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Is It Just Me or Are Restaurants Getting Darker Lately?

Is It Just Me or Are Restaurants Getting Darker Lately?

Reprint from JJones Design Co.

When you go out for a dinner with your loved one, do you notice that some trendy restaurants have increasingly more dim lighting? I do.

Jeffrey and I are foodies and we love to eat out and try new restaurants around the city or when we travel. I want to share my thoughts and observation about some restaurants that are too dark, after dark.

Please understand, my intention is not to bash any restaurants, but I do feel strongly about this issue, as both an interior designer and an individual who has clinical poor low-light vision. I want to share my observations and thoughts with you.

First of all, I totally get it that restaurant owners or chefs want to create an atmosphere which best represents their style or concept. But that doesn’t necessarily mean to achieve that you need to keep your patrons in the dark. I hope those in the restaurant sector think twice about dimming their lighting too much after reading this blog.

Poor Choice of Light Fixtures

We all love cool and funky light fixtures to make a restaurant design and space look special, unique, and stand out. I think we’ve all, designers guilty as well, got carried away by that and we forgot about the actual light functionality. Edison bulbs are a new norm for restaurant lighting. At the beginning of this trend, it was intended for just for light decoration not as the main light source to provide decent lighting for the restaurant. It’s been taken too far now becoming, in many spaces, the primary lighting source. It results in being too dark for some people to see when the sun goes down. In general, you shouldn’t depend on the Edison bulbs as the main light source. We need to look at different light fixtures to improve the restaurant lighting situations and improve the dining experience. We still can use the Edison bulbs as decoration but not the main light source.

Difficult to See

Not everybody can see well. You’ve chosen to go with those trendy Edison bulbs or decide to dim those lights at night a bit too much thinking it creates a romantic or intimate mood for your space. How can your diners read the menu if it is too dark to make it out? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a restaurant after dark and seen other tables pulling out their smartphone, a small flashlight, or using the table candle so they can simply read their menus. This is now when they are deciding how much money to spend in your establishment, and you’ve created an obstacle for them to do so easily.
I don’t see well in the dark and I often get frustrated when I am unable to read the menu. I had to use either my iPhone or table candle to read it. I sometimes have to ask our server to please turn up the light a bit. Most of my experiences the restaurant has been accommodating without issue. In some instances when I’m noticing I’m not the only customer in the room struggling to read the menu, I request the change, the lights get a bit brighter, and other diners actually cheered and were relieved. I have walked out of restaurants I’ve visited for the first time without ever sitting down if I notice it’s simply too crazy dark and I don’t want to deal with that and have it ruin my meal.

I’ve also had the experience of my server actually thanking me for saying something about the light situation because they have a hard time to see or read their notes or orders and management doesn’t listen to them. It is not just customers – it is your employees also suffering from bad lighting too!

There are two more things I want to point that out. Firstly, it can be the safety issue for both customers and employees too. I’ve personally witnessed diners and employees tripping over steps or slipping on a wet floor because it was too dark to see. There were no warning lights next or on the steps to notify anyone that there are steps. Thankfully, I never witnessed an actual injury, but it happens. Can we say lawsuit?

Secondly, if your restaurant is too dark for some people to see – how could they couldn’t see how beautiful your dishes are?!? It is very important part of your restaurant, right? Today, many people love to take pictures of their dishes and post it on the social media which is a great way to promote your restaurant. Lots of pictures I see online on restaurant review websites are bad simply because there wasn’t decent lighting. This is free advertising that your diners are doing for you. Crappy pictures resulting from the mood you want to create doesn’t entice new customers to walk in your door.

The Solution

If your restaurant is one of these dark restaurants – please do not feel bad about it. We can fix this issue without ruining your restaurant concept. See the picture above? Your restaurant doesn’t have to be bright everywhere. At the very least, have focused lighting on the table itself. It will still create the overall intimate mood you may be craving but make it more functional for your customers actually reading their menu and eating. If you already have direct lamps down on the table – either replace those Edison bulbs or turn up the dimmer enough for anyone to actually see the menu, beautiful faces, and more importantly, your beautiful dishes.

