Laser cutting probably isn’t the first thing you might think of if you’re an owner or a manager in the retail or hospitality industries – you have plenty of other things on your mind to keep you busy. But as with so many other industries, it can provide loads of benefits, in so many different ways.
As you’ll already know, the retail and hospitality industries took a huge hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, and while some businesses are slowly getting back to where they should be, the current state of inflation and the cost of living crisis is presenting further challenges. That means that keeping customers engaged with your business, and wanting to spend money with you is key if the business is going to continue to thrive. Refreshing the store, bar, or premises that you manage is just one of the ways that you can keep your customers interested, so they come back, week after week, and year after year.
What are the benefits of laser cutting for service industries?
There are so many benefits of laser cutting, and we’ve talked about them extensively, because there are so many of them! We probably don’t really need to cover them in this post – but there are definitely advantages that laser cutters that are specific to businesses in the retail and hospitality industry, so we’ll do a quick look at these before we look at the ways laser cutting can be used in different businesses.
Laser cutting is flexible
Laser cutting isn’t just about cutting large pieces of material into smaller pieces – although it can be. There are lots of different techniques that can be used, with different effects. Due to the tiny beam that the laser has, detailed, intricate designs can be achieved that would cost a lot of time and money to create by hand, or be impossible to make using mechanical methods. Laser engraving and etching techniques can be used to customise too, giving a more precise effect. Not only that, but there are also plenty of materials that can be cut, or engraved with a laser cutter – which brings us to our next point.
Laser cutting can process a wide range of materials
Whatever you want to create for your store, bar, hotel, or another type of hospitality, you want the right material, at the best possible price. With laser cutting, you can have many different types of materials cut, which presents a whole range of opportunities for the retail and hospitality industry. The most commonly used materials to cut with a laser cutter are non-metallic ones – and so the potential is almost endless. We took a deep dive into the materials that can be laser cut (and those that can’t!) in this post, but a quick recap:
Plywood and composite woods
Medium-density fibreboard and other engineered woods (there are exceptions)
Plastics and acrylics
Paper and cardboard
Leather and suede
When it comes to etching and engraving, there are even more options – glass and ceramic, anodised aluminium, and rock such as marble, granite, soapstone, and onyx can all be etched successfully.
If you’re looking for metals to be laser cut, you’re going to need a specialist service, because only certain types of laser cutters can cut metals. But stainless steel, mild steel, Corten steel, aluminium, copper, and brass can all be cut, etched, and engraved with CO2 laser cutters.
Laser cutting is fast
With many shop, pub, or hotel refit projects being carried out with incredibly tight deadlines, there is rarely time to wait for intricate pieces to be made by hand – no matter how incredible the final piece might look. The longer a refit takes, the longer it is before you’re able to trade and make money from your customers, so you’ll want to keep that time to a minimum to stop losing revenue.
Laser cutting is one of the fastest ways to get incredible bespoke pieces for your premises. Once your design is finalised, the end product is created in no time – which means you can get on with serving your customers sooner.
Laser cutting is affordable
While buying a laser cutter is an investment, once you have the machine, you’ll be able to create all types of fixtures, fittings, and accessories with it – meaning that there’s plenty of opportunities to make returns on your investment. For shop fitting and pub refit services, having your own laser cutter just makes sense.
If buying a laser cutter isn’t on your agenda, using a laser cutting service near you is a great way to access the pieces that you want and need for your business. We’ll talk about those services later, but laser cutting services allow you to be able to get what you need laser cut at a relatively low price point – especially when compared with getting them made by hand.
Laser cutting makes it simple to replicate pieces
Particularly in pubs and hotels, breakages are a hazard that you’ll encounter from time to time. While this can get expensive to repair if you need to get a tradesperson in to fix, but if you have the part designed for the laser cutter, then you can easily get those pieces replicated and replaced – and as we just mentioned, at an affordable price too.
How to get laser cut designs
Obviously, laser cut designs require the use of a laser cutter. If the needs of your business are relatively small, then buying a laser cutter probably isn’t on the cards – but if you’re creating a lot of different designs for your premises, then maybe it is! Let’s take a look at the options.
