Restaurateurs: How Not To Use Your Sidewalk Chalkboard


1. Insulting signage, even when humorously intended, will still be seen as insulting by many, and the more thoughtful will realize it’s also seriously passive-aggressive. It makes you not want to go inside.

[See More Bad Food Jokes: 5 Funniest TV Food Commercials of Stan Freberg | 10 Funniest Food Hats]

You’ve probably noticed the proliferation of chalkboard signs in front of restaurants during the last couple of years. It makes sense for restaurateurs for a variety of reasons — it’s a free form of advertising; it commandeers unpaid space in the common thoroughfare; and, when cleverly used, can be instrumental in drawing patrons into an establishment. Moreover, there is no limit to the creativity that can be exercised with colored chalk and an imagination. If one approach proves ineffective, different layouts and messages can be tried.

But too often this boon to the bottom line can be misused. While it’s a good idea to list specials, tout new beverages, offer a thought-provoking quote, or simply provide a memorable piece of art, many resto-chalkers use it to kiss their own asses with self-praise, offer a piece of bad advice (like “Come In and Get Drunk”), or simply say something so unbelievably stupid that thoughtful people turn away in disgust.

Here, then, are several examples of how not to use sidewalk advertising chalkboards.

2. It’s not good to offer a “deal,” if, upon reflection, it doesn’t seem like much of a deal.

3. This sign is transparently self-serving, while masquerading as a useful reminder. The problem is, a certain number of potential customers will read it and then go right on to the next wine store so as to not appear to be responding to the bogus “free advice.”

4. The art is bad and not really funny; the quip crypto-sexual and inane.

5. This suggests you should associate the restaurant with your own death, and naturally spins off further hilarious corollaries: “I hope I don’t die, because then I’ll have to go to Joseph Leonard,” or maybe, “If I find myself in Joseph Leonard, then I must be dead.” And the fact that the attribution is to someone with the last name of a celebrated 19th century Swedish playwright makes you think that’s part of the joke.

6. The crass appropriation of an adorable meme to sell alcohol is annoying enough,but the self-serving enthusiasm of the invitation to drink is downright nauseating. This chalkboard is likely to be offensive in one way or another to about half the people who see it. Go for their jugular, flesh-eating Honey Badger, if only for the rendered insult!