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

Hanqun Song (School of Management, University of Bradford, Bradford, UK)
Qing Shan Ding (Huddersfield Business School, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK)
Jing Bill Xu (College of Professional and Continuing Education, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China)
Jonghyeong Kim (School of Community Resources and Development, Arizona State University – Downtown Phoenix Campus, Phoenix, Arizona, USA and The Hainan University-Arizona State University Joint International Tourism College, Hainan University, Haikou, Hainan, China)
Richard C.Y. Chang (Bachelor Degree Program in Ocean Tourism Management, National Taiwan Ocean University, Keelung, Taiwan)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 2 December 2022




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


Using a 2 (simplified vs traditional Chinese characters) × 2 (calligraphy vs computer font) × 2 (vertical vs horizontal text flow) between-subject design, the authors 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.


Display characters and text flow significantly affect restaurant authenticity. Furthermore, the results of this study 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.


This study extends the semiotic theory and applies the cue–judgment–behavior model in the hospitality literature. This study 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.



Song, H., Ding, Q.S., Xu, J.B., Kim, J. and Chang, R.C.Y. (2022), "Typographic design of outdoor signage, restaurant authenticity, and consumers’ willingness to dine: extending semiotic theory", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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