Cleveland Menu of Cleveland, Ohio has been a leading supplier to the national hospitality & restaurant industry for almost 100 years. A pioneer in its field, the company started printing menus on synthetic materials in 1980 with a single-color Heidelberg KORD.
Fast forward almost 40 years and while equipped with more advanced technology, Cleveland Menu was still using an offline solution for UV curing. Needing a more efficient and cost-effective option for printing its specialty menus, Cleveland Menu Company purchased two Speedmaster XL 75s from Heidelberg, which have aided the company during the ups-and-downs of COVID-19.
Flexibility for Short Turn Management
Printing on tearproof, waterproof material for restaurants, hotels, cruise lines, clubs, and resorts, Cleveland Menu faces a unique challenge when it comes to producing long-lasting materials. Unlike many other printed products, menus are used multiple times a day, in unique settings, and cleaned with aggressive cleaners. Being successful in this market means ensuring excellent ink adhesion through proper UV curing.
After the company purchased a used Speedmaster with offline UV in 2015, it quickly realized it “needed an inline UV solution that was more cost effective for printing synthetic sheets,” said Mike Wooten, Technical Print Research & Development Manager at Cleveland Menu. Two years later, the company purchased its first new Speedmaster XL 75-6+L equipped with three UV interdecks and end of press UV. The unique UV configuration gives Cleveland Menu “capabilities that other printers don’t have and with the flexibility to print on different materials in different print sequences,” says Wooten.
While the company had experience with Heidelberg, it researched other press options before ultimately selecting the XL 75 because of its durability and flexibility. According to Cleveland Menu Owner Gerry Ramella, “I wanted to make an investment for the future. When my sons take over the company, I want them to have confidence in our business and the equipment that we have here.” Ramella also cites the machine’s “flexibility for short turn management” as a key factor for selecting the XL 75. With average run lengths of only 50-300 sheets, Cleveland Menu relies on the press’s Push-to-Stop technology to greatly reduce the number of required operating steps during the plant’s many daily job changes.
Additionally, Prinect Inpress Control, the industry-leading inline spectrophotometer that controls color and register on the fly at any speed, has greatly reduced set-up waste. According to Ramella, “Inpress Control has been a lifesaver in terms of material costs. Our pressmen, Kip and Dave, take great pride in being able to get the press ready to run in a minimal number of sheets.” By installing the XL 75, Cleveland Menu has cut its makeready times in half versus its previous press. Printing around half of its production volume on costly synthetic materials – and with material costs rising due to the supply chain challenges from COVID-19 – the savings in makeready waste quickly started to add up.
As a result of the savings it was seeing, the company decided to purchase a second XL 75 in 2019, a five-color press with the same UV configuration. With both presses installed, Cleveland Menu has the flexibility to route jobs to either press using Prinect Production Manager workflow with the confidence in knowing that regardless of press, the color will match. Heidelberg’s PCM (Print Color Management) team focused their efforts to make both presses match not only each other but also the output from the company’s digital print engine.
Pivoting to PPE
While equipped with new technology, the company was severely impacted in 2020 when the restaurant and hospitality industries came to a standstill due to COVID-19. With smart maneuvering from co-owners, Jim and Pat Ramella, and their sales team, Cleveland Menu was able to quickly pivot its business to produce custom printed face shields and other PPE equipment on its XL 75s in addition to social distancing floor decals, QR Code touchless table tents, restaurant safety posters, and other related products printed on plastics.
“Jim and Pat did a great job establishing a market for PPE and other COVID signage during the height of restaurant closures last year. Because of the XL 75 and our expertise in printing on plastics, it was much easier for us to move into this market than other manufacturers,” said Ramella.
In addition to PPE and signage, Cleveland Menu was also one of the first manufacturers to offer antimicrobial additive to its existing UV coating. The additive, which the company offers as a free value-added feature for its customers, helps defend against germs on menu surfaces.
Throughout the tribulations of the last 18 months, the Ramellas credit much of their success and business longevity to the 65 great people the company employs – including its “best in the industry” pressmen and Wooten, who spearheaded Cleveland Menu’s UV journey. Additionally, Ramella says the team at Heidelberg worked collaboratively to help the company identify the right press solutions for its business and “played an important part in our growth and allowing us to survive the effects of the downturn in menu sales due to COVID-19.”