Hi All,

I'm opening a small coffee shop in SLC, trying to decide whether to go with a chalkboard menu or a printed one.

Any opinions based on experience? What are the major advantages & drawbacks to each? Also, I've tried to find examples of really awesomely drawn chalkboard menus, and I've found some, but I'd love to see what else is out there. Just to give me some ideas.

Thanks in advance...

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In my opinion a combination of both is the way to go. Using the printed version for a standard menu and your chalkboard for the specials. Making an attractive chalkboard is always fun bot i think it has to be functional as well.

If you want to make attractive chalkboards you might work with simple cliparts and color them to your liking.
hey ben,
have tried and tested both menu types at our cafe! Found that chalkboards, once written properly (and neatly!!) can add a funky artistic feel and they can also be changed really easily as coffee/milk/food prices seem to be increasing every month recently! Printed menus, on the other hand, do look professional, guess it depends what kind of feel and vibe your going for with your cafe?
Jen,

Awesome. Thanks for the input. I do think the chalk look would compliment the overall mood of the shop. It's in an old, neat brick building, with a little bit of a film noir theme to the whole thing...

one of my concerns is that the chalkboards would require a lot of maintenance? Do you spray it with something to keep it from fading?

Thanks again!


Jen said:
hey ben,
have tried and tested both menu types at our cafe! Found that chalkboards, once written properly (and neatly!!) can add a funky artistic feel and they can also be changed really easily as coffee/milk/food prices seem to be increasing every month recently! Printed menus, on the other hand, do look professional, guess it depends what kind of feel and vibe your going for with your cafe?
...hmmm... that's an interesting thought to incorporate both. Thanks!

Djaya said:
In my opinion a combination of both is the way to go. Using the printed version for a standard menu and your chalkboard for the specials. Making an attractive chalkboard is always fun bot i think it has to be functional as well.

If you want to make attractive chalkboards you might work with simple cliparts and color them to your liking.
we used good quality liquid chalk markers, which is like "chalky ink" but it wipes off with a cloth! they're fab you can get them in a load of different colours usually and it doesnt budge unless you want it to :)
wow. thank you so much! that's totally helpful.

Jen said:
we used good quality liquid chalk markers, which is like "chalky ink" but it wipes off with a cloth! they're fab you can get them in a load of different colours usually and it doesnt budge unless you want it to :)
I'm considering calk board menus too. I'm thinking about using "unusual" items for the "boards" by painting them with chalkboard paint.
we just got some masonite and used the chalk board paint, but then when we used the chalk board pens they didn't wipe off. so we repainted and now are using good old fashioned chalk. We love it because it gives us a chance to express our creativity and add funky charm to the shop. We have a sandwich board out front with a chalkboard on it and we love writing funny stuff on it in the morning...great way to tell people on the street about our specials. But again, only works with old fashioned chalk so the outdoor board is a little incompatible with our Seattle rain.
I have used both, and there are things that are great about both. Currently using printed (painted), and the reason I don't like them is: it would be a Huge hassle to try to change anything. It's just not easy to add or take away menu items. Say you have a special that turns out to be a big hit - do you want to jump through hoops to try to add it to the permanent menu? Next time I do menus I would most likely chalkboard paint something, frame it really nicely, and have someone chalk in the actual menu items. Good luck!
Hey Ben.......good luck! My last visit to SLC, I stayed at the Homewood Sts. on the West end of downtown, right across from a new small espresso shop called "Vive" (?). Last time I tried calling the owner, the phone was out of commission? If you know the shop, I'd love to know what happened?

As for interior and exterior signage, I've been both a manufacturer and now corporate sales manager in this field. I'll humbly add the following, not knowing just how far you are into your plans? My very strong recommendation to clients is to first have a clear vision, hopefully in the form of design plans, on what the interior will look like. I say that because if you're asking about permanent vs chalk, you may be going into this a bit more relaxed than some, but that's OK. Blue Bottle Coffee kiosk on Linden in the alley in San Francisco is a great example of minimal investment.......my kind of business! They're making money, not salving an ego. I can't even remember their graphics...but I never forget their coffee.

