Top 10 Things To Know Before Creating Restaurant Signage

Creating restaurant signage

Whether you’ve just launched your restaurant or need to give your existing venue a facelift, there is no doubting the value of curb appeal in drawing in foot traffic from your neighborhood. At the center of your curb appeal is the restaurant signage.

Total Food Service sat down with the creators of SpellBrite, the click-together LED sign system with the look of neon that enables you to make changeable messages, who detailed the top ten things you need to know before creating restaurant signage.

1. Choosing the right message

Many restaurants we speak with inquire about signs for their restaurant’s name. While it is a good idea to have your restaurant’s name in lights, we find that there is even more benefit in highlighting what your restaurant offers. This can be cuisine type, meal deals, daily specials, new items, directions, seasonal items, announcements, or even a fun message that will help your restaurant stand out.

Every business has something that makes them unique.  Shout it to the world so prospective customers know and remember. Many restaurants report seeing the most increase in revenue from sign promotions with a price. SpellBrite’s click-together design allows restaurants to test a variety of messages to find the most effective message that will increase sales.

2. Deciding between printed signs or illuminated signs

Printed signs and vinyl stickers lack impact in the day and fade away at night.  That’s why most restaurants have illuminated open signs instead of printed ones.  They grab the attention of your prospective customers.

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3. Choosing between the illuminated sign options available

Neon, LED ”dot” signs, LED scroll boards, and SpellBrite. The traditional light source for bright signs, neon, is plagued with safety hazards, maintenance hassles, environmental issues, and aesthetic challenges.

Some companies offer “dot” LED signs – the LEDs are directly visible and the word or image is created by dots of LEDs.  The quality of the LEDs and design vary greatly, and research shows that consumers think “dot” signs are unattractive and “low end.”

LED scroll boards may seem like a good idea due to the ability to change the sign message. However, if you’re driving by a scroll board, then you will only catch part of the message, which will not be very impactful when trying to pull customers into your location.

We suggest a click-together LED sign system that combines the impact look of neon signs and the flexibility to be changed “on the fly”.

4. Choosing the right color

Color is an important thing restaurants need to keep in mind when creating signage for their restaurant. We chose to launch SpellBrite in red since, due to physics, red has the greatest visibility.

Of all the visible electromagnetic waves (colors), Red has the longest wavelength and so is less likely to be scattered by small (very, very small) particles in the air.  Blue/purple on the other hand have the shortest wavelength and scatter most easily.  As distance increases, the visibility of a blue light source diminishes.  Blue light scattering is why the sky looks blue on a sunny day. You can test this yourself.  Stand directly in front of an OPEN sign with red letters and a blue outline.  Both colors will look bright.  As you move further away from the OPEN sign (please watch for cars and bikes!) the red will begin to look much brighter relative to the blue – the impact of the blue drops sharply with distance.

5. Choosing a sign that will last

Restaurateurs spend tens of thousands of dollars on equipment as an investment for their future success. The same thought pattern should be used when choosing signage. Neon signs can have a very long life, but often require repairs, which can be very costly. Most neon sign owners report spending 2-3 times their signs original cost in an 8-year span just to keep their neon signs working. The LEDs in our SpellBrite signs are rated for 80,000 hours, at which point they likely have dimmed to 70% brightness level. That’s 9.13 years assuming it is on 24/7.

6. Readability

A consumer must be able to easily read a sign in a restaurant’s window in seconds. Otherwise, the sign will go over looked. Choosing the right font is the key to solving this issue. Some restaurants mistakenly have custom neon signs made with a cursive script. This is not the best choice of font because they are not easily read. The SpellBrite font was custom designed to maximize visibility.  If you look at signs as often as we do, you will see some that look good close up, but are difficult to read at a distance.  We intentionally created a crisp, professional looking font that was highly visible from a distance.  If your prospective customers can’t read your sign, it doesn’t matter how attractive your message is.

7. Durability

Restaurant owners should be careful as to which signs they choose to place in their windows. Neon signs can be dangerous in customer accessible areas because of the glass design and high voltage power. If a customer were to accidentally knock into a neon sign, it could break, or worse, hurt your customer. Restaurant owners have mentioned to us that their neon signs break while they are being cleaned. We suggest signs that are made of strong impact-resistant acrylic waveguide and ABS terpolymer housing.

8. Visibility

Restaurateurs want customers to be able to see into their restaurant, have natural light enter their restaurants, and allow their customers to see out the windows. Many dot LED signs have bulky boxes encasing the signs. Some neons have similar bulky boxes, which create a big eye sore in restaurant windows. We prefer a see-through sign system to eliminate these issues.

9. Changeability

When ordering a sign, restaurants need to ensure the sign they are buying is a sign they can use for many years to come. For example, if a restaurant owner buys a neon sign that says “$3 pizza slices” then the owner has to either keep the cost of the pizza slices at $3, or buy a new sign when prices change. Look for signs that have a click-together feature that addresses this issue by allowing you to change the sign message in minutes. So, when your prices change, so can your sign. In multiple studies we have done with SpellBrite users, highlighting a specific item increased the sales of that item. By rotating your promotions you can increase your sales, because (a) you sell to more customers – they often have different wants and (b) you sell more to the same customers – those that like several of your promotions. With their daily specials, restaurants are unusually well positioned to increase their sales with this strategy.

10. Animation

It’s not easy to get the attention of prospective customers. Animated signs help restaurants stand out by grabbing customer’s attention. Neon signs cannot be animated without an expensive transformer. There are some dot LED signs that have animation options. We suggest a signage system that has 3 speeds of pulse, 3 speeds of flash, a mini-pulse, and static.

Nick Raschke is the Marketing Coordinator at Chicago, IL based SpellBrite. The firm’s website offers additional solutions, and stay up to date with their Facebook and Twitter pages. He would happy to answer your questions by phone at (312) 575-9620 or via email at