How to Maximize Your Bar’s Outdoor Signage for Summer

Summer is almost here and everyone’s excited for what it will bring. With the rollout of vaccines, warmer weather, and outdoor events, there’s a lot to be hopeful about after a difficult year for restaurants and bars due to COVID-19. Bar owners are looking ahead with hopes of finding stability.

To better prepare for the summer, bars can evaluate their outdoor signage for its effectiveness. More people are out and about when the weather is warm, making it a prime time to be updating or improving on signs for optimal promotion. These signs are important for announcing your hours, staff hiring, safety protocols, deals and specials, or holiday updates.

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Check out our best tips for making sure your establishment is ready to welcome customers by making the most of your outdoor signage.

General best practices for making stand-out signs

With any type of signage that you use, keeping it as simple as possible is ideal. The busier your sign is with words or images, the less likely people will be to read or digest it as they pass by. A good rule of thumb is if someone should be able to read your sign as they pass in a car going 10mph. If there’s too much verbiage, this won’t be possible.

With that said, while many signs will just have a quick message, others may leave room to have some fun. In this case, consider language that makes you stand out from the crowd. Don’t be afraid to be funny or include information that makes your bar special.

Next you’ll want to think about the overall aesthetic of the sign. Including your logo is key for brand recognition, and you’ll want to consider the colors you’re using. Do the colors of the sign match your color scheme, or do they differ? Both options can offer positive results by either tying the design into your brand or helping your sign to become more noticeable.

qr code
Photo by Albert Hu on Unsplash.

Some of the biggest ways you can maximize your outdoor signage is to include anything that allows for further engagement. List your social media handles, or better yet, add a QR code that links people to your social media page. Link your QR code to anything that would prompt the type of engagement you’d like to see, from landing pages to online ordering to feedback forms.

Permanent or long-term signs

With people passing by your restaurant more frequently in the summer, take this time to prepare signs that are well-suited for long-term announcements and can hold up better to weather such as posters and sandwich boards. Again, keep these messages short and include vibrant imagery so they can easily be viewed from the street.

A sturdier and larger sign like a poster is great for messages about summer hours, seasonal specials, and menus. Are you re-opening your business? This is the perfect time to invite customers to order. If you have a happy hour special you offer, highlight it on a sandwich board and put the sign out just before your happy hour begins—a great way to remind people you’ve got a good deal. Or if you need to direct traffic in some way or indicate where your parking is located, a sandwich board makes it easy to do.

Many establishments have streamlined their menu in the past year, so encourage people to check your menu out by posting it on a sign in your window or set up on a stand. Having it easy and accessible means more people will become familiar with what you offer. You can even include a QR code so people can pull up your online menu or your online ordering via their phone.

Quick or short-term signs

Sometimes you need to make an update on short notice, or have a message that will only be relevant for a brief period, so you don’t want to spend a ton of time and money crafting it and putting it on a large sign. Short-term signage should be easy to put up and take down. And if you switch up these kinds of signs frequently, you’ll avoid stale window signage, making it more likely people will notice when you’ve put up a new one.

Flyers are often used for this purpose, and also have the benefit of being versatile. They can be posted in windows, added to takeout bags (tri-fold or bi-fold flyers could be great for this, or even business cards), brought to events such as farmers markets, or set out near the checkout.chalkboard sign

A chalkboard sandwich board has a permanent signage design and therefore creates less waste, while still being great for quick message changes. This sign is larger and easier to see, and allows for daily menu announcements or simply sending a fun message to passersby.

Digital tools are key for short-term messaging as they allow for on-the-fly changes. This is something that is especially important to bars right now as guidelines, policies, and menus can change rapidly. QR codes printed on signs that link to online menus or landing pages are great solutions for fast-changing updates.

Find what works for you

Ultimately finding the best and most effective signs can vary based on your needs, so going into the summer with some ideas in mind and ways to attract the warm-weather goers is an opportunity not to be missed.


By Elizabeth Riggio is a Copywriter with MustHaveMenus, an online menu template and digital marketing service for restaurants and bars. When not writing, she’s exploring the Pacific Northwest and eating her way through the various food trucks.