LED lighting puts restaurant décor and food in the spotlight.
Following his philosophy and mission, Michael Paulsen, executive chef and owner of Abigail’s American Bistro in Highland Park, IL, a North Shore Chicago suburb, strives to make his restaurant an unpretentious neighborhood destination point with great food served in a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere.
“The food, décor, and size of our restaurant work together with our staff to create the ideal neighborhood dining experience,” said Paulsen.
Under his leadership, the restaurant follows the mantra “born from the love of pure flavor” and, as such, only uses the best ingredients to offer an affordable regional menu. Paulsen and his team go to great lengths to procure the best products, including local ingredients, and prepare them with respect.
Just as important as the food is the restaurant’s professional, yet warm and relaxed neighborhood décor that makes everyone feel at home. Walls feature soothing earth tones with splashes of color and creative organic finishes. Combined with the wooden bistro chairs, long banquettes, and joint tables, the restaurant has a vibrant social atmosphere.
“Every dish served is very important to me, because there are no strangers in our restaurants,” said Paulsen. “We want our customers to enjoy their food in a relaxing atmosphere, which keeps them coming back.”
To make sure patrons enjoy the atmosphere, Paulsen recognized that the appropriate lighting was essential to set the mood. In fact, the restaurant’s architect planned the dining space to have lighting play an integral role in the look and feel of the bistro. Unfortunately, Abigail’s was using antiquated incandescent lighting that was wasting energy and consistently needed replacing, even though it was providing a nice warm environment.
With her broad base of food service and hospitality experience, the restaurant manager, Cindy Jarvis, knew that the lighting played a significant role in the appearance of the upscale bistro. That’s why she wanted to preserve the look and feel of incandescent lighting.
“Our incandescent lighting created a warm and comfortable environment for our guests, which we did not want to change,” said Jarvis. “Yet, we are very energy conscious. We knew that Abigail’s needed to improve its lighting system by converting the dining room of the restaurant to LEDs without changing our friendly atmosphere.”
Preserving the atmosphere
Rather than purchasing new lighting fixtures, which could be very expensive, Jarvis determined they could switch to LEDs and maintain their atmosphere. The restaurant had existing small-aperture recessed downlights, as well as functional highlight up lights that required replacement LED lamps with similar light output, lamp size, and function. In addition, candle bulbs had to use the existing decorative wall sconces to provide decorative and functional illumination to the space.
Enter EarthTronics, Muskegon, MI, which provided Energy Star LED solutions to meet the restaurant’s criteria. Each of the products specified featured a multi-chipset high-power LED with an advanced cooling system that provides a 25,000-hr. performance life and improves lighting performance and reduces the need for ongoing maintenance and continually changing light bulbs.
To provide an exact match for the BR20 incandescent in the recessed downlights, a 7-W BR20 EarthBulb LED floodlight was selected to replace the 50-W incandescent bulbs. The luminaire provides 2700 K soft, white light with an 82 color rendering index (CRI) that maintains the warm atmosphere in keeping with the original design. In addition, the LEDs provide smooth dimming to 10% for easy lighting adjustments.
For the existing decorative wall sconces, Jarvis chose B11/BA11 candle LEDs. The 4.7-W candle-style EarthBulb LEDs provide 315 lumens and replaced 40-W incandescent candle bulbs. The clear-glass LED decorative lamps not only deliver the same soft white color and dimming characteristics as the incandescents they replace, but the B11/BA11 candle LEDs also fit the sconces and fixtures properly, maintaining the light patterns originally designed for the space.
In addition, 11-W PAR30 short-neck LEDs replaced the existing popular short-neck 75-W halogen PAR lamps. The PAR30 LEDs produce the same crisp 3000 K light with a very high 90+ CRI.
As a result of converting the lighting source in Abigail’s dinning space, the LEDs delivered more than an 80% energy savings and reduced lighting maintenance time and costs. A simple calculation suggests that annual energy savings (using a conservative $0.11/khw national rate and just 60 hours/week use) for the restaurant is more than $1,600. Its return on investment is just eight months.
“We are thrilled by the energy savings and that we don’t have to continually change out light bulbs,” said Jarvis, “Most important, our patrons continue to enjoy our great food in our familiar warm and friendly atmosphere.”
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