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?
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 :)
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.