When’s the last time you drove around town with one thought in mind, to see every restaurant through your customer’s eyes? It’s an interesting exercise, especially if you take along somebody who’s not immersed in your own restaurant’s operations to expand your perspective.

How do their different exterior signs work? What aspects draw your attention, make them instantly recognizable, and reinforce their brand?

Often you will find that there is a creative layer built on top of some fairly simple sign strategies. Keeping those strategies in mind can help you reassess your own signs and what they can do to impact your sales.

Tell a Stirring Story

Stories are a compelling way to reach customers. Think about the food and beverage ads you watch. Each image suggests an experience as well as a product – savor, sate, socialize.

Did you know that you can bring that same instant sensation to customers with readily-available digital technology, right outside your restaurant? Digital screens powered by LEDs make it easy to project powerful images and video that pay off with a deeper impression than words alone.

Yard House entices customers with eye-catching animations on an exterior screen, including custom content based on specific days and times to maximize the appeal. The same automated technology is available to restaurants of any size, so you will likely see them telling stories in your town.


Shape Your Message

Shape matters. Highway sign designers have spent decades wrestling over which type font – the shape of letters – is most legible for directional signs on roadways. Shapes play an important role in how the brain processes what the eyes see.

Logos are shapes! Along with color, their shape defines and reinforces the brand: bold or subtle, active or passive. Logos are powerful storytellers, too, reminding customers about previous good experiences with your brand. Chili’s uses its stand-alone red pepper shape as a wall sign that’s instantly recognizable. IHOP’s new logo speaks to customers in a similar way, echoing the company’s “culture of smiles.”

Does your logo have a shape that’s strong enough to carry your restaurant’s message at a glance? Maybe you could use it in a shaped cabinet to break away from traditional rectangles and catch the public’s eye.

Maximize Your Moment

Now that you’ve driven by other restaurants in town, you’re ready to take a fresh drive by your own at different hours. What do you see?

A nighttime review may reveal dim or burned-out lighting that weakens the impression your brand makes. Are letters cracked or missing? Are materials no longer fresh – a subliminal message to customers that your food is also past its prime?

Are your signs as visible as you thought, from the places where customers should see them? Municipal codes are always a consideration, but line of sight is critical for any signage program. Maybe you need to trim some trees or revisit sign placements. The Cheesecake Factory ensures that signs mark every side of their restaurants, including any interior mall entrances. They know that their business is invisible without them.

Driving sales is what signs are all about. Maybe a short drive around town will help you think about your own sign opportunities.