Restaurant Lighting, part two: Public vs. Private + The Moth Effect
So last night for dinner, we had steak. My wife kindly picked up some pretzel rolls for my son and me, so I used mine to create a steak sandwich. She made a comment about me always putting food on bread, and I replied with my eating mantra: everything is better in sandwich form. During the course of the meal, I came upon a couple of realizations:
- Pretzel rolls are quite possibly the best sandwich sandwich bread ever. The steak itself? Kind of meh, to be honest. But once the pretzel roll started soaking up the juices and the fresh cracked Telicherry pepper, I was in business.
- Part of my meal consisted of sweet corn, and you know what? Corn would not be better in sandwich form.
Of course, none of this has anything to do with lighting psychology, but I thought I’d share because, you know, food. And how about that lighting psychology? Today we’re going to talk a bit about some general reactions that people have towards lighting schemes, along with building on yesterday’s discussion of color temperature by going over the difference between public and private lighting and the implications both have on your customers. Shall we?
THE MOTH EFFECT
People, like moths, are drawn to light. In most cases, it’s the contrast between light and dark (or light and lighter) that catches our eye. So much so that it can force behavior changes in people. Observe:
- When navigating a room, people invariably walk along the brightest path. Chronicled by researchers Taylor and Sucov way back in a 1974 study titled “The Movement of People Toward Lights,” no less an authority than science has shown that when given equally-lit paths to the left and right, a strong majority of people will choose the right path (counter-clockwise again!). However, when the left hand path (good looking out to all you Entombed fans out there) had brighter light, even more people chose that one, abandoning their natural inclinations.
- People don’t like to sit in brightness. That being said, they like to see brightness. Multiple studies have shown that people prefer the walls they’re facing to be illuminated. When given a choice of where to sit in a restaurant environment, a majority will choose a seat that’s facing an illuminated wall. Moth effect in action again!
- Contrast — people can’t help but have their eyes drawn to it. That’s why accent lights on awesome things that you want to feature work so well. It’s like using eye magnets in a three-dimensional space!
PUBLIC LIGHTING VS. PRIVATE LIGHTING
Yesterday we talked about some of the differences between warm and cool lighting, including the fact that they can alter our perception of the size of a space. That difference between color temperatures along with the differences in lux (a fancy way of saying “brightness”) form the basis for “public” lighting versus “private” lighting. Let’s take a quick look:
- Public lighting is brighter and tends to be cooler, with an even distribution of light. Think most supermarkets, big box stores, fast food places, etc. Public lighting leads to higher arousal levels; the harshness makes it feel like you and everything else in the space is on display for everyone to see. Beyond that, because of our association of this type of lighting with the aforementioned examples, there’s a corresponding expectation of value over quality where public lighting is present.
- Private lighting is exactly the opposite: dimmer, warmer and with a less even distribution pattern. It feels closer, cozier, more personal, more intimate. And again, it brings an opposite expectation with it: private lighting is associated with quality and extravagance. It’s the difference between fine dining and McDonald’s (not a judgment; I love me some Chicken McNuggets), boutique and Walmart.
So you see, in the same way that having pictures all over your menu is saying something about your restaurant to your customers, so does the type of lighting you employ. After all, lighting is one of the first things someone will notice (potentially before they even set foot in your restaurant). What kind of statement is your lighting making about you?
TO BE CONCLUDED
And that’s another notch on our belt of lighting. Come back tomorrow for the shocking conclusion! Also, drop the fine folks at Vanee Foods a line to find out how they can help your operation navigate these often treacherous waters. See you soon!