Zoom! That’s the sound of customers driving past your restaurant. Without a bold, branded outdoor restaurant sign, potential customers may be passing up your business for something that looks more appealing. To capture the eyes (and hearts) of your local consumers, you need to stand out with your signage. Here are 5 tips for creating a brilliant restaurant sign.
1. Establish Your Brand
All advertising aside, your restaurant sign is the one thing that will draw customers in before anything else. While a smart advertising campaign will help to get them in the neighborhood, your sign will be the thing that seals the deal. This print, neon, or simple weatherproof banner is the one element you can rely on to show customers what kind of food and atmosphere to expect. Before they even walk in the door — or try your food — your sign serves as your first step in branding.
In this way, it’s important to use your sign to promote the brand you’re trying to build. Yes, your restaurant sign can be as simple as your name in white letters, but why stop there? Use this investment to help potential customers visualize the experience they’ll get by eating at your restaurant.
Just make sure that the design of the sign matches your brand. If you find a funny, flashy neon sign and put it up, you have to make sure customers will get the joke. Similarly, if your contemporary casual style restaurant decides to save on construction costs and put up a weatherproof banner, you have to assume that you’re going to impress less of your potential clientele.
If you’ve already designed a logo and brand standards for your business, the process will be all the easier. If you haven’t, you’ll want to look into a sign that can be changed in the future, whether through reprogramming or reconstruction. Keep these costs in mind as you start to move forward with planning because you never know what your restaurant could become.
2. Make Sure Customers Can Read It
If your customers can’t read your sign — you’re in for some trouble. At the very least, a sign should be legible. It’s the main communicator of whether your business is open and what customers can expect from your brand, so it will create a huge headache if customers can’t read it.
Avoid overly stylized cursive script and choose a font that maximizes visibility. Remember that it’s not just about attracting customers when they’re right in front of your store. You’ll need your sign to be legible from far away or in a glimpse from a speeding car. Then if you can select a crisp, professional-looking sign, you’ll be on track.
The color you select can also help or hurt your sign’s legibility. Through physics, scientists have proven that red is the most visible out of all the colors in the rainbow. This is because colors travel in electromagnetic waves, and Red has the longest wavelength of any other color.
While some colors may dull from a distance or be confused for another shade, red is one of the few colors that will hit our eyes no matter what. This is why so many restaurants and businesses decide to go with red signage. The next time you’re looking around, try to count just how many red signs you see in your area, and you’ll see what we’re talking about.
3. Stay Away From Neon
There’s no doubt that neon signs are attractive. At this point, they’re simultaneously vintage and futuristic and can really make an impact on your restaurant’s branding. That being said, if you decide to purchase a neon sign, you’ll need to be prepared to pay for maintenance.
On average, neon sign owners report spending about two to three times their original sign cost in just eight years. The signs can have a very long life overall, but you’ll need to find a specialist to repair them. This can create a bottleneck in terms of affordable repairs, so it’s important to go with someone you trust.
In addition, because the signs are made with glass and rely on high voltage power, they can be very dangerous. If they’re not well-secured to the outside of your restaurant, you could be in trouble. Moreover, the sign is constantly at risk of being broken even when it’s just being cleaned.
All in all, neon restaurant signs look great but come at a cost. To ensure your restaurant maintains profitability by reducing the on-going cost, focus on other materials and options.
4. Rotate Your Promotions
In addition to a well-established brand, a good deal can be just the trick to pull in customers from the road. Using your outdoor restaurant sign to promote “free wifi” or a “BOGO” deal, you can entice more customers to choose you over the competition.
On the one hand, you may want to choose a temporary banner sign to have some flexibility in what kind of offers you promote. While customers may know you for your famous $4 burgers right now, spending a ton on a sign to advertise this deal could be a costly move in the long-run. If your business grows and you decide to change your prices, you’ll be locked into them with your sign. Similarly, if you decide to pivot and highlight other specials, you’ll have to purchase a new sign.
Instead, look into buying an LED sign to accomplish everything you want your sign to do. Not only will it cost much less to power, but by using a click-through feature, you can change your sign’s message in just a few minutes. Highlighting a specific promotion will often increase the item’s sales. By rotating your promotions, you can hit on different consumer groups or sell a range of different specials to the same regulars.
5. Create Familiarity With Advertising
Of course, if you realize you might be a little further than you thought from selecting your perfect sign, there is plenty you can do in the meantime. Find an advertising campaign that gets customers to your business through an incentivized promotion or strong, straight forward branding. The key is to deliver a campaign that builds familiarity with your brand. So when drivers see your brand new sign from the road, they’ll immediately recognize it and trust it.
You can easily do this through an unconventional print campaign at your local grocery store. One way is to use coupon receipt advertising to print your restaurant’s advertisement on the back of grocery shoppers’ receipts. With this campaign, every shopper who visits the grocery store is sure to bring home your coupon, and you can test which offers and branding work by how many customers redeem your ad.
A second tactic is to look into Cartvertising. This option allows you to display a mini-billboard on the shopping carts. As shoppers push their cart around, your restaurant’s brand will be right in front of their eyes.
Both forms of grocery store advertising allow for hyper-local targeting and unmatched repetition that can help your business quickly build brand familiarity in your community. And as these shoppers drive by your restaurant, your awesome eye-catching outdoor restaurant sign will pull them in and turn them into customers.