If you are not sure how to fix the light situation for your restaurant – I am more than happy to help you with that to improve your restaurant experience for your customers.

LED Menu Light


LED Menu Light manufactures and sells LED illuminated Menu Covers, Boards, and Check Presenters
All our LED menus are made with soft white LED light for easy reading, just like the Kindle and E-Readers. This is perfect for customers who have a hard time reading tiny types on menus in dimly lit restaurants.

WEBSITE:  https://ledmenulight.com

Contact: Marvin Barenbaum, 201-741-8292

The Real Reason The Cheesecake Factory Keeps the Lighting so Dim

The Real Reason The Cheesecake Factory Keeps the Lighting so Dim

I’ll have an enormous bowl of pasta and a flashlight, please

Reprint from Spoon University By Alyssa Modos Indiana University When I walk into The Cheesecake Factory, I experience a few strong feelings in this exact order: extreme excitement, disorientation, and slight annoyance. via GIPHY My anticipation of way too much delicious food is temporarily forgotten because when I walk into the restaurant, it’s like I just walked into Hollister — I can’t see anything. Once my eyes readjust to the dark lighting, I become a bit frustrated because I know that I’ll be struggling to see my dinner and my friends.

The Question

This got me thinking: why do restaurants keep the lighting so dim? The Cheesecake Factory is definitely not the only restaurant that does this. Red Lobster and P.F. Chang’s are two restaurants that also keep the lights down low. I get that restaurants are going for ambiance, but once you reach a certain point of darkness, it’s kind of ridiculous. Sure, dim lighting is romantic, but I think it would be more romantic to stare at my boyfriend’s face in full lighting so that I can appreciate how dang good-looking he is. As a foodie, good lighting makes for the perfect Instagram shot, which is much appreciated. In the same token, it’s also nice to be able to, I dunno, actually see your food and all of its delicious glory. Or, if you’re at a questionable restaurant, it would be good to be able to check for dirty silverware and bugs. Ya never know.

The Answer

Here’s what it really comes down to though: studies have shown that eating in a dimly lit restaurant can cause you to not only eat more, but also can cause you to make more unhealthy decisions. The Cornell University Food and Brand Lab discovered that people who eat in dimmer lit environments are more likely to order fried foods, desserts, and overall less healthy meals. The research team surveyed 160 restaurant customers who collectively dined at 4 different chain restaurants. They found that people who ate at brighter-lit restaurants were 16%-24% more likely to be health conscious, ordering baked instead of fried, for example. Their counterparts, all dining in dim-lit restaurants, ordered 39% more calories during their meal. These results cause researchers to believe that dim-lit environments lower our inhibitions. Mental awareness becomes more relaxed, which causes people to order less healthy meals. No RiRi, I’m not kidding you. The Cheesecake Factory is the perfect example of this. How many times have you walked in there insistent on ordering off of their Skinnylicious menu, only to sit down and order a record-setting sized plate of pasta? I have, more times than I can count. Thank you, ambiance. Despite all of this, dim lighting has one saving grace: it causes you to eat slower. When you eat slower, you’re consuming less of the dish but enjoying more of it. At the end of the night, you just might end up with a takeout box full of goodies. Look at you, eating amazing food, being (somewhat) health conscious, defeating ambiance. You don’t need those bright lights to be a strong, independent foodie.

LED Menu Light


LED Menu Light manufactures and sells LED illuminated Menu Covers, Boards, and Check Presenters
All our LED menus are made with soft white LED light for easy reading, just like the Kindle and E-Readers. This is perfect for customers who have a hard time reading tiny types on menus in dimly lit restaurants.

WEBSITE:  https://ledmenulight.com

Contact: Marvin Barenbaum, 201-741-8292

How Significantly Does Restaurant Lighting Affect the Meal?

How Significantly Does Restaurant Lighting Affect the Meal?

Reprint from SinglePlatform:   How Significantly Does Restaurant Lighting Affect the Meal?

Restaurant ambiance is key to setting the mood for your diners’ experience. Ambiance encompasses everything from color palette to furniture, wall decor to music. Restaurant lighting is an important element of your restaurant’s overall design, but does it also influence what and how we eat? Today, we’re putting a spotlight on restaurant lighting and how it affects the dining experience.

