weakest link

Most restaurant menus are bad. Really bad. If you’re a restaurateur, here are some tips to help you create your restaurant menu.

An eager entrepreneur is passionate about food. He scrimps and saves with the dream of opening his own restaurant.

Why invest in other restaurant startup costs if you're going to butcher your restaurant menu in Microsoft WordOne day, the opportunity presents itself. He sinks all of his financial resources into the building, fit-up, and other start-up costs. His success hinges on the success of that restaurant. He has spared no expense to make it the best it can be.

Opening day approaches.

He cranks up Microsoft Word and makes the menu complete with typos and freakish justification.

The end.

***************

While I’m on a rant about restaurant menus…

  • If I’m eating something in a restaurant, then logically it CANNOT be “homemade” (unless you’re in trouble with the health dept). The word you’re looking for is “homestyle”.
  • Do you sell salads? Most people eat salad dressing on those. How about a listing of your salad dressing choices?
  • Own a restaurant? Have a website for it? Do you know why people come to a restaurant website? The menu. Why have you hidden it, strung it out on 8 different pages, and made it a 25MB PDF?
  • Dear Fast Food Behemoth: How about listing what you have and the prices on the menu boards instead of blinky-flashy tv screens that change about the time I start reading them?
  • And to the original point of this post – If you own a restaurant, please hire a graphic designer to design a menu that works. Proofread it. Pass it around to people who are not your friends to see if it makes sense to them. It’s amazing that the single most important marketing piece for a restaurant is so badly butchered by so many restaurateurs.

it’s in bad form

this is a bad paper form. No room for e-mail address
Paper still exists. This distresses the digerati, but it’s true.
There is an unfortunate instance between the digital and paper realms that drives me crazy.
Do me a favor. If you’re whipping up a paper form that asks for someone’s email address, use the entire width of the page just for that line.
There is no way someone with big clunky penmanship will be able to write john.doe@superlongcorporation.com on a line that you’ve allotted the same space for a phone or a fax number.
Speaking of which, why are you still including a fax line on that form?

recycling ideas

I led a daylong training for the Executive Directors of the American Advertising Federation back in 2008 at the AAF National Conference in Atlanta. This was their imaging for the conference:
2008 AAF National Conference

Flashforward to the present where the Wired Business Conference is happening today.
Wired Business Conference

Maybe they’ll talk about unique and fresh design.

proof shame

Let me first say that I have made many mistakes. A few have been made in life and many more have been made in my marketing efforts. I have approved print jobs with both minor and egregious errors. I have designed and sent ads to a publisher with misspellings. And this blog has been known to have more than the occasional typo. (Although, a copy editor friend is now reading the blog so I’m more careful than I used to be.)

As you go through the day, more than likely you’ll see a few mistakes in marketing pieces. Most of them come through hastily written signage, employees not using common sense, or the dangerous combination of minimum wage and brand messages. I’ve even provided photographic evidence of poor proofs here before. In fact, the problem has gotten so bad that we’ve come to the point that you get a write up in the New York Times because you know how to use punctuation on a sign.

It’s easy to find these singular errors. But occasionally, you’ll find an example where they just backed the dump truck up and let it all go. There’s a new restaurant in my hometown that has been publishing its menu in the local paper for the past few days. And it’s bad.

My wife is an adjunct college English professor and she took it to her night class. The students found copious amounts of misspellings, punctuation errors, and things that just made no sense. Here’s the ad, but because of the poor design and small type, you really can’t read it. But while trying to find an online copy of the menu to show you, I did find that the restaurant has already become a local laughingstock because of others who have noted the horrible job on the ad and menu.

This is not nitpicking. This is being in control of your marketing. There’s no reason for it. Shame on the newspaper and salesperson for letting such a horrible thing be published on behalf of a client. Shame on the graphic designer who didn’t proof the work. And shame on the owners for not taking responsibility for their own marketing and image.

If a company is not going to take the time and effort to properly craft the marketing messages that they’re paying for, how bad are the other aspects of the marketing experience I’m going to have with the company going to be? As you can see in the laughingstock link, shoddy craftsmanship in preparing a menu spills over in the preparation and quality of the food on the menu as well.

hey taxi!

Sometimes the product IS the logo. If you’re lucky enough to be caught in that position, don’t mess with it. But bureaucracy is not that smart.

In what is a sure fire example of the crap that can be produced by committee, New York has unveiled a logo for New York taxis.

new york city taxi logo
Never mind that the logo is not needed. They went the extra step to make it hideous.

How can you use three typefaces in only seven characters?

Am I in Boston? Why is the Boston T symbol showing up in the middle?

And as one commenter on a New York Times blog wrote — “it looks like someone used a dime-store stencil.”

