Organic light-emitting diodes use a layer of semiconductor material to create a non-glaring light that is easy on the eyes. This type of LED panel lighting could replace traditional bulbs and lamps in the future, Young said. Whole walls, parts of walls or ceilings could be lit up as the main light source in a space.

"It's the kind of light you might see when you see the photos of those white-washed homes in Greece and the sun gently pouring in over them," he said. "It's a bright future . . . literally."

Integrating Lighting Design

Doing more with less is the name of the game in the next generation of LED (solid-state) lighting. "You can get 30,000 hours of light from 30 incandescent lightbulbs or from a single LED bulb," Young said. It takes $50 a year to light five fixtures with regular bulbs, or an entire room with one LED light. Constantly replacing incandescent bulbs takes time and effort, but LED bulbs can last for five years or more. The money is in the payback, Young said.

Still, integrating 2012 technology into a 1980 lighting platform brings its challenges. Lighting is very application specific, which means the most efficient and effective lighting designs typically include a mixture of different types of lamps. While hiring a lighting designer is the best route, and one that McDonald's, Chipotle and other leading brands have traveled, foodservice operators can take a number of basic steps to improve their lighting.

First, Young said, "I would look to replace all T12 lights." Next, he recommends installing cheap, easy compact fluorescents on menu boards, in walk-in coolers and for other small applications. Track lighting in the dining room would be a great place for incorporating LED lights, Young said. For something decorative (like a painting) or for use over a table, a good quality MR16 might work, but the LED replacement MR16s would work better over wine bottles and other products at the bar to prevent excess heat and damage. And, of course, creating more windows in new building projects to draw in more natural light saves energy and enhances mood.

At Bridges Restaurant in Danville, Calif., which worked with the FSTC to overhaul its lighting platform for better energy efficiency, LEDs were used for large circular lighting fixtures in the ceiling of the main room. As a result, Young said, "we ended up using less lamps overall so it became a great retrofit. We put 12-watt LED lamps instead of traditional 60-watt lamps in the front and the 100-watt lamps on the line. We also screwed in some high-quality LEDs instead of regular incandescents in the pendant lamps with glass coverings that hang over the bar." With rebates, the restaurant was able to save $40 per lamp.

In fact, Young said, efficient lighting in this sense is like an "80 percent off sale." If you replace a 60-watt lamp with a 12-watt LED, that's a savings of five to one, he said.

Even working with our natural needs as humans can lead not only to better quality light, but also to more efficient lighting systems as a whole, again using fewer lamps overall. Young pointed out how notable lighting designer Derry Berrigan, principal of sustainable lighting design firm DB Power of 3, has worked with a variety of restaurant chains and institutions to achieve this effect. Working with McDonald's, Berrigan implemented a lighting system that changes often to work with the natural receptors in our eyes and with our brain's desire and need to experience different light fields over the course of a day. By using a combination of natural lighting and changing ambient light, foodservice operators have the ability to manipulate indoor light to more closely mimic outdoor light to enhance customers' moods.

"Do you ever wonder why you feel so wonderful when you are outside, and can see the late afternoon sun changing and the different shadows and why we feel so crummy when we're stuck in a building for long periods of time?" Young said. "We have natural receptors in our eyes that look for blue light in the middle of daytime. If you stay in a room and never see the light of day, this can affect your circadian rhythm. Research has shown that shift workers who stay up working in artificial light suffer from depression and other sicknesses."

Energy Management and Lighting

Hooking up these new LED lamps with dimming and energy management systems to control light during periods of peak and nonpeak use further enhances energy savings. Dimming integration might be the easiest first step, Young said, but as more operators — chains in particular — look toward energy management systems as a way to have a more complete view of their kitchens as a whole, including monitoring ventilation and cooking equipment performance, lighting will enter the equation.

That means if a prep cook comes in at 8 a.m. and works only in one space, there is no need for all of the kitchen lights to be on at once. Simply separating track lighting into different switches can create a demand-controlled lighting setup, comparable to demand-controlled ventilation.

Other simple adjustments, like occupancy sensors in the bathrooms, offices and at the back of the house to accommodate peak and nonpeak hours, can add up to additional savings. Task lighting (lights placed directly over different workstations in the kitchen) can be turned on and off by staff according to use; this helps to save energy and money.