Setting the Mood

Of course, restaurant lighting plays a part in setting the mood. Depending on your restaurant concept, the lighting should reflect it. A romantic steakhouse usually has dim mood lighting enhanced with tabletop candles or lanterns. This emits a come and stay a while aura, which can encourage people to have the dessert and another glass of wine. Conversely, a fast-casual establishment is focused on getting people in and out the door, so bright lights encourage fast-paced feasting. Order your food on the assembly line, eat it, and move on.

Your ideal lighting can be achieved in a number of ways. Pendant lights, recessed lighting, and even wall lamps or ceiling fans can help bring vibrancy to your space. If you’re looking for a more eco-friendly and natural look, natural lighting from large windows will bring the outside in.

We love the lighting strategy that Westville Dumbo uses. They combine natural light, pendant fixtures, and sconces to create a friendly, open environment perfect for Sunday brunch or a laid-back lunch.

“Underlight” vs. “Overlight”

The placement of your lighting also sets a tone. Underlighting, such as candles on a table, are more flattering than overlights, like fixtures above your head. Underlights illuminate your face in a way that makes it look more attractive, whereas overhead lights can cast shadows and make you appear tired. If you’re on a first date, you want to be seen in your best light (pun intended). So, romantic restaurants should take advantage of table lighting and even consider placing lighting closer to the ground.

The Globe and Mail wrote a piece on how lighting can make you more attractive. Zebulon Perron, designer and design firm owner, noted:

[“You try to conceal lighting so people don’t really understand where the source is. They just kind of feel the glow. People look a lot better when they’re lit from underneath. If you’re going on a date and there’s candlelight from underneath, human features are enhanced by that. It’s the campfire phenomenon.”]

One if by Land, Two if by Sea is a NYC West Village staple that was voted #5 Most Romantic Restaurant in the World by Architectural Digest. They utilize large, rustic chandeliers and tall candlesticks, along with natural light, to create an unforgettable ambiance.

It’s wise to consider the lighting of your restaurant heavily when working on the overall design. Lights are very important features that set the stage for the rest of the layout, so choose wisely.

Influencing Dining Decisions

Sure, lights can impact the mood, but they also influence what we decide to eat. And there’s research to prove it!

Food & Wine published an article on how light influences eating including research done by the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab:

[Data published in the Journal of Marketing Research shows that patrons dining in well-lit spaces are 16-24 percent more likely to order healthy dishes than those in dimly lit rooms, due to a higher level of alertness.]

This makes sense, right? Think about it – dim lighting evokes a sense of comfort, which in turn can make us a little more lenient about our dining habits for the night. But, if the light is bright, we’re more likely to think more strategically about what we order, in turn resulting in healthier decision making.

During the study, half of the focus group was placed in a dim room while the other half was in a bright room. When ordering, the dimly lit crowd ordered 39% more calories!

But, the lighting might just be one influence that can be manipulated. Health magazine discussed this research study as well:

[The researchers found that when diners in dimly-lit rooms were given a coffee placebo (or simply asked to be more alert) they were just as likely as their peers in the well-lit rooms to make healthy food choices.]

The state of your mind at the time of consumption may be the influencing factor, but the lighting can help determine your mood, and in turn, your mental state when ordering.

Impacting the Amount of Food Consumed

If you asked me before researching this topic, I would have guessed that dimmer lit rooms would influence people to eat more. As mentioned, a dim-lit room is more comfortable, which in turn would inspire me to stay longer and order more.

However, an interesting study at Hardee’s fast-food revealed a truth that researchers weren’t expecting.

The fast-food chain took one half of the restaurant and transformed into a fine dining atmosphere, complete with low lighting and soft music. Researchers thought that diners there would eat more and stay longer than those in the typical fast-food dining room. However, it was revealed that people did in fact linger, but they didn’t eat more. It’s clear that they enjoyed the atmosphere, but that the ambiance didn’t impact the amount of food consumption.

To top it off, the fine dining room patrons found the food to be more enjoyable than those who ate at the untouched fast-food section. This begs the question – should fast food restaurants test out a fine dining atmosphere?

