Importance of Signs in the Restaurant Industry
Good signage is an essential part of your restaurant business. Whether you have a cozy, romantic bistro with a rotating chef’s menu, an upscale brasserie boasting locally sourced ingredients, a clam shack by the sea or any of the options in between, the most important thing you can do for your business is to reach your hungry customers. You can have great food, great value, a great location and great customer service, but none of that matters if diners don’t know where you are.
Signage is effective and cost-efficient. Unlike radio, TV and newspaper ads, which run for a limited time — and unlike online ads, which may reach only a limited demographic — one sign advertises to hundreds of people, again and again, 24 hours a day, for years and years to come. A well-crafted sign creates a strong first impression, implies quality service and invites customers in.
Why Should You Invest in a Restaurant Sign?
It may seem at first that the advent of Internet marketing and online maps makes physical restaurant signs less necessary. You can just use your website, email and even mobile app for interactive digital marketing, right? Then customers can track you down online.
Not so fast. The benefits of signage advertising are substantial. A BrandSpark/Better Homes and Gardens study found that over half of American consumers — 60% — have mistakenly driven past a business they were trying to find because of inadequate signage. That’s a lot of missed opportunity. On the other hand, a majority of businesses report increased significant, positive impacts on transactions and profits after upgrading their signage.
Good signage is more important than radio, Internet and newspapers. Many customers enter a store or make a purchase merely because a sign drew their attention to it. According to the BrandSpark study, up to 41% of consumers have made quality assumptions about a business based on the quality of the signage.
Armed with these numbers, you can see that signs are a great, proven, trustworthy way to advertise a restaurant and the unique food and beverages it offers. Signs have the power to draw hungry patrons inside and get them to eat and drink more once they’re there.
A restaurant is a brick-and-mortar place. Though drive-throughs, to-go orders and delivery services exist, most of a restaurant’s essential transactions cannot be outsourced in the way that online shopping can. Most people come to a restaurant to enjoy delicious food in a relaxing atmosphere. To entice people into a physical space to consume physical plates of food, it makes sense that physical signs would provide the strongest draw.
What Should Restaurant Signs Do?
Now that you know why signs are vital to business, let’s discuss what restaurant signs should accomplish for your eatery.
1. Increase Visibility
You need conspicuous signs to attract the attention of potential patrons. Big, tall signs like billboards and pylon signs make your restaurant easy to find. If you use billboards to advertise from the highway, make sure they contain short, easy directions for travelers who may not know the area. The signs you display on the restaurant property should also catch the eye. You don’t want hungry people to drive by your restaurant because they don’t realize it exists.
Signs for restaurants can incorporate several techniques for enhanced visibility:
- Use bright, bold colors: Vibrant colors are a fantastic way to make your restaurant sign stand out. Color contrasts are also helpful. Try a dark font on a light background, or vice versa, to make your words pop.
- Use a unique design and particular images: If your restaurant has a logo or a particular font that people associate with it, highlight those features on your sign. A bold logo or image will help your restaurant stand out on a crowded block.
- Advertise both day and night: You can use neon restaurant signs for their brightness and wow factor. If you don’t have a lighted sign, try using a spotlight to illuminate your signage so people can see it in the dark.
Signs are the most visible communication tools available to a restaurant. Internet marketing is useful, but websites and social media platforms can seem to blend into a blur of pixels after a while. A restaurant sign is solid and one-of-a-kind, and it helps your restaurant stick out in customers’ memories and imaginations.
2. Convey a Targeted Message
Whatever style of signage you choose, you’ll want to make use of plain, effective text. Most people, especially drivers, don’t have time to read signs for more than a few seconds, so it’s vital to make your words count. Your restaurant sign should use just a handful of words to be effective. The BrandSpark study revealed that 81% of consumers find signs with words that are too small and crowded to read to be a major source of frustration.
For a concise sign that will quickly lure readers in, consider the following ideas:
- Give the basic facts in a few words: What kind of food does your restaurant serve, and what sets it apart? Let patrons know what kind of atmosphere they will find inside.
