THE iconic brown road sign has traditionally been a means to direct travellers to places of interest.
Perhaps a castle or area of natural beauty might be expected to be marked out with the distinctive colour.
But now motorists are complaining that other amenities - from hotels to fast food restaurants - have been given "brown sign status".
Carmarthen has a brown sign which points to a McDonald's restaurant and many rugby clubs also have signs in the same colour, leading to calls for a rethink on how the signs are allocated.
While large stadiums or country hotels and restaurants seem to be accepted when they are allowed to advertise themselves on the sought-after signs, some feel fast food chains may be slightly too lowbrow to deserve the brown sign treatment.
The Civic Trust for Wales yesterday called for a rethink on the criteria which allow businesses to warrant a brown sign.
Director Matthew Griffiths said, "I think it's fairly strange.
"McDonald's is certainly not a heritage attraction. It's not really a tourism attraction either.
"And I'm not sure it really increases the number of people who come into Carmarthen, so it is an odd one.
"The criteria must presumably be related to visitor needs, and footfall.
"I'm sure McDonald's will have filled the criteria, but it raises the question of whether the criteria are sensible.
"I'd have thought what you were hoping for with one of them would be to attract visitors to the community.
"It should be a visitor attraction, and should be tourism-based to help the economy.
"Whether McDonald's fills these criteria is debatable.
"There could well be some benefit for a discussion on exactly what the criteria are."
Julian Burrell, director of the Wales Tourism Alliance, said, "I'm sure there are lots of smaller attractions that have problems getting the brown signs that wouldn't agree with McDonald's getting one.
"We've had complaints before from people because they feel they deserve signs.
"The criteria can be pretty open to interpretation.
"It's a constant cause of discussion within the tourism industry.
"There are some small tourism organisations that find it difficult who wish they had one.
"It's a problem in that you have to be able to prove you have a certain number of people visiting.
"It's a catch-22 because you might not be able to get that number without one of the signs.
And making reference to the huge luminous golden arches displayed outside most McDonald's, he added, "One would have thought it is quite difficult to miss a McDonald's, and you could say that they could probably be found easily enough without the sign."
However he said the burger restaurant's contribution to tourism should not be disregarded.
Mr Burrell said, "McDonald's is tied in with tourism.
"Criteria are about more than just castles and things like that.
"As an example, the Edinburgh Woollen Mill on Anglesey is one of the most-visited places on the island, and that's essentially a retail outlet.
"McDonald's do serve a purpose for tourism, in that tourists will use them, but whereas these signs can make a small organisation, I'm not sure McDonald's really need one."
A spokesman for McDonald's UK said, "It's not up to McDonald's who is given brown signs.
"We went through the required process, and were allowed one.
"If policy changed and we were no longer entitled to have one, we would of course abide by that."
Page 2: Who is allowed a brown sign? National Assembly rules say ...