HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Advertising in restaurants ... Good idea? Bad idea? Inevitable?

How would you feel if a restaurant (non-chain) started selling ad space in their restaurant?

Home Depot logos on the table.

Tide slogans on the linen.

Holiday Inn logo on the booths and chairs?

Would that bother you?

Would it bother you if you knew that the advertising would reduce the cost of the meal by 5% (or some other factor)?

Relatedly, do you think it is inevitable that ad space will be sold in restaurants sooner rather than later?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Good lord, I HOPE not! I don't give a hoot about a 5% reduction in the cost of the meal, but I most definitely don't want that kind of advertising when I'm eating out. It's bad enough on television shows.

    As for whether it is inevitable? I just can't see it happening. I really hope it doesn't.

    1. Isn't it P.F. Chang's that has the annoying ads in their menus? Maybe not Changs, but certainly a major chain.

      7 Replies
      1. re: TomSwift

        But that's a chain restaurant. ipsedixit asked about if a local-to-you "non-chain" restaurant did this...

        1. re: LindaWhit

          Cheesecake Factory has ads in their menus.

          Sometimes I get confused as to what is an ad and what is an photograph of a menu item ...

          1. re: ipsedixit

            What do they have ads for? I'm trying to picture what ads in a menu would look like.

            1. re: manraysky

              You never saw the ads in the Cheesecake Factory menu? They're almost on every other page where they don't list food or drinks.

              I've been to Chinese restaurants lately and on the paper disposable placemats there are ads for local businesses.

              1. re: monku

                Haven't been to a Cheesecake Factory. What are the ads for?

                1. re: manraysky

                  Ads I remember were for clothing boutiques and jewelry, kind of upper crust type of stuff. I didn't pay much attention, I was looking for something to eat.

                  1. re: monku

                    Wow, that's bizarre! I thought maybe they'd be for stuff like "try Kraft Mayo, as on our delicious sandwiches!" or something.

      2. I've seen several local places with advertising in the washroom stalls. I don't mind that ...gives you something to read :)

        1. Advertisements have been tried in bars and restaurant toilets before and they didn't work out very well.

          9 Replies
          1. re: KTinNYC

            how do they know it doesn't work very well? (not being snooty, just curious, really)

            1. re: alixium

              I guess sales didn't increase for the products advertised.

              1. re: KTinNYC

                It's been a while since I've been in NYC, but aren't GO Cards still just about everywhere? Actually, seen them over in Europe, too.

                1. re: Lizard

                  They are pretty common but I see them more in bars than in restaurant and they seem to be collected by tourist and used for scrap paper to exchange phone numbers more then any thing else.

                  1. re: KTinNYC

                    Huh. Don't know that I agree with (or even understand) the 'tourist' claim.I've picked them up based on whether or not I liked the image, not whether or not I lived in the area.

                    It is most likely a bar thing, though, you're right.

                    1. re: Lizard

                      You shouldn't be offended by the term tourist. I apply it for non regulars as well. If you've seen the cards a few times you no longer pick it up.

                      1. re: KTinNYC

                        This risks going off topic, but the fact is, when I lived in NYC (long time-- my true home when I'm not dreaming of Paris) I'd usually pick up pleasing postcards; do it here (in my new town) as well. Given that they are typically stationed by toilets, they're easy to catch. (Although yes, given that I am a cinephile as well as a chowhound, chances are I am looking for the film-related adverts.)

                        But there is no offence, merely curiosity about the ways in which 'tourist' is used on chowhound (and elsewhere).

                        1. re: Lizard

                          I alway pick up those cards too, here in SF. I just like sending postcards to my friends, and sometimes I write them out at the table, to share the experience.

                2. re: KTinNYC

                  I never understood why those ads for Mountain Dew they used to place over the mens urinal never worked out.

            2. I think this already happens. As a couple of posters above have said, I've seen ads in lots of bathroom stalls. I don't believe I've seen them in any high end restaurants, more mid level bar and grill types of places. There is a Mexican restaurant I go to that flashes ads in Spanish on a TV screen on the wall.

              I know in small towns its rather common (at least in the midwest) for place mats to have ads or logos of various businesses. I remember a local company that would make a place mat with caricature type drawings of business owners who presumably paid for ad space. It was always fun to find the people you knew. It never bothered me.

              1. Lots of smaller, Mom & Pop places have purpose-made advertising placements that are sold by local entrepreneurs. Been that way for decades. Doesn't bother me.

                1 Reply
                1. re: KiltedCook

                  Yeah, that's the first thing I thought of. It's not even just in small towns: I've seen these in restaurants here in Boston. Doyle's, for sure, and I know I've seen them elsewhere. I like them.

                2. I was going to mention the placement ads, but someone already beat me to it. I've also seen where the entire tabletop is covered in numerous ads.

