Drive-Thru Lighting

As any business owner knows, every business type has its own unique lighting needs. The right lighting can make or break your business in the eyes of customers. When it comes to drive-thru lighting at a restaurant, you need the right solutions in place to make this aspect of your business inviting, safe, and pleasing to attract sales. This is also an area of your business where lighting is layered or broken into several sections. Let's take a look at each component of successful drive-thru lighting to make sure your restaurant draws in customers for a quick grab and go meal.

drive thru at night

Guiding Lights

One of the most crucial aspects of successful drive-thru lighting is having the right street or pathway lamps to guide customers through the area. When it comes to the right guiding lamps for this area, you can add the same overhead lighting as the rest of the parking lot for a cohesive look that provides maximum brightness or you can rely on a mixture of parking lot lighting and walkway bollards in the landscaping to help mark the road for your customers. The key here is that whatever fixture you choose for this aspect, it should act as a marker and guide the customer while providing safety lighting for proper visibility for those early morning breakfast or late dinner guests of the restaurant. Make sure the lighting fixtures chosen are capable of producing superior quality light spread with minimal glares on windshields, service windows, or menu boards. For example, LED cobra head street lamps with LED bollards along the path in the same color temperature is a great combination for this unique area. You want to keep the same color temperature as much as possible throughout the entirety of the space to ensure a comfortable experience on the eyes. This is especially important when driving in the dark in such a confined space.

Safety Lighting

Since most restaurant layouts have a drive which wraps almost halfway around the building to allow for more cars to fit in line, there will most likely be a back door area included in the lighting needs of the drive-thru lighting plan. The back door is an important and often concerning part of this business type. This is the place where deliveries come in and trash goes outside which leaves it vulnerable to crime, theft, and accidents. It's important to make sure the lighting for this area is adequate and appropriate. A good idea, aside from your parking lot lights, is an overhead wall pack fixture. These can be mounted directly above the door on the exterior of the building to provide extra illumination over this important area.

Safety lighting is also about lighting the parking lot overall, which includes the drive-thru. You want to make sure you carefully plan out the right spacing of fixtures such as parking light poles to avoid shadowy areas in between the poles, as well as making sure the general lumen output is ideal for the size of the parking lot. Even if the drive-thru is well lit and inviting, no customer wants to drive onto a dark and potentially dangerous lot to get to the drive through so it's important to consider the overall impact lighting in the parking lot can have on your business.


Another important element of drive-thru lighting is making sure any customer walkways adjacent to this area are well lit with proper lighting. Many drive-thru lane exits are near an entrance for pedestrians to enter the building. This is why it's important to provide ample lighting to avoid a driver exiting the lane accidentally hitting a pedestrian in the parking lot due to poor visibility. There are a few ways to make sure the driver is aware of any pedestrians through the use of lighting. For starters, make sure the overhead parking lot lighting is sufficient as well as any lights over traffic signs such as pedestrian walkway signs. You should also make sure sidewalks leading to the door are clearly illuminated either by overhead lighting or walkway bollards to ensure proper visibility for drivers.

Menu Boards

There are many types of menu boards on the scene for restaurants. While some use specialized digital screens, many menu boards use lamps placed behind the thin sheets of plastic which display menu items. This area needs to be well lit to allow customers to quickly and easily find the items they are looking to order. If you have the type of menu board which uses individual lamps to illuminate the menu board, there are a few tips which can make this area successful. For starters, make sure all the lamps are the same color temperature. Nothing is more displeasing to the eye than one part of the menu being cool white in its back lighting and another area being a yellow tinge. Secondly, opting for LED is a good bet for this area. The menu inserts of thin plastic are susceptible to heat which can cause bleaching of the colorful elements of the menu as well as lead to cracking. The menu is the first impression a customer gets of your food so you want it to look its best! LED is a no heat option which means the menu board will stay cool and pleasing to the eye over time.

Canopy/Window Awning Area

It is also important to make sure the window areas where customer pay and receive their meals are well lit. There are two reasons these areas should remain well lit: the safety of your employees and the perceived reputation of your establishment in the eyes of customers. With well-lit window areas, you create a clean, welcoming environment for customers and also help deter crimes such as robberies happening at the cashier's window. A few good ideas for this area include wall sconces, overhead wall packs, and directional lighting. The goal is to make the space bright and inviting for employees and customers alike.