Despite the old adage, sometimes a book is actually judged by its cover. Or rather, a restaurant is judged by its exterior. Your food, service, interior décor, and restaurant window sign can be wonderful, but if walkers by don’t find any of it appealing from the outside (or can’t figure out where your restaurant is at all!), they won’t come in to eat.
A crucial part of your exterior is your windows and what you put on them. While you have a wide range of options for material and content, restaurant window signs more than anything need to be visually appealing, cohesive with your brand, and easy to read.
Types of Restaurant Window Signs
Vinyl lettering is all about clearly giving potential guests the information they need in making a decision to even walk through the door. Hiring professionals to properly apply the vinyl lettering is important because you want your storefront to look professional. Vinyl is durable and will hold up to general wear and tear, but it also takes work removing. Make sure all the information you’re putting on your windows is completely accurate before it’s applied.
If you have a large number of windows at your location, window wraps can be a good way to utilize some of that valuable space. Not only can those wraps be aesthetically pleasing, but they’ll lead the eye to the clear windows or doorway.
Just be strategic when you use wraps — what can you see when you look into each window and which part of your restaurant window sign do you want your customers to focus on first? Don’t take the opportunity of multiple window panes to overwhelm your customer. But by the same token, wraps are available that are opaque from the outside, but translucent from the inside, so you don’t necessarily need to completely sacrifice natural light by using them.
Hand-painting is often used for short-term restaurant window signs or displays. Painted signage comes off much more easily than vinyl, which makes it ideal for seasonal themes and limited time offers. Properly applied, the paint will come off quickly when you’re ready to change up the window. But keep in mind, the easy cleanup with hand painted window signs also makes it easier for the signage to get scratched up. And the hand-quality of it means you need a steady hand and an artistic eye to make it pleasant in appearance.
Neon window signs have been a part of the restaurant industry for decades. It can be a real statement piece for the right restaurant. Neon restaurant window signs provide short and sweet messaging about the business, whether it’s that you offer beer or simply that you’re “OPEN”! The trick is to know your brand. If you’re a bar or a diner, having a neon sign can be a fun detail. But there are plenty of types of restaurants, particularly upscale casual and fine dining, where a neon sign doesn’t work.
The Details to Include
Your Business Name
This might seem obvious, but having your name on your windows can make a big difference. Customers might have looked up your address before coming to your restaurant, but it can be tricky to figure out just where the place is if there’s a ton of storefronts surrounding you. Even having your restaurant name on other exterior signage may not be enough if there are multiple doorways to different businesses right next to each other. Clearly indicating the right door to enter for your establishment is key.
A Slogan or Logo
If you have a snappy slogan for your restaurant (perhaps even one your business is known for), it makes sense to include it in your window signage. It shouldn’t be the main focus of your signage, but it can explain to your incoming guests and passers-by a little more of what your restaurant is all about.
If you have a cool logo that catches the eye and is strongly connected with your brand, absolutely put it up. As long as it includes your official business name and slogan, then you can use that instead of regular lettering for your name and slogan.
Hours of Operation
Customers want to know when you’re serving food. Maybe they’re walking by 20 minutes before you’re open. If they see your hours of operation, they might decide to come back when you’re open, or even wait a few minutes. If they have no clue when you’re open, they could just walk past!
Posting your hours in your window also sets expectations for when you’ll eventually be closed. If customers walk in an hour before closing, but aren’t shown the hours when they walked in, they could unintentionally stay past closing time. Suddenly your servers are in the awkward position of asking them to leave and customers could feel awkward accidentally imposing on the restaurant’s time.
On top of that, including hours of operation window signage is an opportunity to mention your happy hour, your brunch hours, or early bird hours. Not only is this offering valuable information to potential guests, but it can also entice them into ordering a drink, trying your brunch menu, or making plans to return for a second visit!
Menu or Cuisine
Some restaurants benefit from displaying their menus in their windows. This can be helpful to groups with picky eaters, complicated dietary restrictions, or simply diners who want to make sure they have several options to choose from that are to their taste. It’s also a great feature if you frequently have a wait list, so people waiting outside can peruse in the meantime. No matter what, it’s important that the version of your menu you post in the window is accurate, easy to read, and professional looking.
Maybe you don’t want to put your entire menu up in your window. That’s perfectly fine, especially for restaurants whose menus change on a regular basis. But it is still important to highlight the kind of food you offer.
This is particularly true if your restaurant name doesn’t include the cuisine type. A restaurant called “John’s Place,” for instance, might want to use their window signs to say they’re a steakhouse and offer specialty cocktails. But even if your restaurant has the cuisine in the name, including more details about the food can be a good thing for your window signs. If “Mama’s Italian Kitchen” specializes in southern Italian seafood, then include that in the signage.
Additional Tips on Restaurant Window Signs
Don’t go overboard.
When it comes to restaurant design overall, it can be easy to slip into trying to do too much and having everything look like a mess. That applies to restaurant window signs, too. If you put too much wording or too many visuals in your windows, people won’t know where to look.
It could even seem like you’re trying too hard if your windows shout “Good steaks! Good beer! Great atmosphere! Good burgers!” It pushes past being proud of your restaurant and into seeming desperate.
Also, consider your customers! One of the pluses to a restaurant with windows is it allows passersby to look in and see the dining experience you’re offering. That’s why many managers train hosts to offer guests window seats when the restaurant is less full. Anyone walking on the street can catch a glance of your dishes and of your guests having a good time. And on top of that, your guests can have dinner with a view.
But if you put up too much window signage, you’re not only hindering your guests’ view, but also hiding your restaurant’s best assets from potential customers. Make sure your placement of any restaurant window signs makes sense and doesn’t overwhelm the window itself.
Follow local ordinances to the letter.
Before you put any signage up in your windows, research your area’s local rules, codes, and ordinances about storefronts. Many cities have restrictions on the types and amount of signage any given storefront can put up. This include graphics and vinyl lettering. It might seem inconsequential now, but not following these rules could lead to a big fine, as well as having to completely redo your signage down the line to fit these restrictions.
Better to do it right the first time than pay for it later!
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