Use a laser cutting service
When you’re using laser cut items infrequently, or maybe you’re creating one decorative piece for your premises, then working with a local laser cutting service is likely to be the most cost effective solution. In most cases, they will be able to receive your design files in commonly used formats – .jpeg, .png, .svg, and .dxf files are all easy for laser cutting services to work with, but they’ll advise you.
Many laser cutting services now have online, instant quotes available – all you’ll need to do is upload your design files, select the material you want to use. Once you approve the quote and make payment, the laser cutting service will usually have your designs ready within a day or two (depending on their current workload, of course) and let you know when you can collect.
Buy a laser cutter
If you’ve got a great designer working with you – or you’re a refitting service – then investing in your own laser cutter can help you to reduce costs by making pieces in-house, especially where the smaller details count. Laser cutters are an investment, but if you’re changing designs regularly (such as for special promotions, or if items go missing) then it can be much more convenient to simply create them yourself. Desktop laser cutters can create those small pieces you need to recreate regularly quickly and efficiently, and you won’t have to wait for a laser cutting service to deliver. All you need to do is open the design file, place the material in the laser cutter, and send to the laser cutter for your design to be finished in minutes.
Hobarts budget desktop laser cutters start at just £2,010 for the Beamo – a desktop size at just over 61cm long. Despite being part of our budget laser range, hundreds of materials can be cut and engraved with the Beamo, and there is powerful software included that is easy to start using – although it is compatible with all the usual graphics editors (and even Microsoft Word!). Particularly for retailers, small laser cutter can be the perfect solution for creating pieces to enhance your business.
Laser cutting in the service industry
In service industries – whether you’re serving retail customers, hotel clients, or clients that are dining with you – first impressions count for everything, and every single detail counts. In this next section, we’ll be looking at the ways that you can use laser cutting to add an extra element of wow to your establishment.
Laser cutting items for decorating your premises
Whatever type of establishment you are running, the décor is going to be a major draw for your customers. To make your premises stand out, you need the right details. Using a laser cutter presents so many opportunities for creating the right look for your location. A few examples include:
Signage for doors such as restrooms and room numbers
Decorative screening and partitions
These aren’t the only ways that you can utilise laser cutting for decoration – there are plenty more! Search laser cut home décor ideas online, and you’ll find plenty of inspiration.
Attention to detail
When you want to blow customers away with the attention to detail that your business has paid, those details can get pretty costly, pretty quickly. But sourcing those bespoke details isn’t just expensive the first time round – if they get broken or go astray, you’ll have to replace them. Choosing bespoke laser cut items means you can replace quickly and easily.
Where you want to create an effect using embossing and printing, with laser cutting and engraving techniques, you can get the look without the hassle. Not only that, but costs can be minimised, which can allow you to get the level of detail you want for your customers, without needing to pay over the odds.
Laser cut designs in restaurants
Your kitchen team are going to be wowing your diners with their food, but as you already know, there are so many more elements to a successful restaurant experience. Each restaurant is different, but in most cases, the higher-end you can make your restaurant feel, the better – so tiny details count. Every one of those tiny details allows the customer experience to feel more luxurious, meaning that (assuming your chefs deliver a brilliant meal) the customer is more likely to return, and recommend your establishment to their friends and family. When repeat custom and recommendations are as important as they are, it is well worth the time to get those laser cut designs, to enhance their experience.
Bespoke detailing on menus
Menus are the first thing your customers will really pay close attention to when they sit down at one of your tables – whether they’re choosing their wine, or they are choosing their main courses. What items are on the menu is important, but the way in which the menu is presented will influence their choices. The font, the quality of the paper or card, to how it is presented – all these decisions count towards the impression the customer will have of your restaurant. Laser cutters can create a much more luxurious menu – here’s how.
Printing your menu onto high quality paper or thin card is a great place to start, but you can inexpensively enhance your menu card with a laser cutter. Intricate designs and lace inspired patterns are really easy to create in laser cutter software, so when you’ve printed your new menu, you can quickly and easily make the paper or card feel even more high end.
If your menu changes regularly based on what is in season, then rather than laser cutting each sheet of paper or card, designing a gorgeous menu holder can elevate the look and feel of the menu. In restaurants with a rustic look and feel, a simple wooden clipboard design to hold the paper menu might be enough – use the laser cutter to engrave your logo and branding, or to create an aged effect to suit the location. For higher end restaurants, the laser cutter can engrave branding onto a leather binder, or be used to create bespoke wooden folders. If following the trends are important, or maybe the restaurant has an industrial look, making use of acrylic or even metal to create and adorn menu holders can add to the look and feel of your menu holders.