                  1. Please, No! To answer your question, yes it would bother me to see the type of advertising you mention. It already disturbs me when I visit places like the Cheesecake Factory and see the advertisements in their menu. Their menu is already too busy and the ads just make it worse.

                    As a society we have to deal with too much advertisement. When I go to the grocery store I now step on large ads pasted to the floor, have flashing gadgets spitting out coupons on the shelves, etc. It is just overkill. I don't want to see more in restaurants.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: swamp

                      As a visual person, cramming advertising everywhere drives me crazy. At the grocery store it on the floor and sticking out in the aisles as you mentioned. It's also on the cart in two or three places. It's on the screen where I'm TRYING to look to see if they are scanning the right price. It's on the divider that goes on the conveyer belt. I've seen ads stuck on the conveyor belt. Ads are on the stand where you place your wallet or write your check, and there's a cardboard frame around the swipey thing! And I'll bet I've missed some places!!! It's relentless...and I hate it.

                    2. jfood has seen the glass topped tables where people place their business card under. Very silly, but everyone has a successful business model.

                      Advertisements in the menu. Jfood couldn't care less. He does npt even notice the ads to right of this page. When jfood gets to reviewing the menu he concentrates on the food.> Want to safe jfood money at no cost? jfood is all for that.

                      When the restaurnats atart using Hertz table cloths and advertising pampers on the napkins, that may be a different story.

                      1. Honestly, how many times have you see an ad and said "Oh I really need that and must go out and buy one right now!" ?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                          But that's not how ads in general are supposed to work, so not having that reaction is just fine. Advertisements provide information along with moods and impressions that can linger for the time when you actually do need said product.

                        2. I don't mind ad's in dive bars or mom and pop restaurants, but if an upscale restaurant did this I would consider it iffy. But in these days and times, with more and more restaurants shutting their doors, I think it is important to keep an open mind when it comes to this sort of thing.

                          1. a lot of the delis in South Fl have TV screens on the walls with local businesses advertising such as dentists, realtors, apartment complexes etc. I don't really take any notice of them and would not personally write down an opthamologists # just because I saw it advertized. Maybe they do work though. I have also seen ads on place mats.

                            1. i think it is inevitable, with the amount of ad's inversely proportional to the cost of the meals. The much maligned chains have been hyping their own products for decades, we have just learned to mostly ignore the tray liners, the posters on the walls, the spinning burger and fry mobiles hanging from the ceilings (hey those may end up on display in the smithsonian someday.) A few restaurants here have the menu only on the "front" of each page, at least that way you see the food rather than advertisements while you leaf through the menu (except my mom who tends to read menu's from back to front.)

                              The posters and such in the waiting areas, in a hallway, or in the restrooms (no doubt more effective in men's rooms where us guys stand there staring at them - after all, what are our options?) don't bother me - even at a "mid-range" place. I don't mind the budwiser sign over the bar, but when they start having jingles that play when I sit down, i'm gonna have to find somewhere else to dine. I don't want my chair telling me that it's a hap-hap-happy place.

                              1. that is why I dislike the Cheescake Factory. They have an menu that is filled with adds. Hate It!

                                1. Did you see "Idiocracy?" It has a funny interpretation of future Ad Space. No fine dining but a hilarious & horrifying take on Branding/Ads.

                                  "Brought to you by Carls Jr. "

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: mmerino

                                    Yes, and I believe there was the Secretary of State or Attorney General brought to you by Taco Bell.

                                    Welcome to Costco. I love you.

                                  2. I hate those menu/ads at Cheesecake factory too! Last time I went, I opened up my menu and there was an ad for lingerie, complete with color photo of a woman wearing a very skimpy negligee with her breasts practically hanging out. For a restaurant that has a high percentage of families with children as their customers, that's inappropriate!

                                    I'd rather pay the full price/go to a restaurant that doesn't advertise! I'm already innundated with marketing everywhere I look, on TV, magazines (they seem to be 90% ads), even elevators! It's too much.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: SeoulQueen

                                      I'm sure those Cheesecake Factory menu ads subsidize the cost of the menu printing.

                                    2. alright, fess up: is this in any way inspired by jon stewart making fun of joe scarborough for advertising starbucks on scarborough's show?

                                      by the way, restaurants already advertise for certain credit card companies. The sleeve that they give you for your check is almost always sponsored by a specific one, even at many schmancier establishments.

                                      1. There is a restaurant that used to have ads all over its table and I got kinda mad when they took them off. I also missed the color beads they used to hang. Wendy's had pretty fun tables to read when I was a kid.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: JanPrimus

                                          Ads on table and chairs would be over the top past a certain price point.

                                          A new one for me in NYC last week was a plastic container for the urinal puck that was plugging a TV show.