When I walk into The Cheesecake Factory, I experience a few strong feelings in this exact order: extreme excitement, disorientation, and slight annoyance.

My anticipation of way too much delicious food is temporarily forgotten because when I walk into the restaurant, it's like I just walked into Hollister — I can't see anything. Once my eyes readjust to the dark lighting, I become a bit frustrated because I know that I'll be struggling to see my dinner and my friends.

The Question

This got me thinking: why do restaurants keep the lighting so dim? The Cheesecake Factory is definitely not the only restaurant that does this. Red Lobster and P.F. Chang's are two restaurants that also keep the lights down low. I get that restaurants are going for ambiance, but once you reach a certain point of darkness, it's kind of ridiculous.

Sure, dim lighting is romantic, but I think it would be more romantic to stare at my boyfriend's face in full lighting so that I can appreciate how dang good-looking he is.

 As a foodie, good lighting makes for the perfect Instagram shot, which is much appreciated. In the same token, it's also nice to be able to, I dunno, actually see your food and all of its delicious glory. Or, if you're at a questionable restaurant, it would be good to be able to check for dirty silverware and bugs. Ya never know.

The Answer

noodle, macaroni, vegetable, sauce, spaghetti, pasta
Daniel Schulman

Here's what it really comes down to though: studies have shown that eating in a dimly lit restaurant can cause you to not only eat more, but also can cause you to make more unhealthy decisions.

The Cornell University Food and Brand Lab discovered that people who eat in dimmer lit environments are more likely to order fried foods, desserts, and overall less healthy meals.

The research team surveyed 160 restaurant customers who collectively dined at 4 different chain restaurants. They found that people who ate at brighter-lit restaurants were 16%-24% more likely to be health conscious, ordering baked instead of fried, for example.

Their counterparts, all dining in dim-lit restaurants, ordered 39% more calories during their meal. These results cause researchers to believe that dim-lit environments lower our inhibitions. Mental awareness becomes more relaxed, which causes people to order less healthy meals.

No RiRi, I'm not kidding you. The Cheesecake Factory is the perfect example of this. How many times have you walked in there insistent on ordering off of their Skinnylicious menu, only to sit down and order a record-setting sized plate of pasta? I have, more times than I can count. Thank you, ambiance.

Despite all of this, dim lighting has one saving grace: it causes you to eat slower. When you eat slower, you're consuming less of the dish but enjoying more of it. At the end of the night, you just might end up with a takeout box full of goodies.

Look at you, eating amazing food, being (somewhat) health conscious, defeating ambiance. You don't need those bright lights to be a strong, independent foodie.