The Instagram Influence

Restaurants are destinations for food and lifestyle bloggers and influencers, as well as other social media users who just love taking photos of pretty things. With the heavy influence of social media on dining decisions, you always want your restaurant represented positively. People will be checking out not only your restaurant’s social media channels, but those of the food influencers who post irresistible pictures of food, drinks, and restaurant design. You should consider how the lighting in your establishment affects their photoshoots.

A glowing review can do great things for your business’ reputation, but beautiful photos can as well. Test out the lighting in your place to see how snapshots look when taken with an iPhone. The popularity of social channels, Instagram in particular, has changed the way people think about dining out.

Dana Eisenberg of Mediaite explained how social media has impacted her restaurant discovery process:

[“Social media, particularly Instagram, and now Snapchat has completely overhauled the way we eat. Ten years ago, looking for a restaurant meant finding the most recent Zagat edition we had in my parents’ car and scouring the short, pithy reviews for something that looked acceptable. Now, it’s a process that generally takes longer than the actual meal. First, something on Instagram catches my eye. If there’s a geotag on the photo, awesome. If not, I’ll find it. I’ll scroll through the Instagram archives, looking at pictures (often all of the same dish) until I’ve had enough.”]

When dreaming up restaurant designs, you have to consider how your food and drinks will look on smartphone screens. Lighting can make or break the Instagram-worthiness of photos, so take that into account when picking out lamps and fixtures.

Let Your Light Shine

Restaurant lighting is an important element of the overall ambiance. It sets the tone, influences dining decisions, and makes or breaks a social media photo shoot. When considering your restaurant’s overall concept, design, and feel, lighting should be one of your points of focus. Although the food and drinks are your restaurant’s focal points, the lights shining down (or up) on them are just as relevant.

LED Menu Light


LED Menu Light manufactures and sells LED illuminated Menu Covers, Boards, and Check Presenters
All our LED menus are made with soft white LED light for easy reading, just like the Kindle and E-Readers. This is perfect for customers who have a hard time reading tiny types on menus in dimly lit restaurants.

WEBSITE:  https://ledmenulight.com

Contact: Marvin Barenbaum, 201-741-8292

Why are restaurants so dark? – LED Menu Light

Why are restaurants so dark? – LED Menu Light

I always wonder myself, why are restaurants so dark?

Boston Globe Reprint:

By Beth Teitell Globe Staff

It isn’t meant as a challenge — the waiter wants to be liked. But to diners of a certain age, the server’s question sounds like a taunt.

“Would you like to see a menu?”

Uh, yes, I’d love to! Except that it’s so dark in here that unless I turn on my headlamp, all that text about your locally sourced, organic, hand-pickled, house-crafted offerings will remain a mystery to me.

I’ll be reduced to ordering whatever my companion does — assuming he or she can see — or broadcasting my presbyopia by pulling out my menu-assistive device, or, as it’s also known, the iPhone.

We get the challenge: Restaurants need ambience. Like movie theaters and sports stadiums — which are battling Netflix and Amazon Prime and TVs so large that Gronk is nearly full-size — restaurants need to give people a reason to leave their homes.

Their competition for in-person consumers comes from DoorDash and Foodler and Caviar and other meal-delivery services that allow people to enjoy cuisines beyond pizza and Chinese without having to get dressed, find parking — or shout to be heard over the din.

Given the allure of staying home, is it any wonder that, according to the NPD Group research firm, non-pizza restaurant delivery traffic is up 33 percent since 2012?

Here’s the challenge restaurants face: The population is aging, and growing increasingly cranky about menu blindness. But at the same time, sophisticated lighting is pricey, and, in 2016, it’s already very expensive to open a restaurant in Boston, where rent, food prices, and labor costs are all rising.

“Savvy [restaurateurs] realize that lighting is one of the best places to spend money because it sets the tone and mood,” said Jef Leon, lead designer for restaurants and hospitality at Bergmeyer, a Boston architecture and interior design firm, who has done lighting for The Maiden, recently opened in South Boston, and is working on the new Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar in Fort Point, among other jobs.

