How to Make a “Specials Menu” for your Restaurant

Keep regular customers coming back for more by offering surprising new dishes and great deals. Daily specials can do the trick. After announcing your culinary creation of the day on Facebook and Twitter, greet restaurant visitors with colorful table menus complete with juicy descriptions and Instagram-like snapshots.

Here’s How to Make a Specials Menu Quickly

Have your Camera Handy

food-photography-tips-diyphotography-011When preparing a test-run of the special, get a few snaps from every angle. Show the texture and drool-worthiness of the food. Close-up photos work best. Use a frosty beverage or a few fresh ingredients as props near the plate. Here are tips for photographing your food to make it look scrumptious.

If you don’t have time to devote to this, its best not to use images. Just be sure to describe your food instead!

Name the Dish

Give the special a clever name that highlights a flavor (seasonings, uncommon ingredients) the origin of the ingredients (local, imported, rare) or uses a fun play on words to coordinate with a local news topic or holiday.

Write a Description

In addition to listing the ingredients and mentioning if the dish is allergen friendly (egg-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan) briefly tell customers what it tastes like. Keep it simple and use one or two words like zesty, tangy, mild, refreshing or bold.

Keeping it even simpler? List the ingredients (from most-used to least) and let your customer’s imagination create the flavor in their minds.

specials menu Design the Menu

Choose decorative paper that coordinates with the restaurant theme and washable acrylic easels. Format the names of the specials, their descriptions and prices in one simple-to-read column, leaving wide margins to display the photos.

Consider placing the menu is a menu holder to keep it from getting crinkled or damp. If not, be prepared to print and toss copies every night.

Post the Special

Now take a quick snapshot of the specials menu and share the photo. Add it to the restaurant’s blog, social media accounts, website and restaurant directory listings to get as much exposure as possible.

That’s it! Now place the specials menus on each table, by the entryway, on the bar and in other highly visible places to let customers in the restaurant know about the day’s delicious deals.

PaperDirect offers print at home menus that are perfect if your specials are always changing or rotating. Simply order menu paper in bulk and print when your specials change.

Are you getting ready to feature a great special at your restaurant? While you concentrate on the cuisine, let us serve up some eye-catching paper choices and menu holders to delight your customers.


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2015 Is the Year of the Employee

year of the employee

With the economy continuing to recover in many sectors, it’s more important than ever for companies to hire and retain good employees.

As a recent Wall Street Journal article noted, “High employee turnover hurts a company’s bottom line. Experts estimate it costs upwards of twice an employee’s salary to find and train a replacement. And churn can damage morale among remaining employees.

In other words, happy employees translate into a healthy company.

Offering a competitive salary is a good start, but that’s not the only thing that contributes to job satisfaction. Here are five simple ways to let employees know they’re valued and appreciated:

Plump up your benefits package

Depending on your company’s size, you probably offer some sort of benefits package that includes health insurance and paid time off.But what other things could you offer that your employees would find valuable and would benefit you as well?

Perhaps a free or discounted gym membership (less time off for illness). Maybe monthly in-office chair massages (a great stress buster). Free association dues or tuition for a class that will further their skill set. Get creative and think outside the box!

Regularly recognize employees’ contributions

rewardWhen employees work hard and contribute to your business’ success, it’s important to recognize and reward their efforts. Think about starting an employee recognition program and handing out monthly awards.

If there’s an entire department that’s gone above and beyond, buy them lunch. When you hit the quarterly revenue, stop for a moment and do something to celebrate with your employees and thank them for everything they do.

Offer more flexibility

flexibility Each year, telecommuting on a full- or part-time basis is becoming more popular with both employees and employers.

Allowing employees to work from home has been shown to be cost-effective while increasing productivity and decreasing turnover. If your employees absolutely must be onsite, consider offering them the chance to set their own hours (within reason) or give them paid time off for things like doctor’s appointments.

Ask for and respond to feedback

Sure, that suggestion box in the hallway is nice. But are you actually reading the cards that employees drop into it? And if so, are you taking action on any of the suggestions?  If employees think their ideas are just going into some black hole, never to be heard from again, they won’t even bother. But if their ideas are acknowledged and acted upon, they’re more likely to feel valued and continue to come up with ways to make business better.

Encourage work-life balance

partySome companies send the often unspoken message that the employees who work longer hours are the ones who are more valued and valuable. However, more and more studies show that a healthy, happy employee is a more productive one.