You’ll have invested in quality knives and forks, but there are so many more items that you may be using on your tables. If you’re looking to enhance the luxury feel of your dining tables, laser cutters can improve the look and feel of all these items and more:
Table reserved signs
Chopping boards for charcuterie
Holders for name cards
Engraving on glassware
Engraved table mats and coasters
Table cloths and runners
Of course, you don’t have to use laser cutters for all these different types of items – that would be overkill. Choosing just one or two items to customise is enough to enhance your tables.
Separating large groups
If you’ve got a large enough restaurant, then customers are likely to come in large groups – which as you know, can get noisy pretty quickly. Rather than having large groups seated in the main area of the restaurant, having them screened off can help you to manage noise levels much more easily. Buying screening is an option, but if you’ve a particular design in mind – perhaps with your logo – then you’ll want to source the screen at the perfect size, and with your design applied. Laser cutting companies can create these bespoke screens for you, whatever level of detail you’re looking for.
Laser cut designs in pubs and bars
A great selection of ales, wines, and spirits is just the first thing to get drinkers through the door of your establishment – the atmosphere and the ambience of the place is what will make them stay, and become regular customers. The details that are right for your pub or bar will depend upon the types of customer that you are aiming to attract – but laser cutting can help to provide everything you need.
There are signs required in all kinds of service industry establishment, but in pubs and bars, you need to make it super clear where bathrooms and exits are – and we don’t need to tell you why! While you can buy standard signage, if your pub or bar isn’t attracting binge drinkers that are likely to be in need of the bathroom or the exit quite so urgently, then having bespoke signage created by laser cutters can look far superior to those standard options.
Screening for outdoor smoking areas
Smoking is becoming less prevalent, but when people are drinking, they’re still more likely to want to smoke – and so you’re going to need to ensure that customers that smoke can do so. You’ll probably have an area of your garden set up for exactly this purpose, but if you’re separating it from the rest of the space, then screening may be on your shopping list. Just as with indoor screening, you can get the bespoke look that you want for your outdoor screening pretty affordably, so smoking customers can enjoy their time with you without feeling ostracised further.
While you’re likely to be supplied many branded glasses by the brewery that your establishment is linked to, there is certainly scope to have laser engraved designs put on certain types of glasses. Let’s say that you have a particular cocktail that is unique to your location, for example – then a glass with the name of your bar, and the name of the beverage would be something you can factor into the price of the drink. Of course, when you’re dealing with glass, you’ll need to factor breakages in – but you’re already a pro at managing that!
Other drink accessories, such as ice buckets for wine, platters for shots, and so on can be personalised to your establishment with laser cutters too.
Laser cut designs in retail
Managing in-store retail is tougher than ever, and whether you blame ecommerce for that or not, if your customer-facing location is to survive, you need absolutely every possible advantage you can get. Finding the right accessories creates an improved experience for your customers, and that means they’re more likely to return.
Whether you’re displaying products to encourage additional purchases at point of sale, you’re creating an eye catching window display, or you’re setting out samples for your customers to try in store, you’re going to need accessories. If you’re an independent retailer, you’re going to be displaying products in ways that suit your brand and your purpose, so getting those display accessories right is important to help separate your store from chain retailers.
Fitting room tags
You see these in many clothing stores, especially where the fitting room policy is to allow only a certain number of items in each cubicle at a time. Acrylic works for some retailers, because it suits the branding of the store – but if you’re a boutique retailer, why not invest a little extra in fitting room tags that are bespoke, and convey a message of luxury to your clientele? Polished wood tags look and feel luxurious, as does leather – although consider your customer base when choosing leather, since customers that are vegan are much less likely to buy from you if you feature leather goods in your store.
When it is time to clear stock to make way for the next lot, many retailers hold sales – usually at the end of each season. Rather than using generic sales signage that can be sourced from shopfitters and ends up thrown away at the end of the season, having your own, bespoke sales signage created from acrylic means that you’ll be able to continue to use that for years to come. Not only will it look better than the standard ones that you get from retail suppliers, but you’ll be able to add your own branding.