Despite its value, lighting is one of the first things to go when the budget is tight, he said. High-end lighting can run well over $20 per square foot, he noted, compared with a few dollars per square foot for a very basic system.

But, he said, skimping is “penny wise and pound foolish.”

A good lighting system lets the dining room stay dim and nicely atmospheric, while warmly illuminating the tables. “Often the best lighting design is when you don’t see where the lighting is coming from at all,” he said. “It makes a statement without [diners] staring at a bright light bulb.”

Like so many other things in life, when lighting works people typically don’t think about it. But when it’s wrong, Todd Winer, chef-owner of Pastoral, an artisan pizza restaurant in Fort Point, saw what happens.

“When we opened [in March of 2013] we put in these super fluorescent lights in the middle of the room and wrapped them in [diffusion material] to dim them, like they used to on film sets. It was awful, and everyone knew it except for me.

“I was like, ‘It’s so cool, it gives it this old garage look,’ but my wife hated it and my old chef Todd English came in and he was like, ‘These lights suck.’

“But I was like, ‘I don’t want it to be dark.’ ”

While it was true that darkness was not a problem, the lights cast a yellowish-greenish hue that repelled people from the middle of the dining room, he said.

“I think I spent $1,400 putting dimmers in thinking that would help.”

It didn’t, but even so, Winer stuck with his lights until a couple who had bought out the whole restaurant for their wedding party strung up outdoor patio lights, and Winer thought, “Oh my God, what a difference this makes.”

In Belmont, lighting designer Doreen Le May Madden said her “pet peeve” is when diners are forced to resort to iPhones for illumination.

“You know there was no lighting designer on the project,” said Le May Madden, who works with HGTV star Taniya Nayak on restaurant projects, and did lighting for Abby Lane and the Met Back Bay, among others.

Le May Madden detailed the factors that must be considered, including: the reflective properties of a restaurant’s walls, floors, and tables; and the wattage and light distribution of the fixtures — do they cast a wide spread of light or a narrow beam?

“You don’t want people sitting under a spotlight,” she said.

What about a table lamp? It’s not as easy as you’d imagine. With restaurants regularly reconfiguring tables to accommodate groups of different sizes, electric lights are hard for outlet-related reasons, and portable lamps can run out of batteries. “It’s a maintenance issue,” she said.

In today’s world, bright lights typically correlate with inexpensive restaurants, but that wasn’t always the case, said Jan Whitaker, a Northampton-based author who writes on consumer history.

“Electricity didn’t come into restaurants until the 1880s,” she said, “but even then it was unreliable and people usually supplemented it with gas lighting, but only the more capital-intensive places could really afford it.

“But once it became common to have light, and it was inexpensive, it became a way for restaurants on the lower end of the scale to demonstrate how clean they were. People were very distrustful of eating places in the early 20th century, and bright lights built confidence.”

At the same time, she said, early night clubs that catered to a raucous clientele were brightly lit, and restaurateurs seeking upscale customers distinguished themselves with dim lights.

There are many diners, of course, who are not bothered by the dark, who in fact like the night. Let’s call them Millennials and some of the younger Gen-Xers.

And for the rest of the adults, amid the squinting there are signs of light. Besito, a Mexican restaurant in Chestnut Hill, slips cute little flashlights to diners who appear to be struggling, and because kids want them, too, they don’t scream “baby boomer.” (The same can’t be said of the reading glasses offered to those in need from a discreet case at Bistro du Midi in Back Bay.) The back-lit menus at Da Vinci, in the South End, are also equalizers. And the under-bar illumination at SRV, a new Italian restaurant in the South End, was intended as a design element, not a vision aid, but diners aren’t complaining.

The bottom line? Let there be dark. But also light.

Beth Teitell can be reached at bteitell@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.

LED Menu Light


LED Menu Light manufactures and sells LED illuminated Menu Covers, Boards, and Check Presenters
All our LED menus are made with soft white LED light for easy reading, just like the Kindle and E-Readers. This is perfect for customers who have a hard time reading tiny types on menus in dimly lit restaurants.

WEBSITE:  https://ledmenulight.com

Contact: Marvin Barenbaum, 201-741-8292