To keep employees at their best and avoid burn-out, cultivate a corporate culture that encourages them to take time away to connect with friends and family, exercise and relax.


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5 Ways to Celebrate National Fun at Work Day

Let’s face it. Most of us would rather by lying on a beach somewhere instead of cooped up in an office cubicle. Why? Because it’s FUN!balloons

For some reason, the word “fun” isn’t usually associated with work. Far too often, words like stress, boredom and drudgery spring to mind instead.

But why shouldn’t work be fun? More and more studies are showing that encouraging employees to have fun and play during work is a smart business move. According to the nonprofit,, play can relieve stress, improve brain function, boost creativity and improve relationships. All things that can help companies grow and prosper!

If you’re not quite ready to pass out hula hoops or build a playground in the breakroom, start slow by celebrating National Fun at Work Day on January 28th.

Start preparing for the day by asking employees what they think would be fun. If people are stumped (because how often do we get asked about fun at work?), here are a few ideas to get you started.

Plan a potluck

easy thanksgiving potluck recipes apple cheesecakeAll too often, employees work through lunch or eat at their desks. A potluck will encourage your staff to step away from their computers and connect with their coworkers.

Set it up in a large communal area or outside if you live in a warm area of the country.

Provide a few simple games like a bean bag toss or a dart board to loosen people up and get them laughing.

Set up celebration stations

Arrange to have different tables throughout the office with an assortment of fun activities. For example, one might have sketchbooks or coloring books while another might have chess or checkers. Allow employees to access these stations throughout the day as they wish.

Have a “decorate the cubicle” contest

Christmas Cubicle Decorating ContestIf your employees work in the dreaded “cubicle farm,” they may find it less than inspiring. Why not encourage them to have a little fun and decorate their spaces any way they like? You can either stick with a central theme (i.e., tropical paradise) or allow them to come up with their own.

Bring in supplies like streamers, confetti, balloons or anything else that makes sense. End the event by handing out awards in categories like “most creative” or “best use of materials.”

Dress down or dress up

For a change of pace, shake up the dress code. If your office is typically a buttoned-up, suit-and-tie environment, let employees know that, for one day only, they can wear jeans! If you really want to go crazy, tell them to haul out the flip flops. If your office is already casual, declare a “crazy costume” day. Or you could even go in the opposite direction and encourage employees to put on the ritz by donning formal or cocktail attire.

Have a garage sale

Okay, since it’ll be held in your office, it won’t be a garage sale exactly. Instead, maybe call it “desktop deals” or “cubicle close-out.” But the idea is the same.

Encourage employees to bring in items from home to sell. These items can include knick knacks, clothing or even their own crafts. Allow everyone to “shop” at each other’s desks or set up your business bazaar in a conference room or break room. To keep it simple, make sure that everyone brings and accepts cash only.

These are just a few suggestions but the possibilities are endless. And don’t stress too much about it! After all, that defeats the purpose of a “have fun at work day,” doesn’t it?


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8 Star Wars Inspired Employee Recognition Awards

Star Wars Inspired Employee Recognition

Are you dreading the annual employee recognition program? Spice things up! Plan a themed awards ceremony to celebrate the upcoming December 2015 release of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.

Here’s eight awards the staff will brag about long after the presentation.

The Leia Leadership Award

Is there an outstanding, well-respected lady in the office? Give her with The Leia Leadership Award in honor of Princess Leia, the strong leader of The Rebel Alliance.

The Luke Skywalker Progress Award

Give a shout out to an employee who has shown significant improvement and progress in the past year with The Luke Skywalker Progress Award. They don’t have to be a farm boy turned Jedi fighter, but rather an employee who reaches goals consistently.

The C3PO Interpretation Award

We all know that co-worker who can take a stack of indecipherable reports and somehow translate it into something useful. They’re a great candidate for The C3PO Interpretation Award, since this Star Wars icon is known for translating languages and being detail-oriented.

The R2D2 Self-Starter Award

Perpetually motivated, go-getters deserve to be given a pat on the back. The R2D2 Self-Starter Award celebrates those employees who dig deep into projects without much guidance.

The Yoda Coaching Award

The there a supervisor who has a knack for teaching others new processes and strategies at work? Present them with The Yoda Coaching Award, a homage to the great teacher, Yoda. Cherish the award, they will!

