Photo of restaurant employee holding open sign
Advice & Tips Ask an Expert Franchisee March/April 2019

Q: How do I attract customers to my franchise with signage?

It’s much easier for customers to find your business if you have a prominent sign with your business name on it out front. The bigger the sign, the better – and the more attractive the sign, the better too.

Don’t just assume, however, that your landlord shares your vision of a large sign identifying your business on or in front of their property. Franchise tenants can eas­ily overlook that their landlords may want to restrict all tenant signage on the property. Franchise tenant requests for more or larger signage are often rejected by landlords.

Landlords impose signage criteria and restrictions mainly because whatever they allow one tenant to do sig­nage-wise, the other tenants may also want to do. Most landlords prefer an uncluttered property without extra signage simply because it looks more attractive. If your landlord does allow you to place a sign on the property, creating and maintaining it is your responsibility. This extra work on your part, however, can be beneficial:

  • Signage can make your business easier to find for customers who are specifically looking for you. Obvi­ously, if you’re located in an area with a sea of shop­ping plazas or office buildings, a sign with your name on it makes it much easier for customers to pick you out of the crowd.
  • Signage can bring in customer traffic. People visiting other retailers in the property and shopping for other items may see your sign and be reminded to drop in. If your sign reads, in part, “Now Open!” all the better!
  • Signage will become recognized by local residents who will see you as they commute to and from work daily. These residents are more likely to visit your business because they are familiar with your name.

With that being said, note that your landlord may allow certain types of signage but not others. Typically, the landlord usually requires graphic drawings of your sign for written approval or provides you with a signage criteria package that you must follow as part of your lease agreement. Read this information carefully and understand that your landlord may consent to one type of signage but not another. To give you a better idea of what may or may not be allowed, here are the most com­mon types of signage:

Building signage: This is the signage that almost every business location will have and it will generally appear directly above your main entry door. However, do not overlook the possibilities of having signage on multiple sides or even the rear of the commercial property if that will provide you additional exposure to walk-by or drive-by traffic.

Monument signage: A “monument sign” resembles a tombstone coming out of the ground and, typically, advertises just one or a few select tenants. Monument signs are not that common, but they can make your busi­ness look more substantial if you can get one.

Pylon signage: The tall sign by the roadway that tells passers-by what tenants are located in the plaza is called the “pylon sign.” A property may have several pylon signs, which all display the name of the plaza at the top of the sign. Don’t just assume that you will automatically get a panel of the pylon sign. There are often more tenants in a property than sign panels available, so make this a part of your offer to lease or lease renewal. Ideally, try to pick your actual panel (both front and back), because a panel higher up on the pylon sign is usually more visible and read first. If there is no pylon signage space available, check with your landlord to see if any tenants holding sig­nage space will be moving out or closing. Once that tenant vacates the property, you will have your name already in for consideration. Another option is for a group of tenants to collectively ask the landlord about signage space. With a number of requests, the landlord may become moti­vated to erect more pylon signage.

Sandwich board signage and banners: Franchise tenants may wish to utilize these forms of signage to advertise lim­ited time specials; however, landlords may say no. If these are of interest to you, negotiate for them in advance. The Lease Coach will often negotiate predetermined times when the tenant can use these signs. Landlords may be more comfortable in knowing these signs will not be out all year and thereby not create signage clutter.

Temporary pull-away signage: These are the signs on wheels covered with images or business messages. Most landlords hate these signs and the problems they create. Don’t just assume that you may be able to have pull-away signage for your grand opening or some other special sale. Landlords think these signs clutter or obstruct their prop­erty and may only allow limited numbers of pull-away signs to be used (and shared) by many tenants throughout the year. Again, negotiate pull-away signage rights up front, because the landlord doesn’t have to let you put these signs up if they are not included in the lease agreement.

Dale Willerton and Jeff Grandfield
Commercial Lease Consultants
The Lease Coach