posters for her new start up. Commercial printing options have been really helpful to her.

    • admin says:

      Thank you for commenting on the PIE Blog. I think that when a printing supplier helps a client design, or improve upon, a marketing piece, he can win a lifetime customer. It’s all about partnerships. This benefits both the client and the printer.

  2. shirt design says:

    I enjoy what you guys are usually up too. Such clever work and coverage!
    Keep up the excellent works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to our blogroll.

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