Is It Just Me or Are Restaurants Getting Darker Lately?

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. Jeffry 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.

 Photo by  Diz Play  on  Unsplash

Photo by Diz Play on Unsplash

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.

Photo by seyitali/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by seyitali/iStock / Getty Images



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.
 

 Photo by  Stanford Smith  on  Unsplash

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.