An impressive menu cover design creation that provides surprise and excitement to customers, meeting the needs of the hotels and restaurants with special orders in small lots.

The show room of the menu cover designs

In the bookbinding industry, where the number of the companies is decreasing year by year, Kobayashi Bookbinding Co., Ltd. (Nihonbashi, Tokyo) and its group company Aurzing Co., Ltd. (Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo) are showing a distinct presence. They challenge the common sense that "Menu books are something that has a plain square shape with black and brown color" and design and manufacture menu books tailor-made for the decor and atmosphere of shops, hotels, and restaurants, and offer them in small lots.

In the bookbinding industry, it is said that even though designers come up with unique designs of books and their covers, no factory is capable of producing it. How can they create such menu books, what's more, in small lots? We interviewed the secrets.

The menu book gallery at Aurzing Co., Ltd. The menu book gallery at Aurzing Co., Ltd.

Kobayashi bookbinding is, as the name says, doing a bookbinding business. Can you briefly tell us what you do?

Our company is a bookbinding company founded in 1957. At the time, we engaged in bookbinding related to magazines, but the second generation found new business seeds and formed a current style of our business such as organizing and binding government-related documents as well as company contracts or drawings.

In general, the "books" that you can imagine are books and magazines sold in bookstores, but our books are different from those mass-produced books. What we are producing is a private book. So you don't see them in bookstores.

We make books binding contract documents or receipts of companies. We also bind up an annual volume of a magazine. For example, when a company issues one magazine for each month, there are 12 magazines for one year. We combine these magazines into one book. (It is called GAPPON in Japanese). The most common job is binding contracts, including drawings. It may be said that it is a work that is derived from the HANKO (name stamp) culture and document culture unique to Japan.

In recent years, paperless has been carried out in many companies and the amount of paper used is reducing. So, we are attempting to create new services. Our company is engaged in "technology for foil-stamping in free form without using dies" and as for Aurzing, "planning and manufacturing of custom-made menu books", as a result, many customer-oriented hotels and restaurants are surprised and satisfied with the new service.

Gilt-lettered characters are foil-stamping technology. "Impressive menu covers" that welcome customers. Gilt-lettered characters are foil-stamping technology.

Is the bookbinding industry different from the publishing and printing industry?

Yes, it is. The publishing and printing industry produces magazines and books that are sold in bookstores. It's mass production. There is a process for making books from publishing companies, printing companies to bookbinding companies. Then books are lined up in bookstores. In this process, the bookbinding is done by machines. So they cannot meet the needs of small lots, such as "I want to make 100 books for my grandfather, gathering his poems that he has ever created."

Conversely, our orders range from one to at most 100. We make many books that you don't usually see in everyday life. To be correct, we are in "the specialty binding" industry.

The largest book I've ever bound is A1 size(23.4 x 33.1 in). In response to a request to view the large drawings in a two-page spread, we produced them. Also, such a thick book is quite rare, isn't it? This job was BARASHI, unbind. The book was once unbound for scanning so that the information of the papers was stored as digital data. Then I put it back again.

The binding of the thick book

We also repair book covers. The book that has been damaged like this,

We also repair book covers.

It looks like new as we renewed its cover.

We also repair book covers.

This is GAPPON which combines some books to one book. If you look closely, do you see that several thin books are bound in one book? We will create its cover and put it on these books.

This is GAPPON which combines some books to one book.

A pile of contracts that have been unable to be well organized, we will also sort them out tidy and in order then bind them as one book.

binding contracts

Other than that, we make special books binding poems and pictures made by customers’ parents for the birthday celebration or Father's Day and Mother's Day.

In general, there is no idea for the customers that they can make such a book because they have never seen it. I think our job is to help them save important documents, save their memories, and so on.

What is making an impressive menu book like?

Menu books are used to display the food list at restaurants and hotels but until now they look like a similar design like plain square shape with black and brown color. Aurzing plays a leading role in carrying out the new business of developing and manufacturing menu books and the covers with a great atmosphere that matches the interior and the stationery of hotels and restaurants.

For example, here are the bill holders that insert the bill when you ask for the check. We can create the holder with various materials with various colors suited for the place. Even though customers are in a good mood having delicious food in a good atmosphere, a typical cheap plastic holder might spoil the feeling. It looks too cheap to keep them in a good mood.

The bill holder made from leather.

Menu books and bill holders are what customers see and touch, so they should represent a corporate brand and should be part of the interior. However, in the bookbinding industries, it is difficult to manufacture fewer products because the machine they use for making books are made for mass production. It is the reason why few companies can make custom menu books and covers. We saw this typical industrial matter as a business opportunity and established some methods to manufacture original items in small lots.