Laser cut designs in hotels
Many of the details that we have already suggested will be relevant to hotel managers and owners – the suggestions for restaurants will enhance your dining spaces, and the suggestions from the pub section in the bar areas. But hotel rooms, suites and lounges have different requirements too – let’s take a look at some of the ways laser cut products can enhance your spaces.
It is worth noting that if your hotel hosts weddings and events where every tiny detail counts, then having access to a laser cutter in-house is going to be a major advantage to your clients. They can source items like laser cut invitations from elsewhere – but if you can help with that too, that is just another reason for them to choose your venue over another.
Hallway and room signage
Whatever size of hotel you’re managing, your guests will need to find their ways to their rooms effectively. Since every hotel is laid out differently, hallway signage is something that needs creating individually anyway. Whether you’re using a backlit room sign, or a picture light to illuminate hallway signage, a laser cut design has the details that look great. When it comes to door numbers, why opt for a standard metal number when you can maintain a coordinated look throughout at an affordable cost?
Laser cut room key rings
While room keys are often handled using card technology today, there are many boutique and high end hotels that still use actual keys for room access. In these cases, having a keyring that makes it easy to identify the room number and the name of the hotel is a small touch that can make a big difference to the impression that a visitor has of the hotel.
Do not disturb signs
Budget and corporate hotels tend to provide do not disturb signs printed on paper and card, which works, since it means that they are easily replaced. But continuing to replace them adds up – and it isn’t as great for the environment either. Having do not disturb signs made from wood, acrylic, or leather means that you can cut those costs, and your branding can be applied too. There are some great examples on Etsy to inspire you, but your designer or the laser cutting company will be able to help you find the right look for your hotel.
Using laser cutting for marketing
All businesses need to reach their customers in the best way they can – we talked about social media and setting up a website when we talked about starting a business with a laser cutter, as well as when we talked about creating profits with a laser cutter.
Creating branded items
When you want to make the most of your business – branded items are definitely a great way to encourage customers to remember the name of your business. For hotels, restaurants, and bars that provide corporate hospitality, those branded items can be invaluable. There are plenty of companies that can create items like pens and tote bags for you – and they are valuable up to a point. But if you’re looking to create products that you can be certain your customers will remember – and in turn, create that lucrative repeat business – then laser cutting can provide those bespoke items that your customers will actually want.
Creating QR codes
Advertising your business is easier than it ever was – although in many ways, harder too, because there are so many ways that you might want customers to reach you, and you have to keep those up to date. You’ll be reaching your customers via your social media accounts, your website, and maybe even through your mobile app too – particularly if you’re a retailer, or allow customers to place drinks or service orders on your app. But when they’re on their first visit to your location, customers might not be following you on social media, or have downloaded your app. While you can put your social media handles, your website address, and the fact that you have an app on everything, you can make it easier for them to find you where you want them to by using QR codes.
QR codes are the barcode-like squarish designs that can be scanned with a smartphone. They’re great because they can be printed on anything and everything, just like your social media handles. That approach works, and if you want to be able to change where you’re directing your customers to – like if you’ve updated your website, or launched a new app recently – then you can use a different QR code. But if you will always want to direct your customers to the same place (such as your website for checking stock levels in other stores) then creating QR codes using a laser cutter means that your code is going to look great for much longer than if it was on a sticker, or simply printed out. Use the laser cutter to create QR codes on all kinds of materials and pieces – from welcome signs and menus to fitting room tags.
It is really easy to create QR codes for your business – there are loads of free QR code generators available online. When you’ve generated the QR code, you can add that as part of the design you are creating for the laser cutter. If you’re going to be using the QR code a lot, then you might create a QR code stencil with the laser cutter too, so that you can apply it to more than one place.
Our final thoughts
Service industries have had it tough over the past few years, and it seems that there are further rocky times ahead too. While laser cutters are certainly not the magic wand to fix those issues, they are most definitely a tool that restaurants, pubs, and hotels can make use of to make things a little easier. If you’re thinking about making the investment, you can browse our range, and read more about getting started with laser cutters – and of course, if you need advice or assistance with your purchase, get in touch. We’re happy to help, and we can also provide the service plan that you need to keep your laser working perfectly.