- Use humor: Consider your target audience, and use humor that will appeal to them to convey your restaurant’s personality. Clever restaurant signs, like the famous Chick-fil-A “Eat Mor Chikin” signs ostensibly written by the restaurant’s bovine mascots, can do wonders to get customers on your side.
- Tug gently on potential patrons’ heartstrings: Don’t overdo the emotional language, but consider how you can craft a heart-tugging message. If your restaurant is a longstanding family business, a sign that reads “local family restaurant since ___” appeals to customers’ desire to support small businesses and help families thrive.
- Add directions: If customers are in their cars, the sign should help them find the building. If they’ve gotten out of the car or are near the restaurant on foot, the sign should help them find the front door.
3. Promote Your Brand
Your restaurant is more than just the food you serve. It’s a whole experience and set of values that you operate by. To promote your brand, you can use your sign in a few different ways:
- Display your restaurant’s logo: Your logo will quickly come to symbolize the quality experience customers remember from dining with you.
- Create a good first impression: Professional design and correct spelling and grammar are essential. It’s also important to communicate the quality and value customers will find inside your establishment. You can use your sign to display awards, like a five-star rating or a line reading “Voted best sushi restaurant in Denver!” These positive testimonials create a feeling of trust and entice people in. Signage for small, specialty businesses in particular, such as boutique restaurants and shops, is most effective when it communicates the promise of value and service that can be found nowhere else.
- Promote word-of-mouth marketing: Your completed sign can accomplish this on its own. A new, unique sign popping up in the neighborhood gives people something to talk about. “Did you see that new sign?” they muse to one another. “I wonder if that restaurant is as good as it looks.” Before long, they come through the door to see for themselves.
What Should You Put on Your Restaurant Sign?
Now that you know what proper restaurant sign can do for your business, it’s time to get to work on your restaurant sign’s design. But what should you include for optimum impact? There’s no right way to design an effective restaurant sign — what works well for a large national chain may not work at all for a smaller, more specialized locale. The company you work with to design your sign should take your restaurant’s individual flavor and service philosophy into account. Below, though, you’ll find a few restaurant sign ideas to get started with:
- Legible fonts: Legible writing is consistently the number one consideration for an effective sign. No one will come in to try your award-winning, secret-family-recipe barbecue if they can’t read what you have to say about it.
- An easy-to-recognize logo or design: A visible logo promotes brand recognition and helps customers form quick associations with your restaurant.
- A small callout to social media: People driving or walking by your restaurant will scan your sign, quickly get an idea of what type of fare you offer, and then be able to look you up, read the menu and learn more.
- Words or graphics to increase your guests’ appetite: Use whimsical drawings of ice cream sundaes or enticing phrases about your mouthwatering fries to make your guests feel sure they would be missing out if they didn’t stop by. Hungry guests tend to eat more, spend more and tip more, so whet their appetites before they even walk in the door.
What Are Some Common Types of Restaurant Signs?
Here are a few common types of signage for restaurants to help you start thinking about what kind of restaurant sign design would work best for you:
1. Outdoor Restaurant Signs
- Wall signs: You can create a standard rectangular sign —or a sign of any shape — to mount to an outdoor wall. Typical materials for wall signs include wood, lightweight aluminum and hollow plastic. With a basic wall sign, you can advertise your restaurant boldly. Use cool fonts and graphics to stand out, and invest in sturdy paint that will endure harsh weather and last for years. According to one study, 60% of business with signs have a wall sign — and 89% of large businesses do. These ubiquitous signs contribute to business identity but not visibility because they don’t stand apart from the building.
- Monument signs: Though not usually much taller than a person, these large, stand-alone signs help promote a restaurant’s identity and visibility. They greet customers, grab attention, show off logos prominently, and are easy to read from a distance. You can use metal, rocks, wood paneling — all types of materials. The compelling architecture of a monument sign signifies a professional and trustworthy establishment. An upscale restaurant could use a subdued monument sign with a water feature to signify the ultimate in luxury, while an ice cream shop could use a cone-shaped monument sign to get visitors’ mouths watering.