Consider a well designed "frame" for a changeable chalkboard. There are a number of menu board manufacturers and sign shops that supply that type of product. Personally, if a chalk board frame is well designed and repeats your logo, theme, etc., it will allow you to be fluid with your menu. You also asked about "maintenance" on this type of graphic. If it's the frame, keeping it clean and WAXed with a carnuba or furniture wax, if appropriate for the material, will preserve the color depth. As for the chalkboard and chalk......that should not be an issue. In very active steamy areas, some people apply a non-adhesive clear laminant that protects the board and chalk.

I'll possibly be back in SLC in a week or two and would really get a hoot out of visiting your location or possible location. If you have bud's in specialty coffee in SLC, they might be able to share some menu board, interior ideas. But most important........... don't get sucked into overspending on graphics. Make great coffee, give good service..........and if people have to read an imprinted laser-print sheet every time they walk in, then fine. I don't begrudge a sign supplier from making a living, but my mantra is "low overhead - high quality product." You're welcome to private email me, or send a phone #, I'll be glad to help. SLC needs more good coffee.
Al!
Hey, man, thanks so much for the input. you gave me a lot of great stuff to think about. Really appreciate it, my friend, and hell yeah, I'll hook you up with a free cap when you're in SLC next time. I'm hoping to be open early January.
Cheers!

Al Sterling said:
Hey Ben.......good luck! My last visit to SLC, I stayed at the Homewood Sts. on the West end of downtown, right across from a new small espresso shop called "Vive" (?). Last time I tried calling the owner, the phone was out of commission? If you know the shop, I'd love to know what happened?

As for interior and exterior signage, I've been both a manufacturer and now corporate sales manager in this field. I'll humbly add the following, not knowing just how far you are into your plans? My very strong recommendation to clients is to first have a clear vision, hopefully in the form of design plans, on what the interior will look like. I say that because if you're asking about permanent vs chalk, you may be going into this a bit more relaxed than some, but that's OK. Blue Bottle Coffee kiosk on Linden in the alley in San Francisco is a great example of minimal investment.......my kind of business! They're making money, not salving an ego. I can't even remember their graphics...but I never forget their coffee.

Consider a well designed "frame" for a changeable chalkboard. There are a number of menu board manufacturers and sign shops that supply that type of product. Personally, if a chalk board frame is well designed and repeats your logo, theme, etc., it will allow you to be fluid with your menu. You also asked about "maintenance" on this type of graphic. If it's the frame, keeping it clean and WAXed with a carnuba or furniture wax, if appropriate for the material, will preserve the color depth. As for the chalkboard and chalk......that should not be an issue. In very active steamy areas, some people apply a non-adhesive clear laminant that protects the board and chalk.

I'll possibly be back in SLC in a week or two and would really get a hoot out of visiting your location or possible location. If you have bud's in specialty coffee in SLC, they might be able to share some menu board, interior ideas. But most important........... don't get sucked into overspending on graphics. Make great coffee, give good service..........and if people have to read an imprinted laser-print sheet every time they walk in, then fine. I don't begrudge a sign supplier from making a living, but my mantra is "low overhead - high quality product." You're welcome to private email me, or send a phone #, I'll be glad to help. SLC needs more good coffee.
Here's another thought - picture frames. Our menu boards are giant picture frames that have been fitted with non-glare glass and just a plain black matte board inside. The menu is written on the glass with those wet-erase liquid chalk markers. Since the base is glass the marker wipes right off with a little water. BUT since the base is black the contrast is really good and colors are really vivid.

If you wanted something with more personality you could use a more ornate frame and more interesting matte board. We went with basic black.

Benefits: You can put the glass on a grid board when you first do the menu so things are nice and straight. The other real upside here is cost... a big frame is maybe 50 bucks at the craft store, the glare-resistant glass another $50-$75, 5 bucks in matte board... compare that with a large blackboard.

Downside - there is just a little sheen to it, which can somewhat impeded readability if the lights are aimed wrong.

There is a pic that shows these a little bit on my page.

Good luck.

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