The Dark Side of Dining: Dim Lighting Appetite Effect

Dim Lighting Appetite Effect and Restaurant Sales

Research on the relationship between lighting and eating habits has provided insights into how lighting conditions can influence food consumption. While the findings can vary based on study design and individual factors, here are some key findings from research on this topic:


Increased Food Intake in Dim Lighting:

Summary: Dimly lit environments may lead to higher calorie consumption due to the comfortable and relaxed ambiance, encouraging patrons to linger and eat more.

Study: A study published in the Journal of Marketing Research revealed that participants consumed an average of 18% more calories in dim lighting compared to well-lit conditions. Additionally, appetizer orders increased by 24%, and dessert orders surged by 39% in dimly lit settings.


Effects of Lighting on Food Choices:

Summary: Well-lit settings promote healthier food choices, while dim lighting may push diners to opt for higher-calorie options.

Study: Research from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab demonstrated that people in well-lit areas chose 39% more salads and 30% more vegetables than those in dimly lit spaces. Conversely, individuals in dim lighting were 2.5 times more likely to select desserts over fruit.


Dim Lighting and Slower Eating:

Summary: Dim lighting could extend meal durations, possibly leading to increased overall food consumption during a dining experience.

Study: Psychological Reports published a study showing that participants took 22% longer to finish their meals in dim lighting compared to well-lit conditions. This prolonged eating time could contribute to a higher intake of calories.


Dim Lighting and Positive Emotions:

Summary: Dim lighting fosters positive emotions, potentially influencing patrons to lean towards indulgent or high-calorie food choices.

Study: Journal of Consumer Psychology research indicated that individuals in dimly lit settings reported 7% more positive emotions than those in well-lit environments. Moreover, dim lighting increased the likelihood of selecting dessert by 3 times.


Low-Lit Restaurants and Appetite Increase:

Summary: Restaurants with low lighting settings may result in elevated calorie consumption due to diminished self-awareness and an appealing atmosphere.

Study: Georgia State University's study demonstrated that diners in low-lit restaurants ordered meals with an average of 39% more calories compared to those in well-lit establishments. Moreover, patrons consumed 36% more calories during their meal in dimly lit settings.

Dim Lighting and Socializing:

Summary: Dim lighting encourages extended dining times and heightened social interactions, which might contribute to prolonged periods of eating and potentially higher food intake.

Study: Journal of Consumer Psychology research revealed that individuals in dimly lit environments spent 16% more time at the table than those in well-lit spaces. Additionally, patrons in dim lighting were 5 times more likely to dine with larger groups.

These detailed findings underscore the significant impact of lighting on eating behaviors and food consumption within restaurant settings. Restaurant owners can strategically harness this knowledge to tailor lighting designs that align with their intended dining experience and customer preferences.


  1. Journal of Marketing Research -  https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1509/jmr.14.0115
  2. Psychological Reports - https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.2466/01.PR0.111.4.228-232
  3. Journal of Consumer Psychology - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0969698921002988