Lighting Tips for Restaurants: Interior Design Guide

Restaurant Lighting Fixture

An interior designer can put in hundreds of hours of hard work designing a restaurant, picking the perfect tables, comfortable chairs, shiny cutlery and high end dishware. But, if the lighting is off or inadequate, all the hard work is easily overlooked. Besides the functionality of lighting to read a menu or navigate the floorplan, proper restaurant lighting is the key to creating the right ambiance. In fact, 91% of casual dining patrons say ambiance is a top factor when picking a restaurant. From romantic, intimate lighting for a date night to fun, colorful bar lighting, there are many options to consider when planning lighting for a restaurant. Learning how to light a restaurant is a valuable, necessary skill for any interior designer. Get started with these top tips for restaurant lighting:

Set the mood.

What kind of atmosphere are you hoping to establish? It’s important to understand what type of venue your client wants you to design. What should the final effect be? Does the restaurant have a funky, eclectic feel or a modern vibe? Learning how to pick the right lighting fixtures for a restaurant depends heavily on the final result you hope to achieve. Create a relaxing atmosphere, draw the eye to places of interest or add a splash of color. Use a variety of different type of lighting: ambiance, task lighting and accent lighting. By layering lighting in a restaurant, you can create the perfect effect.

Be flexible.

Restaurant lighting should change depending on the time of day for maximum comfort and effect. Just like in your home, different lighting suits different times of the day. Bright lighting during breakfast has a necessary “wake me up” effect while low intensity restaurant lighting is best at dinner to create a relaxed atmosphere. Imagine trying to unwind after a long day under the harsh glow of a fluorescent lighting – no thanks. Consider having a dimming panel installed to get the most flexibility out of your lighting throughout the day.

Consider the function.

Similarly, different areas require different types of lighting. Lights are more than just decorative, they need to be functional. Restaurant table lighting needs to be bright enough for customers to read their menu without difficulty. Lighting a restaurant kitchen requires bright, regulation lighting while a reception desk is the perfect place for interesting accent lighting. When the restaurant closes, lights should also be able to be put on a bright setting to facilitate cleaning.

Stick to a theme.

While different styles of lighting fixtures can be interesting, it’s important to stick to a theme. Lighting shouldn’t be boring or uniform but too many different, disconnected styles can create a confused, erratic atmosphere. Neon signs, Tiffany lamps and modern drum lights all in one place: some style blends simply won’t work. Pick a couple different types of restaurant lighting fixtures that work together harmoniously to keep your restaurant lighting design vision focused.

Be creative.

Creating balanced restaurant lighting can be tricky. From harnessing natural lighting to reflected and diffused light, installing a restaurant lighting fixture is not the only way to illuminate your space. Give the illusion of light with light-colored surfaces, floor or paint. In contrast, dark surfaces seem to absorb lighting. When choosing surfaces and décor, opt for non-glossy surfaces to reduce glare and avoid annoying customers with shining light reflecting off picture frames or tabletops. Despite the considerations that go into choosing the right lighting for a restaurant, don’t feel limited. There are so many ways to be creative. Backlight the bar for a dramatic effect, use uplighting on statement art pieces or use LEDs to add interest to shelves. There’s no limit to what you can do.

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