FES View: Making Smart Energy Easy

Daniel Gold
By Daniel Gold on September 15, 2020

Restaurant Lighting: Part of the Post-Pandemic Recovery Plan

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, close to 24,000 restaurants have shut down for part of the time, and 53 percent have closed permanently. 

The brands and locations that remain open have altered virtually every aspect of their business models. For example, they now offer take-out and delivery, installed health-related equipment and signage, re-trained their teams, and drastically adjusted prices and cut costs to cover a dramatic decrease in diners. 


Lighting can be a massive area of cost savings for restaurants. Whether you operate a single location establishment, multiple franchise restaurants, or a giant multi-location chain, look to your lighting as a key to savings and sustainability.

Restaurant Lighting is a Huge Part of Energy Use

Restaurants as an industry consume a tremendous amount of energy -- refrigeration, HVAC, signage, interior, and exterior lighting fixtures, and heating lamps. Even sanitizing workstations and cleaning spaces use energy. Lighting represents at least 13 percent of this expense or close to $3 per square foot.

Restaurant lighting plays a role in marketing, ambiance, safety, and even food quality. From the moment a diner walks or drives by a restaurant, they are drawn to the establishment based on how it’s lit. Fast food drive-throughs rely heavily on lighting for signage and menu illumination. Fine dining establishments create their moods with lighting, and the right fixtures can be a significant part of a restaurant’s decor.

How You Can Reduce Lighting Expense

ENERGY STAR recommends some simple “low-hanging fruit” techniques for reducing the energy use from lighting in your restaurant. They are:

  • Using natural light as much as possible and installing dimmers.
  • Creating a bi-level switching system, so you are only lighting those parts of your restaurant that are occupied.
  • Installing sensors, which automatically adjust light based on the amount of natural light, movement, and other factors.
  • Look at back-of-house areas like closets, storage rooms, restrooms, and break rooms to ensure you’re not lighting them when not in use.
  • Evaluate all your signage for energy-efficiency.
  • Train and motivate your staff to play a role in energy savings. 
  • Create a longer-term plan with an LED lighting system. It costs you nothing and can result in thousands of dollars in savings every year. 

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Why LED Lighting Makes Sense for Restaurants

Lighting Draws Diners In...and Keeps Them Coming Back

A whopping 91 percent of diners say that ambiance is a critical factor in choosing a restaurant. According to that same report: 

LED lighting is a better choice than standard incandescent and fluorescent lighting in nearly every situation.”

The range of LED lighting available today is virtually unlimited -- from track lighting to ornate fixtures -- you can create unique and compelling decor, but you also save money and even increase check size.

Lighting can even have an impact on what people order. Illuminating specials and deals at drive-throughs is just one example of how lighting can help with marketing and increase average spending. 

Today’s Instagram-hungry diners will also appreciate the right lighting when shooting pix of your food and restaurant interior.

When FES Lighting Draws up a lighting plan we balance ambiance and cost. We recommend and install sensors and dimmers too, for optimal efficiency.

Converting to LED Lighting Costs Nothing and Can Make You Money

Some restaurant owners and operators may resist a switch over to LED lighting because of the perceived cost and installation inconvenience. We at FES Lighting offer restaurants a zero-capital way to convert and will even buy back your old lights from you. 

Plus, maintenance is covered in our plans. Our restaurant clients have seen:

  • $1,100 yearly maintenance savings (because LED lighting lasts longer and we handle upkeep).
  • $4,505 annual energy cost savings
  • $82,575 in total savings

Multiply that by the number of locations and yearly savings are significant and long-lasting.

Lighting-as-a-Service (LaaS) Improves Cash Flow

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated and often sudden changes to policies have left restaurants in a stage of unpredictability and continuous change. Lighting-as-a-Service (or LaaS) is a new subscription model for LED lighting that accurately forecasts what your lighting bill will be every month.

You free up thousands of dollars to invest in marketing, talent, safety improvements, and other necessary business expenses.

Sustainability is Important to Consumers Today

About half of diners today care about the sustainability efforts of the establishments they choose, according to a National Restaurant Association study. Waste management, food quality, technologies, supply chain, and other sustainability practices have become even more critical to consumers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Energy usage is also a vital aspect of the sustainability formula. You save money and your consumers view you as a business that cares about our planet.

The Post-Pandemic Recovery Will be Challenging for Restaurants

Those who innovate and remain open to new ideas will survive and ultimately prosper. Look to and learn from those big chains and smaller brands that are increasing their sales.

Engage experienced professionals in managing your costs and dramatically reducing expenses. LED lighting can be the first -- and most significant -- step in your post-pandemic recovery.

Take that first step. Get your guide to LED lighting and start planning to make the switch.

guide-to-led-lighting-business

Published by Daniel Gold September 15, 2020
Daniel Gold