Signage & Shopfitting Features

Menu makers

Menu boards have gone beyond simply listing an outlet’s food offering to become an important design feature within today’s fish and chip shops

Having an attractive, clear and easy to read menu board is fundamental to the success of your takeaway. Not only will it direct customers to order specific items, but it will also help speed up the ordering process and eliminate dithering customers holding up the queue!

With so many different design options now available, shops can be creative in their look, placement and usage of menu boards to help convey their brand’s personality. And what’s really great is that you don’t always need to spend thousands to get great results.

When Adam Hird opened his takeaway, Hird’s Family Fisheries in Halifax, North Yorkshire, six years ago he was on a budget so introduced chalkboard menus which he did himself. Liking the look of them, he later wanted something more professional and found a local signwriter. Adam comments: “We have a local signwriter which I think is an art in itself and a lot more personal than going printed or digital.

“As for updates we do some changes ourselves - we just paint out what we need to change -and then the seasonal special we get the sign writer in to do. For us, it’s a lot more cost-effective than printing or going down the digital route.”

Also choosing the DIY option is Fish Works, which opened in Largs, Scotland, just over a year ago. With the shop going for a vintage wooden industrial look, co-owner Tiffany Irvin went for a menu made from wooden pallets - something she had seen in Florida when visiting venues such as Bubba Gumps and Joe’s Crab Shack.

Using old pallets, which were free, the menu is not only cost-effective but it has also become a stand out feature in the shop - along with a floor made up entirely of 1p coins. Tiffany comments: “We took the pallets apart and sanded them to give them a nice smooth finish. We then used old school metal stencils and white paint to add the text and prices. It was great as our shop has a vintage industrial feel and we wanted something to tie into this.”
Adapting the text when the menu changes is relatively straightforward too - although slightly messy -  an electric sander is used to remove the old text and prices and then the new information stenciled over the top. Tiffany adds: “Obviously it’s not as easy as digital menu boards, but we feel that the pallet wood menu is a great talking point and we have many customers who visit saying they heard about us from a friend who was talking about the menu or the penny floor.”

In fact, Fish Works recently won a green tourism award and having the recycled pallet wood menu helped it achieve extra points towards the total score.
At Eric’s Fish & Chips in Thornham, Norfolk, the decor harks back to the traditional British fish and chip restaurant and blends nostalgia with modern elements.

Owner Eric Snaith went for traditional pegboard menus which are not only easy to change, inexpensive and to the point but, more importantly, reflects his brand. He comments: “I much prefer the traditional look, I think it works better with our brand and looks a lot less tacky. I think our customers love the idea of traditional fish and chips so little touches like the menu boards put the feeling across.

“I believe it’s very important that everything that goes in the restaurant fits with the overall theme and feel of our decor and brand.”

For Craig Davenport, owner of Henry’s in Boston, Lincolnshire, digital menus were the way to go when he opened his shop in October 2015. He comments: “The ease of being able to add and remove things from the menu was what I really like because, being a new shop, I didn’t know what was going to be a good seller and what was going to be slow.” Being able to change the prices is particularly important for Craig as Henry’s has different pricing for lunchtime and evenings. He adds: “With digital menus, my specials are only advertised when they are available. For example, we do lunchtime meal deals which we don’t do at night time, so I don’t have to worry about a customer feeling disappointed or ripped off that they are being charged 50p or £1 more for a meal that was available at lunchtime.”

Craig sourced four monitors himself for around £4,000 and uses BD Signs’ design service, which he pays £30 a month for. He adds: “I’m constantly doing a different meal deal each month as it’s really easy to change the menu. I definitely wouldn’t do that if I had to do new posters and menu boards each time. The customers are happy too as they can always get something different.”

Although pleased with his choice, Crag does offer a word of warning for anyone using digital menus. “Make sure you have good back-up systems, even if it’s simply a paper menu on the counter as digital screens can go down - and they have!”

At the Cod’s Scallops in Nottingham the menu also regularly changes but owner John Molnar has gone for a different option altogether - foamex board which is made to look like a chalkboard. John comments: “All prices are attached by Velcro so prices can be amended and if any fish is out of stock  - our menu changes daily depending on the day’s catch - we can replace the price with a sign that says ‘still at sea’.”

With so many different menu board options available, it’s important to select the one that best suits your brand and your operation. And remember, there is no replacement for old-fashioned printed menus as Franca and John Paul Sheridan, owners of Gino’s Fryer, in Largs, came to realise. They use a combination of wooden framed menus in the shop, double-sided menus in the window in a wire display as well as a takeaway menu on the counter. Franca says: “I’m surprised at how often we are asked for the takeaway menu, although this does tend to be our older customers that ask.”


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