- Blade signs: These are long, skinny signs that run up and down the side of a building. They catch the eye without getting in the way and drive traffic to your restaurant. They can be installed high up to be visible from afar so that drivers can easily see them when they drive by. Blade signs are also excellent for visibility to downtown customers on the sidewalk who will not necessarily look above their heads to see a wall sign. These signs’ slimness makes them attractive in crowded places, as does the fact that there’s no footprint on the ground to impede foot traffic.
- Pylon signs: These tall signs are often designed with poles or pillars, though not always. They are typically taller than monument signs — think of the tall, rectangular signs that stack the names of multiple businesses in a shopping center. Pylon signs are strongly associated with high visibility and would be an excellent choice for a restaurant looking to attract visitors from far and wide.
- Exterior signs with channel letters: These signs consist of letters affixed to the external wall. The solid, elegant letters pop out from the wall in 3D and catch the eye. They don’t have to be lighted, but they often are. Restaurant lighted signs can be either face-lit signs or reverse-lit signs, depending on the look you prefer for your restaurant. Face-lit signs consist of lighted letters. Reverse-lit signs light the backs of the letters and the wall behind. Both create an elegant, classy look, but go for a reverse-lit sign if you wish to create a soft, romantic glow to match a cozy, date-night restaurant ambiance.
- Menu signs: People may see your main restaurant sign and come by, but then what? Potential customers may walk away if they can’t look over the menu. It’s easy to post a small, sturdy restaurant menu sign outside. People can read through the entrees and choose their favorites ahead of time. Use restaurant special signs to generate a feeling of urgency — people won’t want to miss out on your delicious specialty that won’t be available tomorrow.
2. Interior Restaurant Signs
- Menu signs: Use unobtrusive but eye-catching restaurant board design to quickly and effectively communicate menu items, specials and prices. Customers can peruse these when they walk in the door and while they wait.
- Directional signs: Use these indoor restaurant signs to give your customers knowledge and control. Let people know they can seat themselves or that they need to wait to be seated. Point out the buffet, salad bar, condiments or restrooms. Put a sign by the host stand or lobby area to advertise specials. At a fast-casual restaurant, use signs to tell customers where to order and where to pick up food. The clear, easy transmission of information helps customers understand what they need to do and helps them feel in control of their experience. These signs also reduce demands on staff by increasing the number of questions customers can answer for themselves.
- Decorative signs: Use these interior signs to engage with customers and get their attention. Set the tone of your restaurant with a tastefully designed sign in the lobby. You can also use cute, informative signs to keep guests distracted and happy. If your restaurant is popular and busy — fantastic! — there may be a substantial wait. Hungry, rushed customers are easily frustrated. If they can read signs to learn menu information, smile at cute graphics, gain additional information about how you source your ingredients or find out about upcoming events, the time will pass more quickly.
People who come to a restaurant are hungry, and they’re looking for relaxation and a fun time. Signs answer questions, alleviate frustration and boredom and let guests know they’ve found a quality place where their time is valued. Relaxed guests eat more, spend more and want to come back.
Design a Customized Restaurant Sign With Integrated Sign Associates
ISA is committed to giving you the restaurant sign you’ve dreamed of. We offer free quotes and free drawings, and we’ll do a survey of your building to determine what types of signs can be put up. We keep ourselves informed about restrictions and regulations, so you can count on us to know what permits are necessary for your restaurant sign and what code signage is required.
Meeting your vision and goals is important to us. You can trust us to keep you informed and give you guidance about every aspect of creating your perfect sign, but we won’t bombard you with information or steer the project in a way that doesn’t mesh with what you’ve envisioned.
ISA has been designing, manufacturing and installing signs for over 35 years. Our restaurant building signs are stylish and durable, constructed with high-quality materials and finished with paint designed to last a long time — longer than the paint on a car. Fill out our online form, request a free estimate, or call us at (619) 579-2229. We look forward to being part of your team.