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Readers sound off on restaurant lighting

Readers sound off on restaurant lighting

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In the August issues, editor Michael Sanson wrote about dining in a restaurant that was so dark, both the menu and food had to be illuminated by flashlight. Everything else about the restaurant was terrific, he wrote, but the owner insisted that the restaurant be illuminated like his hipster bar down the street. Here are some excerpts from some who wrote to comment about the scenario.  

Whenever I read your articles they get a fire burning in me and I have to respond. There are three main components when opening a restaurant for service —temperature, music and lighting. This is what sets the mood and allows your guests to be comfortable during dinner. Now if one of those elements is slightly askew it can throw the whole experience off. As you said, you can make great food but if the guest can’t see it, what’s the point? I’ve been to blind tastings before and they’re fun, but this isn’t the concept this restaurateur is going for. I say turn up the lights a smidge and see a turn up in your revenue.

Patrick Greene
Director of Food & Beverage
Brier Creek Country Club
Raleigh, NC

After reading your August excerpt on lighting, I couldn’t help but think of an always-busy low-lit restaurant/bar in Tucson. Every time we visited, low lighting was an issue; I’m 45, my parents are in their 70s. The server did provide a book light for my mom on one occasion, but only after we made the request. There was no notice on the menu to such, not that it would be legible, nor did the server make such an announcement, which would have been easy to do. I often take photographs of dining experiences, but each time there I was unable to develop or print any of them due to the lack of proper lighting. Even though things appear okay on the surface, a slightly different approach to the lighting situation would be appreciated. Yet I do agree with you that since, to the owner(s), things are going good, there is no need to change. In this day and age, however, that may soon change as social media will begin to have a stronger impact on the bottom line.

Paula Shepherd
Expeditor/Server Assistant
The Clock
Greer, SC

Your Sanson Sez ‘hit home’ with me! My first management job, after graduating from Florida International University’s  Hospitality Management School (’80), was with Arnie Morton. At the time he had only three restaurants: Arnie’s, Zorine’s and the single Morton’s in Chicago. Arnie’s pedigree included managing all the food and beverage at the Playboy Clubs. It was there that Arnie learned the importance of bar/lounge and restaurant interior lighting.  
As Arnie would repeatedly say, the “right” lighting will take 10 years off everyone, especially women. Back in the day, we had a wall of rheostats that he would tinker with like an engineer. Every time the ambient light would change, he’d be manually adjusting the lights, which, at the time, I found both curious and odd. Now that I’m a bit older and wiser (and my vision isn’t what it used to be), I see just how insightful (brilliant) he was and how important the correct lighting is in restaurants, bars and lounges. With the common use of photocells to measure ambient light, and computer assisted theatrical lighting available at a fraction of the historical costs, operators would be wise to spend much time and thought on how they illuminate the guest experience. Or, provide everyone with flashlights…

Tom Griffith
Strategic Advisor
Seattle, WA

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