The Chewbacca Congeniality Award

You know that employee who always gets people laughing at a boring meeting or brings doughnuts to the office for your birthday? They deserve The Chewbacca Congeniality Award since they’re incredibly loyal and likable, just like Chewy.

The Stormtrooper Team Player Award

Velocity Certificate by PaperDirectIs there a department or team in the company that consistently follows comes out on top? Each member of the group deserves The Stormtrooper Team Player Award for their compliant, resourceful nature.

The Han Solo Charisma Award

Every workplace has that one person who everyone wants to partner with on projects. This helpful, friendly employee deserves The Han Solo Charisma Award.

Are you ready to print your Star Wars themed awards? Paper Direct offers everything from award certificates and folders to engraved plaques and trophies to make your awards recognition program truly out of this world!


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5 New & Bright Themed Work Celebrations

Collaboration Casual Invitations by PaperDirectEveryone expects a Christmas or New Year’s party. While holiday parties are fun, it can be even more fun (and effective) to have unexpected and off-season themed work celebrations. For most adults, the office is where they spend a huge portion of their life. Interacting with the same people in the same environment day after day can cause even the most dedicated employee to get a bit bored or discouraged. One of the best ways to keep employee motivation high and the workplace interesting is by shaking things up with a masterfully themed office party.

Themed work celebrations are more than just a way to have fun. They are a way to build relationships and create an unbeatable team. Office celebrations are not just effective in breaking up the monotony of our jobs, but celebrating the company culture that binds the team together.

Break out the streamers and recognition awards! Here are our five top choices for themed workplace celebrations.

Dweeby Alter Ego Party

Deep down (or maybe not so deep!) we all want to get our geek on.  Why not let everyone unleash the geek with the Dweeby Alter Ego themed party? Break out the pocket protectors and geek themed awards (like Star Wars). This is one party everyone is sure to remember for years to come.

Surprise PartySurprise Invitations by PaperDirect

Get everyone in the office for a mandatory meeting and then surprise the team with an incredible party. While everyone is behind closed doors, have the food, entertainment and decorating team show up, flash mob style and transform the office into a fabulous, never-to-be-forgotten party.

Mystery Themed Party, With a Twist

A murder mystery party is already fun, but one with a twist can make it even more memorable. While you promote a murder mystery party, what you actually have in store is a Scooby Doo themed mystery party! Jinkies! Don’t forget the ascot!

All the Theme Parties are Taken, so This is a Party about Nothing

Think Seinfeld, NY, Cosmo Kramer, George Costanza, Elaine Benes, and the Soup Nazi.  Serve take out soup, black and white cookies, and have a blast with a “nothing” theme. It worked for nine years on NBC.

Great Gatsby Party

Debonaire Specialty Invitations by PaperDirectThe 1920’s can be a great theme, especially for an after-hours party. Think totally glamorous, dark, speakeasy feel and you have this covered.

Office parties do not have to be boring or cliché if you infuse the expected with the wacky and unexpected!

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“Reply to All” and Other Business Email Woes

reply button For years now, emails have been the go-to mode of communication in office and business settings. It’s fast, easy and a great way to keep a virtual paper trail.

However, email can have the unfortunate effect of being a little too informal at times. There are certain things most of us would never dream of doing in a formal company letter that slip into emails far too often.

Some of these tendencies can make the sender (or the responder) look unprofessional at best or just plain clueless at worst.

So the next time you type up an email to your boss or a customer, remember these tips before you hit “send.”

Ask yourself if you really need to “reply to all.”

Anyone who has ever worked in a corporate office for any length of time has likely been trapped by the vicious “reply to all” cycle. It takes just one person to start it and suddenly, your inbox is inundated with emails you probably care nothing about, forcing you into constant “delete” mode lest a really important email get lost.

Be considerate of others by not replying to all unless you’re absolutely sure everyone needs the information. And if you’re the one sending out an email to a long list, keep this from happening in the first place by putting your email address in the “To” field and blind copying everyone else.

Don’t! Get! Carried! Away! With! Punctuation!

The well-placed exclamation point is a great way to express enthusiasm. For instance, closing an email with “Thank you!” lets the recipient know that you really are appreciative. But too many exclamation points can seem disingenuous. On the other hand, finishing every sentence with a period can come across as abrupt and unfriendly. The key, as with most things, is to strike the right balance.

Caps lock. Just…no.

