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Here’s How Much a Startup Restaurant Spends on Signage

We dive deep for a curious reader in this month’s “Ask Signs of the Times.”

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What is Signs of the Times doing at the ISA Sign Expo in Atlanta, May 4-6?

We will have a booth (#2449) where our staff attending the show will be based, recent issues will be available and two events will take place. On May 4 at 10 a.m. in the educational section of the convention center, ST Editor-in-Chief Mark Kissling will lead an ISA Education Session entitled, “When Do You Start Charging for Design?” Later on May 4, at 4 p.m. in booth #2449, we will support a ceremony and cocktail reception for the Best of Wide Format Awards, hosted by our sister publication Big Picture. Finally, on May 5 at 4 p.m., again in booth #2449, ST Managing Editor Christina Green will emcee a ceremony and cocktail reception for the 2022 Signs of the Times Women in Signs award winners. All five recipients are expected to be in attendance, so join us for this big event to help mark the long-awaited return of our industry’s largest expo!

How much does an average casual, sit-down restaurant/bar spend on signage, assuming they are starting from a new empty building? More importantly, where can I find this information for all industries?

Internet research revealed a few sources with ranges of costs associated with opening both a restaurant and a bar.

According to the most recent post (from March 30) on webstaurantstore.com, a foodservice supply website, “Starting a restaurant can cost anywhere from $180,000 to $800,000, with various factors influencing the final bill. The average cost of opening a restaurant is $275,000 or $3,046 per cover for a leased space, according to a recent survey.” That may refer to a survey of 350 restaurant owners referenced on restaurantowner.com, in which the total startup costs (for low, medium and upper-level markets, respectively) are $175,500, $375,500 and $750,500. The construction-cost portions of each are $70,000, $200,000 and $472,500.

Myriad costs are associated with opening a restaurant, but sage.com (accounting software) did include specific amounts for signage and advertising (combined): “… you’ll want to make a splash with your grand opening. To make it really count, you’re looking at about $20,000 to $30,000 up front.” Not bad, depending on how much of that is for the signage and how much is for advertising.

Bar costs can range anywhere between $100,000 and $850,000, according to investopedia.com. According to sage.com: “While costs can vary quite a bit, the average cost to open a pub from the ground up is about $480,000 — although costs can range from $110,000 on the low end to $850,000 on the high end … every bar needs a sign. You’ll spend about $1,000 on average.” Wait, what?! About $1,000 on average for a bar sign?

According to restaurantowner.com, opening costs range between $174,000 and $850,000. The average cost of opening a bar is $425,500, with $250,000 of that being construction, but this site had no specific numbers for bar signage.

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For other industries of interest, try searching “how much does it cost to open a ___?”

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