Well, the earlier billboards were, in my opinion, simpler solutions to a problem that could be easily critiqued and talked about. I think everyone was mostly trying to give you suggestions to make what you had done better without overcomplicating things.
I haven’t been to your restaurant, but from the imagery of banjos and cowboys, I’m not sure the simpler, more modern approach is entirely what you want or what accurately conveys the personality of your restaurant.
Although they’re totally different, I’m sort of inclined to think you ought to use your last group with a few changes — most of which you’ve already identified.
Like I mentioned in an earlier post, print them out hang them on the wall and look at them from the other side of the room. Whatever isn’t readily readable from there will also not be readily readable from the highway.
The top of the pancakes sort of get lost in the white starburst. I’m wondering if the other stack of pancakes might work better (not sure, though). There’s too little contrast between the 99¢ and the pancakes.
The words “All You Can Eat” are being used as a compound adjective to modify the word “Pancakes,” so they really should be hyphenated, as in “All-You-Can-Eat Pancakes.” That’s an awkward grammar Nazi concern, of course, but you’ll have more than one former school teacher coming into your restaurant mentioning the goof.
Anyway, the line of type takes up too much horizontal space and awkwardly spills over the pancakes. I’m not too fond of the overly compressed typeface either, I’d be inclined to write, maybe, “Unlimited Pancakes,” instead. This avoids the compound modifier problem, and it will enable you to uncompress that overly compressed typeface a bit.
The internal shadow on the URL is not working, and I’d definitely get rid of it. I’m still iffy on the value of the URL to someone driving down the highway. Even if the passenger looks it up on his or her cellphone, they’ll be long past the turnoff.
To me, the directions to the restaurant are more critical if you’re trying to divert highway traffic for an impulse meal. If someone misses the turnoff, they’re not all that likely to turn around and come back (it’s happened to me before). On whatever sign is nearest the turnoff, instead of saying something mostly meaningless, like “Hwy. 16,” I’d probably say, “Next Turnoff” or “Next Exit.”
I do like the Fort Hayes logo. I’m a little concerned about it’s legibility on a billboard, though. I might be inclined to make the top of the letters fade into white instead of yellow to create a bit more definition between them and the yellow background.
I think the big saxophone player image is good. It really communicates what people will be getting themselves into if they decide to drop by for dinner. My main concern with this billboard, however (in addition to what I’ve already mentioned) is that it’s not entirely obvious that it’s a restaurant you’re promoting and not a concert venue or a night club. Then again, I guess it really depends on what you’re advertising and the nature of your business because, like I said, I’ve only driven by but not visited (maybe next time).