The sad part about the whole logo is that it probably started as a good one since the original ideas came from Smart Design, the same group that puts together the smooth designs of Oxo proucts. But, as Tim Manners posted on Reveries, — “Rather than settling on one idea, the committee decided to go with all of them.”

Several more problems are outlined in this New York Times blog post along with commentary and alternative designs from some smart designers.

No Go Logo

There’s been quite a bit of online conversation and critique about the 2012 Olympic logo.

Great comments from Hugh who was actually there when it was unveiled.

And Seth had some great advice for people who speak jargon-ese to detract from the fact that they just ripped you off. And he really hit the nail on the head with a post about logos in general.

Here’s the thing — Advertising and graphic design are subjective. I personally don’t like this logo. Maybe you do. And criticism like this is going to happen all day in these fields.

But what does need to be considered is the big picture. So maybe you don’t like the color or the font, but will it help gain market share?

I had a client a few years ago who hired me to develop a marketing plan for his company. I discovered that while he was balking at my plans and my fees, he had paid a branding company an outlandish fee to come up with a logo and name for the company. And this happens all the time. Too many times, business strains at the gnat and swallows the camel when it comes to marketing. Spend your marketing dollars on the tires and engine of marketing — not on the upholstery and the radio.

It’s true that you need a good logo. And you don’t need to go the cheap route with it or try to do it yourself with clipart and MS Word. But you also don’t need to shell out $800,000 for anything that could easily be emailed to you.

The truest test is that if your graphic identity is giving people epileptic seizures as the 2012 Olympic one apparently is, perhaps it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

BONUS::It seems the British people could have done a better job. If you take out the photo-based ones, 2012 logos done by BBC News readers here and here are pretty good. (of course, that’s my subjective opinion)

Apprentice Marketing

I thought there might not be any teachable moments in marketing with this season of The Apprentice. But then last night, the tide changed with 3 good marketing points.

1) I preach to clients and speaking audiences all the time about one of the most recurrent marketing sins that I see…the novel on a billboard. With a billboard, you get one thought and one thought only. It has to be straightforward and so simple that a child could comprehend it without thinking. What you see so many times are billboards and other outdoor media that have the old mentality of “we paid for this space so we need to use all of it“.

2) While designing their losing billboard, Andrea said…”Well, I do most of the graphic design for my company.” At that point, I thought she’d grab Quark and get busy. But instead, she sat behind the graphic artist, pointed at the screen, and said things like “more colors” and “more fonts”. That’s not graphic layout. That’s micro-managing someone who knows more than you do.

3) Anytime you get 3 or more people get together to design an ad, it’s a disaster. Marketing by committee is always a losing proposition.

Bonus Point 4) People from KY are both empathic and strong leaders. Way to go, Charmaine.

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Graphic Artist Burger Flippers

There are some amazing graphic designers / graphic artists working in the marketing world today. Thier work creates the bridge that pulls the market in and allows delivery of the message.

And then there are some Graphic Burger Flippers.

Huh?

My personal definition of a “burger flipper” is someone who just knows how to do the job they’ve been assigned to do. They can turn on the grill and have enough manual dexterity to hold the spatula. They see that the end result of their job is that they have to flip the burger or drop the fries. They seem to be oblivious to the fact that someone on the other side of the counter has paid for and will consume this food. The end of the journey is getting the burger in the wrapper.

Compare this to the master chef…or the maternal southern lady who owns the best restaurant in town. The dining expereince of the customer is their final goal. They want the person they’re cooking for to have a delightful meal. The end of the journey is a satisfied customer.

There are “burger flippers” in every industry….and in every job. You’ve met them. Clock in….clock out…where’s my check.

Lately, for some reason, I’ve been running across alot of “burger flippers” in the graphic arts arena. I’ll get proofs from a YellowPage publisher or a printing company that would fail any basic graphic layout class. Fundamental items like kerning and basic spell check are blatantly wrong and should have caught before they were sent for me to proof.

The reason for this is a burger flipping graphic artist in a cubicle farm somwhere. My client has paid either hundreds or thousands of dollars for space in a publication or a Yellow Pages. And yet, their ad is only one item in a “”generic template–jam-in-the-info–where’s-the-next-one”” mindset of a burger flipper graphic designer who is doing 50 ads today. He knows how to make Quark/Pagemaker (the grill) work, but he has no idea (or doesn’t care) about how marketing works.

Demand better from these people. You’re making the investment in advertising. For it to work, the ad must be put together well. The best thing to do is to circumnavigate the cubicle farm and hire a good graphics person that understands your entire marketing plan and not just the quick ad copy that was scribbled down by a salesperson who probably didn’t have any idea about what you needed…(see this post about the dangers of marketing salespeople)

If you are a burger flipper or better yet…if you employ burger flippers, start thinking about the end results for your customers. Or, at the very least, have a little pride in your work.

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