Luckily, it seems that fewer and fewer people are doing this these days. But if you’re one of them, it’s time to get acquainted the shift key. Typing in all caps not only makes your emails hard to read, it has the effect of making the recipient feel as if they’re being yelled at.

In other words, PLEASE STOP.

Eject the emoticons.

emoticonLike exclamation points, emoticons (you know, those little sideways smiley or frowny faces) have their place. They can help lighten the mood or let a coworker that you’re joking.

However, using them in emails to your boss or, worse yet, a customer can make you seem silly or unprofessional.

Emails and texts aren’t the same thing.

In the fast back-and-forth of texting, especially on a touch screen, it’s sometimes necessary and more efficient to take spelling shortcuts. However, business emails simply are not the place to use “UR” instead of “you are.” Taking the time to properly spell out words and use correct grammar shows the recipient that you’re someone they can trust to not take shortcuts in your job. To that end, be sure to run spell check or quickly proofread your email before sending it off.

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How to Start an Employee of the Month Program in 2015

With the new year comes new opportunities for your business. No doubt, gearing up with fresh ideas, promotions and marketing tactics. So why not include a brand new program to recognize and reward your most valuable asset: your employees!

Employee of the Month

Keeping employees happy is an important part creating and running a successful business. In fact, research conducted by the University of Warwick found that happiness increased productivity by 12 percent.

Professor Andrew Oswald, one of the lead researchers on the study, noted that, Employee of the Month Kit by PaperDirect“Companies like Google have invested more in employee support, and employee satisfaction has risen as a result. For Google, it rose by 37%.”

In other words, says Professor Oswald, “Making workers happier really pays off.”

And the best news? Just a little bit of effort on the part of the employer goes a long way. Even small gestures can reap big rewards.

Wondering where to begin? Consider implementing an Employee of the Month program. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Form a committee

While this is not an absolute necessity, it’s helpful to have more than one person in charge of selection. Ask for volunteers and make sure they’re from different levels and departments (managers, administrative, creative, etc.).

Decide on selection criteria

What types of traits, attributes or accomplishments will the committee consider? Some ideas are teamwork, outstanding customer service, innovation, money or time-saving ideas, etc. Ask the committee to discuss and decide upon the criteria that makes the most sense for your company.

Establish eligibility

Employee of the Month Plaque by PaperDirectIt’s important to make it clear who is eligible for the award and how often. Will every employee be eligible for the award every month? Or will winners be excluded from winning again for a period of time? Will managers and executive staff be considered or is it just for those “in the trenches”?

Define the nomination process

Decide how nominations will be determined and/or accepted. Will the selection committee come up with the nominees? Or will the names be submitted by managers only or open to the entire staff? Establish a monthly or quarterly deadline and create a short nomination form.

Determine what the winner will receive

2015 award Depending on your budget and resources, the options are almost limitless. You could reward your Employee of the Month with a gift certificate to a local restaurant, paid time off or a parking place close to the door. And of course, an elegant award certificate that they can display in their work space is always appreciated.

Feel free to get creative and have fun. An employee recognition program doesn’t require a lot of time or money to have a big impact on your staff and your bottom line!

Shop PaperDirect today for all your certificate, trophy and plaque needs and show your employees how much they matter to your


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5 Easy Ways to Write a Great Headline

David Ogilvy, widely considered the father of modern advertising, once said,

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your [marketing] dollar.”

Obviously, headlines are important.

Without a good headline, customers may never become interested enough to learn more about your product or service. And yet, many companies overlook them when writing marketing copy, blog posts or other forms of advertising.

Writing a successful headline is deceptively difficult. It should speak (directly or indirectly) to the reader, pique curiosity, and address a problem or promise a benefit without giving the whole thing away. To top it off, it must do all these things in only a few words.

Is it any wonder that professional copywriters spend so much time perfecting this aspect of their craft?

Presumably, though, you don’t have years to invest in the art of writing a headline. So here are five quick and proven hacks to help get you started.

1. How to…

This headline works so well because people love to learn how to do new things. And even if we already know how to do something, we want to find out if there’s a better way of doing it. This type of headline may also help you in search engines because those two words are how individuals often begin their searches.

2. The secret to…

It’s true. These headlines seem to be everywhere. But that’s because they work! The fact is, it’s human nature to want to be in on a secret, and get the inside scoop that no one else knows.

3. Numbered lists

There’s a reason that list sites like Buzzfeed are so popular. Numbered lists are easy to read and easy to consume. They practically guarantee we won’t have to spend a lot of time wading through an article to find out what we need or want to know.

