Mike Hardin doesn’t own a computer and openly admits his personal understanding of technology is stuck in the ’70s. But that didn’t stop him, as owner of the iconic burger joint Hodad’s in San Diego, from completely refurbishing his restaurant with LED lights to prove to the industry the viability of energy-saving light bulbs.

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) approached Hodad’s about 10 years ago with the experiment: the company would sponsor Hodad’s, at no cost to the restaurant, to install LEDs into existing troffers with no additional retrofitting, thus reducing Hodad’s utility costs. Hardin says he was all for it.

“When SDG&E came in and did their thing years ago, no pun intended, the light bulb went off in my head,” Hardin says. “It was like, ‘Oh wow! Here’s another avenue that can save money and help the future.’”

The results were immediate. Hodad’s electric bill was slimmed by more than half, and the LEDs provided superior lighting. They were, in fact, so efficient in the kitchen at Hodad's downtown location that Hardin says only half the bulbs need to be screwed in at any one time, which doubles the longevity of the kitchen’s luminosity.

“It just doesn’t make sense to me anymore to screw in a light bulb that’s going to cost me a lot more in energy and not do much better than the bulb that saves energy,” he says. “I would suggest that people do this. It’s a no-brainer to do this right.”

Even before the SDG&E project, Hardin says he had always been passionate about sustainability.

“When I learned about Styrofoam and what it does to our environment, it was easy to not use that,” he says. “I’m not necessarily a tree hugger, but I do care about my environment.”

Hodad’s customers have completely overlooked the lighting in the restaurant—and that is exactly how Hardin wants it. It gives them time to enjoy the burgers, which were featured on an episode of Guy Fieri’s Food Network show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.”

“If [customers] came in and it was too bright, they would notice that,” Hardin explains. “Or if the lighting wasn’t right to be able to read their menus and they’re having to adjust it to the light, they would notice that. My customers think absolutely nothing [of the light], and that’s exactly what I want.”

By Sonya Chudgar

Back of House, Burgers, Finance, News, Operations, Restaurant Operations, Sustainability, Hodad's