The 86 Repairs Guide to Restaurant Lighting

Consider this your lightbulb moment. In this Guide, we cover common restaurant lighting issues that you and your restaurant staff can address yourselves.

Welcome to another 86 Repairs Guide! In this series, we provide valuable troubleshooting, preventative maintenance, and warranty information on the equipment and infrastructure found in your restaurant. We hope this information will help you and your team become more informed about repairs and maintenance (R&M)—and save you time and money along the way.

Watt’s up with that flickering light above the best table at your restaurant? Are you in the dark about why your exterior lights don’t turn on when they should? Do your chefs constantly complain that they can’t see what they’re cooking?

Consider this your lightbulb moment. In this Guide, we’re covering common restaurant lighting issues that you and your staff can address in-house.

Table of Contents

What is restaurant lighting?

Restaurant lighting creates ambiance for customers, but it also provides visibility to back-of-house staff who are prepping food. It also creates safety for customers and staff who may be entering or leaving the restaurant during dark hours of the day.

Don’t be dim about the importance lighting has in your business. Unless it’s a schtick, your customers don’t want to eat in the dark. And it’s going to be pretty difficult for your chef to get anything out of the kitchen if they can’t see what’s on the flat top grill in front of them!

Numbers to know about restaurant electrical repair

Your restaurant lighting expenses will vary depending on your area’s electric rates, the size of your business, and just how much lighting you actually use. Of course, you don’t pay for lighting on its own—it’s wrapped in with your electrical bill.

Similarly, 86 Repairs doesn’t track work orders specifically about lighting. So here’s the data we gathered about restaurant electrical repairs in 2022:

  • Each electrician visit for our customers was about $496.56.
  • Less than 10% of all electrical issues required a second service call to be resolved. Electricians were able to fix the problem for customers 93% of the time, which is a solid first-time fix rate

Download The State of Repairs to get more valuable data about restaurant repairs and maintenance.

If your lighting isn’t working quite right, it’s a bright idea to try these troubleshooting tips before calling an electrician for service.

Troubleshooting restaurant lighting

The most important thing to check first is the bulbs themselves. Replace the bulbs in misbehaving fixtures to determine if that’s the issue before delving into deeper troubleshooting.

Next, try to identify the root cause of the lighting issue. Use these Troubleshooting restaurant electricity tips to guide your way.

If those tips don’t do the trick, take in mind these special considerations.

Fluorescent lights

The bright white lights that are overhead in kitchens? They’re most likely fluorescent lights. They provide high visibility in dimly lit interior spaces.

If multiple fluorescent light fixtures won’t work within the same space, it’s probably an issue with the breaker. Reset the corresponding breaker to be sure.

When a fluorescent light won’t turn on, even though the bulb has been replaced, the fixture’s ballast may have a problem. You’ll need to call an electrician and discuss your options for converting the fixture to LED.

LED bulbs

Speaking of LED fixtures…

These bulbs can experience issues when they’re attached to dimmer switches. If a light connected to a dimmer is flickering rapidly, either the bulb or the switch itself needs to be replaced.

Why? To account for proper interaction of electrical frequencies. Both the bulb and the switch must be compatible with dimmable LED for the light to work properly.

Exterior lights

Give customers and staff a guiding light when they come to your business in the dark of night. Because most exterior lights at restaurants are connected to timers, time changes can cause the lights to stay off for longer than they should. 

Find the timer for your exterior lights inside your restaurant, and make sure it’s reprogrammed any time the clocks move forward or backward.

If timing isn’t the reason your exterior lights won’t work,

  • Go to the timer and look for the bypass switch. Turn it to the “On” setting.
  • When the exterior lights still won’t work, either the bulbs or the circuit have a problem.
    • Toggle the breaker associated with the exterior lights.
    • Replace exterior bulbs if toggling doesn’t work.

Call an electrician or signage company for help if the timer, breaker, and bulbs are all working properly.

Parts for restaurant lighting

A licensed electrician must replace outlets, breakers, and any other part of an electrical circuit in your restaurant. One vendor invoice is a small price to pay when you consider your team could cause serious damage to the building or themselves if they try to make an electrical repair themselves.

Luckily, replacing restaurant lighting parts is much easier. Simply look at the ends of each bulb to verify specifications, then find the matching bulbs online or in store. All you need to do from there is unscrew the burnt-out bulb and replace it with something fresh off the shelves!

Keep in mind that replacing fluorescent bulbs can be a bit trickier. Turn the old bulb about 90° until you can’t turn it further. Then, pull it straight down and out of the fixture. Lift the new bulb straight into the fixture and turn it 90° until it’s locked into place.

A final note on restaurant lighting

It’s never too light to learn how to avoid a vendor visit! So get comfortable with troubleshooting electrical issues and understand which bulbs you need to have on hand to avoid spending the money to have someone do it on your behalf.

We hope by shedding light on restaurant lighting you’re able to save time and money on stressful repairs.

Similar posts


Sign up for The Breakdown

On the first day of every month, we break down common restaurant repair and maintenance issues. Get free advice in your inbox to resolve issues before equipment breaks down on you.