4. Do you make these mistakes?

As humans, most of us hate to make mistakes, and we certainly want to learn how we can avoid making them in the first place. So when we see a headline like this, it can be almost impossible to resist finding out if we’re doing something wrong and if so, how to fix it.

5. The surprising way to…

This is another one of those headlines that seems to be used a lot because it’s so effective. Most of us enjoy being surprised (in a good way). For instance, we hate logging on to Facebook and seeing a spoiler posted about our favorite TV show or a movie we were looking forward to seeing. So just the promise of a surprise is often enough to get a reader to click through.

While this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to headline writing, try one of these out the next time you get ready to publish a blog post or send out an email. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results!


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How to Structure Your Online Content So That It Converts

If you’re like many small business owners, you juggle many different duties and responsibilities. You’re salesman, bookkeeper, order fulfillment, marketer and janitor. It can be difficult to keep all the balls in the air, especially when people keep throwing new ones at you.

While we can’t help you with the janitorial duties (sorry!), we can help you with one aspect of your marketing, namely copywriting.

For decades, successful marketers and copywriters have used a simple formula that goes by the acronym of AIDA. The letters stand for:


A = Attention
I = Interest
D = Desire
A = Action

Okay, let’s break each of those down.


This is arguably the most important piece of this framework. When writing, it’s vital to capture your reader’s attention. If you don’t, they may never open your email or read more about your product.

Make sure your headline is strong and that the opening paragraph addresses your prospect directly by using the words “you” or “your.” (Both of these words have been proven to quickly get attention.) Talk about a compelling problem or need they have that your product or service can solve for them.


Once you’ve gotten their attention, it’s time to start discussing your product or service. Begin to build your argument by conveying that you understand their problem and know how they feel. Show them how and why your solution is the best one for them.


Build upon the interest you’ve generated up to this point by including additional proof that your product or service will solve their problem. Feel free to include statistics or other facts here that support your previous arguments. Even better are testimonials or real-life success stories that other customers have had.


call-to-actionIf you’ve done your job by getting their attention, generating interest and building desire for your product or service, they should be ready for the next step. First, decide what action you want them to take (sign up for your newsletter, purchase a product, etc.). Then craft a simple and clear call to action to encourage them to do just that.

Finally, when you’re ready to distribute your content, don’t forget the little details that make you look like a trustworthy professional. Include your logo and contact info if you’re sending out an email. Or if you’re opting for a direct mail campaign, be sure to have it printed on sophisticated business stationery from PaperDirect!

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How to Communicate More Effectively with Your Customers

You know you have a great product or service. Your customers rave about how much they love it….once they finally buy. But you’re finding that it takes them awhile to make the purchase, and you can’t figure out why. Some days you even think about going back to the drawing board, revamping your product or rebranding your service.

But the problem may be more simple than that. The problem may lie with how you’re communicating to your target market.

Ask yourself: do you really know who your target market is? Sure, you may know that they’re married men between the ages of 20 and 55. But if that’s as far as you’ve gotten, you have more work to do.

The fact is that your customer (or potential customer) isn’t a demographic or a statistic. They’re individuals. If, in your business communications, you speak to them as individuals, you’ll be more likely to get their attention and their business.

To make it easier, start by creating an avatar (or persona) of your ideal client. This may be based on an actual client or the type of client you most enjoy doing business with.

Try to get specific by answering questions like:

  • What is their name, gender, age and marital status?
  • How much education do they have?
  • What is their profession and title?
  • What is their household income?
  • How many children and/or pets do they have?
  • What are their personal qualities and what do they value?
  • What do they do in their spare time?
  • What is their greatest pain or need that your product/service can solve?

Remember, the more detail you can come up with, the better. You might even consider finding a stock photo that best represents what you imagine this person to look like.

By going through this exercise, you’ll no longer be communicating with a vague idea of your ideal customer. You’ll be speaking to and about a “real” person.

Okay, you may be thinking, but how does that help me get more sales?

Once you have a solid grasp of who your ideal customer is, you’ll be able to more effectively address their problems (and how you can help them) in all your business communications. The avatar you create will help you put yourself in his or her shoes and empathize with the challenges they’re facing.

By showing your customers and potential customers that you understand what they’re facing and want to help them, you build trust and credibility. And that, in turn, will help attract new customers, shorten your sales cycle and all but ensure repeat business.


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