Is it OK to print menus without prices?

Advice Guy weighs in on whether a restaurant should keep prices off printed menus given the current volatility of food costs.
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Advice Guy


Due to changes in pricing, I find myself updating our menus all the time. We use nice, laminated card stock, and it is both expensive and time consuming to redo the menus each time we change something. I’m wondering what you think about doing a printed menu without prices and then updating it on our website for accurate real-time pricing.
Fast-casual restaurant owner


First, you are doing the right thing keeping current food cost volatility in mind when setting your menu prices. Too many operators think their work in calculating food costs is finished once they have done it and set prices accordingly. Rather, it is a dynamic situation and prices need to keep pace with cost changes.

That said, be careful not to over-manipulate. Tweaking prices too frequently will frustrate guests who are seeking consistency and may feel duped by having prices differ each time they come in.

While I understand the inconvenience and expense of printing new menus frequently, I strongly advise against printing a menu without prices. The menu represents a contract between you and the guest. Like any agreement, it needs to be clear and transparent. Guests ordering blindly and then being surprised by the bill is not the way to win over customers. Having them take the additional step of checking the website to learn the prices is not hospitable either.

In answering these questions, I always try to focus on the core problem and not the symptom. While the symptom may be the cost of printing menus, the real problem, it seems, is that printed cardstock menus are not the right medium for a fast-casual restaurant that changes its pricing frequently.

You have the answer already in that you are using technology via your website to keep prices current. Expand that idea by investing in a digital menu display, which brings the added benefits of being able to 86 items or fix errors as needed. For guests who may be more comfortable with a printed menu or who need them for accessibility reasons, you can always have a low-cost printed menu on hand.

More on digital menu displays here.


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