This is a menu book with characteristic shapes in the four corners. Since customers would like to change the food menu flexibly on-site, the paper can be replaced by a new one on their own. We designed it to highlight the atmosphere of the brand as well as easy to use.

customized menu book and cover

Here is a wine list using wallpaper. In the field of interior and fashion, material development has been advancing day by day, so there are many unique and impressive materials.

We have long-standing business relationships with the material companies such as leather, cloth, and paper, and can handle a variety of materials. There are many unique materials. To take an instance, we plan and propose leather material used for jewelry cases or for car seats.

An exclusive wine list

This is a menu book using Japanese paper called Washi. To be honest, it's difficult to create. Washi is made by Japanese traditional ways and that is manual work. Making such thick paper is a very difficult technique.

A menu book using Japanese paper

In the present era, anything can be made by machine, but it will be one-size-fits-all menu books. However, visitors to restaurants and hotels want a special experience. So, designers consider to give the menu book originality and ingenuity according to the decor, atmosphere, and concept of the hotels and restaurants, but in fact, there is no factory to realize it. We would like to innovate the existing one-size-fits-all menu books and covers.

Why don't factories accept the offer when designers want to create original menu books and the covers?

In general, it is assumed that products and books will be mass-produced. When we say "mass production", it means more than tens of thousands, not thousands. In mass production, the machine will produce items automatically, so the price per unit will be lower but all items have the same specification. Restaurants and hotels do not need tens of thousands of menu books, right? So they compromise and choose them from the mass-produced ones with a plain square shape with black or brown color.

Furthermore, in the case of the bookbinding industry in Japan, the industry structure is such that one product is created by the collaboration with several small businesses. Different companies are responsible for each process, such as a company that cuts fabrics by die, a company that puts covers, and a company that binds them and so on.

Therefore, when designers want to make original books or covers, they need to manage and work with those multiple companies, but few people have such extensive knowledge to do so.

Thus, we have established a system that can handle the entire process of making books to cater to the needs of the tailor-made books in small lots. Although it is not so easy to deal with small lots, we are very happy and rewarding if clients and consumers are pleased with the menu book designs.

Isn't it the foil-stamping on the cover?

Yes, it is. This is also one of the technology for small lots. Foil stamping is a character or pattern created by pushing gold or silver foil over a book cover or a notebook cover. It has a shiny and embossed shape, so it can produce a sense of luxury.

Generally speaking, when you want to press letters and shapes on a material such as cloth, you need a die or a plate used for the press. However, the cost is not reasonable when you develop books in small lots, so we have developed a technology that enables foil-stamping without using dies and plates. Amazingly, you don't need an initial cost for the dies and you can foil stamp any shape or character as you like. This foil stamping is realized by our unique technology. We believe there is only us to realize it.

This is a whiskey barrel inspired menu book. The gold foil-stamping stands out, right?

A whiskey barrel inspired menu book

We still utilize old-fashioned foil stamping using letterpresses in addition to the latest technology. At least, you can foil stamp characters by using these pre-made dies here we have without making a new die. Now that we have developed the technology, you can stamp any shapes whatever you want without making dies. We will accept your order from one book.

The menu books with foil stamping show a different atmosphere from typical flat printing. Everyone likes gold color! In addition to gold letters, you can choose various colors, but gold letters are a symbol of luxury. We have many customers that say their sales have increased after creating new menu books with us.


Please tell us about your future prospects.

Under the theme of "books that cannot be made with machines", we will respond to each customer's individual needs. As for the foil stamping that we are currently focusing on, we are also attempting its applications such as foil stamping with two or more colors or foil stamping to various materials other than leather and paper.

Here is a sample of foil stamping on wood. Gold letters are still gorgeous.

Gold foil stamping on wood

It is a dragon of a multicolor sample of the foil stamping.

dragon of a multicolor sample of the foil stamping

If you want to make an impressive menu book in small lots, including foil stamping, please come to our gallery by all means wherein you can see various sample menu books and covers by hand. We would be happy to support your customers' wonderful experience by making menu books that will impress them.


Company name Kobayashi Bookbinding Co., Ltd.
Location Daiwa Nihonbashi-Horidomecho Building 1F, 2-9-8 Nihonbashi Horidomecho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Japan.
Contact +81-03-3808-2772
Business description Bookbinding

Company name Aurzing Co., Ltd.
Location VORT Jimbocho 1F, 3-4-5 Kanda Ogawacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan.
Contact +81-03-5577-3147
Business description Stationery planning, sales / menu book production / design

Author of this article:Haruyo Ono

Haruyo Ono

Haruyo Ono
Web Rocket Inc. Small Business Consultant
I love Thomas Edison since I was a child and I love the challenging life of creating new value in the world with my own ideas.