Canadian Pizza Magazine

Marketing insights: July-August 2015

By Michelle Brisebois   

Features Business and Operations Marketing

Looking for a sign

Businesses grow two ways: by selling more to existing customers and by getting new customers.

While promotions and digital marketing tactics ideally entice customers to your product offering – those customers still need to know where you are to take advantage of the offer. External signage is the key to getting noticed by those just walking by and to being located by those who have decided to dine with you. It’s not the place to get into details about your branding or offers – at its core, external signage is about capturing customers.

Signage can be one of the best ways to target an impulse buyer and impulse buying is a big business. It represents a large chunk of all retail transactions. An estimated 40 per cent of all money spent is through impulse buying. That includes money spent on Internet e-commerce sites as well, according to User Interface Engineering ( If you are a restaurant that takes reservations, your walk-in traffic will increase with better street-side signage.

How do you go about improving your signage? Begin by listing all of the opportunities you have to promote your location to people as they travel towards your business. Is there placement on the highway through tourism signage programs? Provinces have websites that list criteria for qualifying, and a highway sign could help intercept people as they approach the exit for your business. A sign placed about 100 metres before your business will give travellers a nudge to look for your business as they come upon it. The sign should indicate that your restaurant is 100 metres away so people can know when to look for you. If the car is going 60 kilometres per hour that equates to 20 metres per second, so 100 metres gives them a nice five seconds to prepare to turn in to your driveway.


Wall murals are an impactful and artistic way to promote your restaurant. There are many mural artists who would be glad to help you design an image that includes the name of your restaurant and some colourful graphics. Your mural will get buzz and probably appear regularly on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as people have their picture taken in front of it. An effective mural also garners your pizzeria word of mouth. Your business will be described as “the place with the cool mural on the side of it.”

Street-side signage that’s permanent should be as close to the street as allowed. Make sure you are familiar with your town’s bylaws around signage. Some areas are very stringent about sizing, placement and appearance. When deciding on colours for your sign, go for high contrast between the background and the lettering. Yellow lettering on a white background will be more difficult to see than yellow lettering on a black background. Keep the copy to a minimum and be clear about what your business does.  It’s great to say “O’Malley’s” but that assumes everyone knows you run a restaurant.  “O’Malley’s Restaurant” is clear and concise – and if you can sneak in “Pizza. Wings. Pasta” underneath, you’ll have accomplished a lot.

If your operation is in a strip mall, you’ll need to rely on the multi-tenant pylon to feature your sign. You will have less space so the rules above apply even more profoundly in this setting. Make the colours pop, the contrast high and the copy minimal. Just your business name and purpose should be enough. You may be able to put up a temporary street side sign that will allow you to craft a message a few sentences long, but be aware it may be seen as “visual pollution” by residents and become a lightning rod for debate at town council. Temporary street-side signs are often perfect for short, focused promotional messages including what’s on sale and what’s new. If you can find a way to weave in a little humour, your sign will be posted to social media as people share your clever message.

If your business relies on foot traffic coming down a sidewalk, a blade sign that juts out perpendicular to the building will allow customers to see your business as they approach it on foot. Before putting up one of these, you will need to verify your signage bylaws as signs that hang out over a public walk way may be subject to special restrictions. The sign can be a beautiful piece of art or contemporary and functional – as long as it sticks to the name and the nature of your business.

The blade sign can be illuminated or not, which raises a good point about all signage: if your business is open after dark, you need to ensure all signage is lit. Be careful about using sandwich boards especially in high traffic areas: bylaws may prohibit them if they pose a safety risk for pedestrians if the board blocks foot traffic. However, if your town allows them, sandwich boards can be an effective way to interrupt and entice prospective customers.

Retailing is basically a three-step process: First, establish awareness of your business. Next, capture the customer by getting them into your store. Finally, convert that captured opportunity into a sale. Good external signage takes care of steps one and two. You and your team do the rest.

Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. She specializes in brand strategies.

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