Typographic design of outdoor signage, restaurant authenticity, and consumers’ willingness to dine: Extending semiotic theory

Hanqun Song, Qing Shan Ding, Jing Bill Xu, Jong-Hyeong Kim, Richard C. Y. Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – Restaurants’ outdoor signage plays an irreplaceable role in attracting potential diners as it conveys important functional and symbolic meanings of the businesses. This study investigates the effect of typographic design elements of outdoor signage on consumers’ perceptions of authenticity. We also test the linkage between authenticity and willingness to dine, as well as the moderating effect of frequency of dining in ethnic restaurants on the relationship.

Design/methodology/approach – Employing a 2 (simplified vs. traditional Chinese characters) x 2 (calligraphy vs. computer font) x 2 (vertical vs. horizontal text flow) between-subject design, we did two experiments with 786 Chinese diners. Restaurant authenticity and willingness to dine are dependent variables, and openness to ethnic cuisine is the control variable.

Findings – Display characters and text flow significantly affect restaurant authenticity. Furthermore, the results demonstrate that display characters interact with typeface to influence restaurant authenticity. Consumers’ perceived authenticity significantly increases their willingness to dine. The frequency of dining in ethnic restaurants moderates the relationship between restaurant authenticity and willingness to dine.

Practical implications – Ethnic restaurateurs should pay attention to the outdoor signage design as it affects potential consumers’ authenticity perceptions. Specifically, in Mainland China, traditional Chinese characters and vertical text direction increase potential consumers’ authenticity perceptions.

Originality/value – This study extends the semiotic theory and applies the cue–judgment–behavior model in the hospitality literature. It also provides new understanding of authenticity by identifying the influence of typographic design on authenticity, which confirms the semiotic theory that certain semiotic cues affect consumers’ judgments.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 27 Oct 2022


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