MINNEAPOLIS — Ever wonder the science or logic behind those Food/Gas/Lodging signs off of interstates? Yeah us too.
If life is a highway and you want to ride it all night long, you're going to need to stop for food and gas at some point. That's where those signs come in. Those blue ones that show how far the nearest gas station, lodging and food options are at a certain exit.
It's kind of like a fast-paced menu, from which you decide your next move. However, for small business owners and managers like Dave Funk, it's the world.
Funk is the manager for Slim's in Brooklyn Center. They serve everything from gyros to cheese steaks. He is a believer in the business that the signs are bringing in.
"A lot more people coming in just from the highway, [they] drive by, pull up instead of going to Culver's or something," Funk said. "They come here because they'd like to try something different."
There's no way Slim's has the same name recognition as the competitors it sits with on the highway sign. However, those signs are what make it a fair game. Culver's, Subway, Speedway, McDonald's and Slim's are all on there, all the same size.
Funk said he estimates around four or five of his new customers out of ten would be folks who saw Slim's on that logo sign and made their way down the exit.
A dozen miles away at Blue Heron Grill in Hugo, co-owner Jim Livingston agreed.
"We can't prove it but I know just from the people that come through and what I hear so I'm sure it's no different than putting up a big billboard," Livingston said. "We couldn't afford that of course."
For a family-owned joint one mile into town like Blue Heron Grill, the sign is truly the best advertising they could get for about a thousand bucks a year.
"We feel it's well worth it yes," Livingston said.
Minnesota Logos, which is a company that MnDoT contracts with, shows on its website that it's $600 per year for a business to have its logo featured on a mainline panel, one that would sit along the interstate. For smaller signs that sit on a ramp, it costs $120.
As long as the restaurant serves at least two meals a day during normal meal hours, is open at least six days a week, has bathrooms and can accommodate at least 20 people, they can pay to be featured on the highway!
"I don't know what the traffic count is on 35E there but it's high," Livingston said. "When you're in business, especially when you first open, you have to advertise and let people know you're here."
There's nothing wrong with a Culver's or a McDonald's. However, small business owner and operators like Funk and Livingston are hoping the next time you drive by one of the blue signs with an unfamiliar logo that you would take that exit and support local business.
"Word travels fast," Livingston said. "If they had a good experience, they enjoyed the atmosphere and the food."
Minnesota Logos said the money that MnDoT collects goes straight back into MnDoT. They use it for everything from administration to the actual construction and maintenance of the signs.