Lighting Design

Proper Restaurant Illumination

Restaurant Lighting Design

Illuminating your Restaurant for Success

“Lighting in restaurants is the first thing interior designers get wrong” – Raimundo Gaby, professor of business management at the Culinary Institute of America.

The atmosphere in a Restaurant is created with construction, paint on the walls, decorations, etc. However, to see them, you need light; without proper lighting design, these things are useless. When creating a lighting design in a Restaurant, you need  to take a unique approach. Forget about what you know about residential lighting design or office lighting design. This application is very different, and thus requires a different approach. Also, each Restaurant has its atmosphere and unique needs that must to be accommodated in the lighting design. Lighting can add that final special touch to the Restaurant.

What’s on the Menu?

The type of cuisine you will serve in the Restaurant will impact the general design the most. You want to create a design that will highlight the culture.

Who are your Customers?

People are the center of this business. Consider the type of Restaurant and its clientele. For example, fast food establishments will be designed differently than luxury restaurants. That will also affect the time of operation hours and needs within the lighting design. Fast food will need a more straightforward lighting application than a luxury restaurant.

Factors that influence lighting design in a Restaurant

What is the layout of your Restaurant?

How many windows do you have? What is the view from the windows? Where will the furniture be located? Are you planning to create a closed area for private events? It would help if you had all the layout plan before approaching lighting design.

Balancing the Aesthetic, Energy Consumption, & Practicality

If debating an investment in Lighting Design, just read a piece of the Cambridge University publication: “The effect of light on appetite in healthy young individuals.”

Appetite is controlled by a complex mechanism of hormones, neurotransmitters and neuropeptides both centrally or peripherally within the body. Few studies have demonstrated the effect of light in human subjects in modulating appetite. Light has been associated with a reduction in leptin(Reference Kalsbeek, Fliers and Romijin1) and an increase in ghrelin(Reference Yildiz, Suchard and Wong2), both hormones associated with appetite. Light also influences melatonin which has been reported to be involved in appetite control in animals(Reference Piccinetti, Migliarini and Olivotto3) 

This article demonstrates a great reason to invest in lighting design. In the end it will also affect the success of your business.

What Types of Lighting are Installed in Restaurants

Before I explain what lights are usually installed in restaurants. I want to mention one crucial element. Lighting Control Systems. A lighting control system is a must to create a magical atmosphere in the evening or energized environment for breakfasts and lunches.

Pendant lights

Fixtures hang from the ceiling and can be placed above the islands, reception areas, and some tables. Pendant lights will provide suitable light for Restaurant’s employees and clients, so they can read menus and see tables.

Ceiling Fans

You can have light and air circulation by utilizing the same fixture. Suitable for outdoor and indoor applications.

Wall Sconces

Accent lighting. Except for bathrooms and vanity lights, those lights will be great next to pictures.


Great for upper-class bars and luxurious restaurants. It will help create feelings of elegance and sophistication. Chandeliers use multiple lams, so depending on the size, it can either use an accent, decorative or ambient lighting.

Track Lighting

Track lighting will highlight an area’s best features and act as accent lighting. The best thing about track lighting is that the position of the track head can be adjusted throughout the day to illuminate different areas.

LED Lighting

Extremely cost and energy-efficient solution. This is an upcoming trend in interior design. Because LED bulbs are brighter than other lighting sources, they will be ideal for bars, breweries, and restaurants open from the early morning into or even throughout the night. LED lamps can be installed in pendant fixtures and wall scones, be integrated as part of recessed lighting, or be installed as an LED-type light around the bar’s countertop.

Recessed Lighting

These fixtures are installed in a hall opening in the ceiling and provide general lights. They are usually dimmable. Now you know what lights can be installed in your Restaurant. Remember to clarify the Restaurant’s layout, clientele, cuisine, and operating hours. The questions from the article’s beginning will help you do this.

Lighting your Restaurant Throughout the Day

The best lighting solution will vary for different times of the day. Natural light changes outside, so artificial lighting inside should change as well. I will provide some tips for lighting depending on the time of the day for your business:

Morning Lighting

If your Restaurant does most of the business early in the day. Creating lighting that will mirror morning sunlight is the best solution. Soft white colors and yellow hues will create a welcoming atmosphere for your clients.

Afternoon Lighting

This is a more complex application, as lighting afternoon changes rapidly. That said, afternoon lights should be manipulated from warm temperatures to bright lights. Make sure you are using lights that can be dimmed.

Night Lighting

Accent lights are the best for business that operates mainly in the late hours of the day. Especially bars that require darker lighting to create a relaxing feeling. The same rule will apply to restaurants and breweries. Accent lights will let you illuminate chosen areas, keeping most of the space darker.

Patrycja Glod Lighting Design Engineer

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