Signage inspiration: Get your restaurant to stand out!

There is an abundance of options restaurants use to make the exterior aesthetic of a restaurant quite appealing. If you are in a tourism area with high traffic you can at times rely on your signage to get the attention of the people new to town. So I have put together the various forms of signage to surely inspire.


Chalkboard Signage
Probably one of the more classic approaches to signage; chalk boards have been around for decades originating in France. Sandwich boards for example have some of the most creative written content as they get reinvented every day with fun, quirky content. Used a lot for bars, pubs and coffee shops.


signage awning

Awnings & Canopy’s
Particularly used for high-end restaurants or outdoor pubs you will see simple awnings with either a flat colour, the logo or a simple design. This simple touch transforms the entrance into a beautiful addition to a patio or restaurant front. Whether it be a striped classic design or a detailed fabric, it gives off a victorian European feel and can be a nice way to shade your guests from that summer heat.



Back-Lit LED Signage
Although this is one of the more basic forms of signage it can be elevated to really look amazing if done well. Acrylic signage with back lit LED is great for visibility. Be sure to consult your sign maker on which material is best suitable for the signs environment.



Wooden Signage
Wood is a very diverse and with its versatility you can carve and form your signs into masterpieces with event he finest of details. Let your imagination run wild as you look at the many options wood can provide. Just be sure to weather proof your sign if are taking it on yourself.



Hand Painted Signs
Sometimes a DIY project can get a lot of attention as it’s generally an original piece and will naturally stand out while having an artisanal feel. If you have an unsteady hand; maybe see if you have a local sign painter to help your sign come to life.



Hanging & Wall Mount Signage
this is a simple form of signage that stands out, literally and is usually used with another form of signage. It helps your restaurant be seen even at a far distances. These can be even more beneficial if you are on a corner and can be made from different materials like wood or metal.



Light-Bulb Signage
You can play with lighting in many different ways but even classic lightbulbs seem to be very popular. (Burger’s Priest is a big one for this) In combination with metal letters the lightbulbs can be seen from very far and can be a great light source.



Neon Signs
It helps to have a sign that can be seen really well especially at night. Which is why neon signs have always been popular. But make sure the neon signage works for your brand. Neon signs became largely used in the early 1920’s – 1940’s although now is common when restaurants want signage that give a great retro/vintage feel. Some great examples of this in Toronto can be found at classic Breakfast stops like Senator Restaurant or Fran’s. Makes you feel like your in Vegas!



Wall Graphics & Murals
Used both inside and outside restaurants; murals have been a great accent to the brands overall look and feel. You can use wall stickers which have become very popular and easy to apply or simply have the murals hand drawn by a mural artist with various mediums like chalk or paint. Ever been to Lee’s Place, now home to Big Fat Burrito, but will always be known for the nightclubs colourful building.



Floor Signage & Tile Murals
Another option people have a tendency to overlook (although can be limiting depending on the building restrictions). Having a floor mural can be a beautiful addition to any environment.



Window Graphics
Another classic effect that can be beautifully crafted and make a great impression. There is a ton of application methods; including hand painted, transfers or stickers; even gold leaf. Many times window applications are usually used with various other signage as the one disadvantage about window signs is that they are flat and can usually only seem if you are in the store front, but beautiful nonetheless!



Metal Signage
A classic form of signage that has a beautiful effect especially when it is aged it has a vintage feel when it rusts. Like wood it is a very versatile material and can be made into the most detailed pieces.



Aged Signage
Aged signage can show your guests you have been around for a while which is always a good sign (pun intended). But like cheese, there can also be a fine line between aged badly and aged well and should be kept properly. Some that stick out to me is some of the signs on Queen Street here in Toronto. You can also get aged applications to your sign to purposely make it look like it has been around for a while; like rusted metal or sanded down wood.



Unique 3-D Signs
This can also be under the DIY category, some signage can pop out at you, making it even more-so noticeable. Some signage can be made into pieces of art and sculpted into some of the most interesting pieces like the Kit Kat on King St or the Cadillac Lounge on Queen Street. Don’t get this confused with 3-D printed signs we will look at in the next section.



Acrylic & 3D Printed Signage
With the boom and new age of 3-D printing comes a new form of signage to help achieve the look you are going for. I can imagine this will become the next phase of mainstream signage.


I am by no means saying your sign will make or break your restaurant but signage is ultimately an introduction and forms the first impression a customer will have of your brand — in turn forming the experience. If your setting out to make a statement or want to keep it simple, you have a variety of applications to choose from; metal, handmade, acrylic, aluminum to 3D molding and so on. Your options are endless. This post is just a few ideas to get you started. Check out your local sign shop and do some research to help you get the signage you are looking for.
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Ashley Howell

Note: This post is for inspirational purposes only and always look into the restrictions and legal agreements you have regarding what you can and can not do to your building. Always consult your building owner and review any contracts with your landlord as it may restrict the types of signage you can use along with permits to avoid any surprise notices.



Graphic Designer, Ashley Howell provides creative services for restaurateurs and businesses in hospitality. If you would like a quote or have questions please get in touch today! Read the stories behind Avid Creative. Or get seasonal updates with the Avid Creative Newsletter.


  • hương “Nguyễn Hương” nguyễn

    Very nice collection and wonderful tips. Really appreciated work, Loved this. bang hieu phan rang