7 Ideas For Great Lighting In a Restaurant

As you design the layout and other elements of your restaurant, lighting design is equally as important. In this article, we’ll discuss hotel restaurant lighting and how to incorporate it into your planning.

Modern restaurant interior lighting

Why Do You Need Good Lighting in a Restaurant?

Restaurants are first and foremost a task-based area. People come there to dine with partners and friends, often making it a social experience as well. Proper restaurant diner lighting is important to both make it easier to see while eating and make interactions more comfortable and natural.

Restaurant light fixtures can also be used to create a mood and adhere to your restaurant’s brand. Some dining areas benefit from a dark, moody atmosphere, while lights for café style restaurants tend to be brighter and cheerier.

When it comes to each individual table, having good task lighting is equally as important as the restaurant ambience and lighting. Even in a darker restaurant, pendant lights hanging over tables to light up the dining area can make eating more enjoyable.


What Are Some of The Latest Restaurant Lighting Trends?

Modern restaurant lighting trends to ebb and flow like any other style trend. Lately, there have been a few elements of lighting design that stand out among the others.


  • HANGING PENDANT LIGHTS – Restaurant ceiling lights that hang down above the tables and in the aisles are growing increasingly popular. They are well-suited for those wanting to create a cozier feel in their restaurants.

Restaurant lighting fixtures that hang from a chain are especially in style lately. Hanging them high up or low above the tabletops can drastically change the look and feel of your establishment.

  • TRACK LIGHTING – Another popular type of diner ceiling light is track lighting. Track fixtures are light heads that sit on a track. They can usually be tilted and turned to shine light in the direction of your choice.

These are especially popular in restaurants with a bar area. In fine dining restaurants, they are used to draw attention to certain elements of the space, such as centrepieces, artwork and architectural nuances.

  • CHANDELIER LIGHTING – In high end, luxury restaurants, chandelier lighting is seeing a comeback. These elegant lights can add sophistication to the restaurant and elevate its opulent feel.
  • MENU LIGHTING – LED lighting for restaurants extends well past ambient and task lighting. Incorporating accent lighting with lights near wall menus is a super trendy way to dress up your restaurant.


What is The Best Colour Temperature Lighting To Use in a Restaurant?

When considering your LED lights for restaurant areas, colour temperature is an important element. Colour temperature refers to a light and its cool or warm tones.

These tones exist on a spectrum of Kelvin units ranging from 1,000k to 10,000k. The higher you climb on the scale, the cooler the lights are. Some of the most popular colour temperatures include:

  • 2500k extra warm white light
  • 2700k warm white light
  • 3000k warm white or white light
  • 3500k white light
  • 4000k cool white light
  • 6500k daylight


When it comes to your restaurant, there are two main lighting areas you need to consider: the dining area and the kitchen.

The kitchen is a place that needs bright, vivid and cool lighting to allow chefs to more easily see as they prepare meals. It is recommended to have lights between 3,000k and 4,000k for restaurant kitchen lighting.

In terms of the dining area, it will depend on the kind of vibe you want to convey. If you want the space to be warm, cosy and intimate, you can choose lights ranging from 2,500k to 3,500k. If you prefer something brighter and more cheerful, then 3,500k to 4,500k would benefit you instead.

LED colour temperature guide

How To Use Wall Lights in a Restaurant 

Wall lights for restaurant dining areas can elevate the overall look and feel of the space while also making it easier for guests to see. You can incorporate wall lights in a number of different ways, such as:


  • AMBIENT LIGHT – Choose ambient lights with frosted glass or other diffusing elements to offer even and soft illumination throughout the entire dining area.


  • DECORATIVE ELEMENTS – Wall lights, especially wall-washer lights, can create a decorative look in and of themselves. You can also use them to highlight certain areas of the dining area, such as architectural features or artwork.


  • ILLUMINATE VARIOUS DINING ZONES – With wall sconces, you can separate the dining tables from the rest of the restaurant.


  • TASK LIGHTS – By installing wall sconces near areas such as server stations and bars, you can provide focused task lighting where patrons and staff need it most.


How To Use Pendant Lighting in a Restaurant

Commercial lighting for restaurants primarily centres around the customer experience. One of the most popular fixtures in a restaurant are pendant lights. You can use them in a number of different ways.


  • DINING TABLE STATEMENT LIGHTS – Pendant lights hanging over dining tables can create visual interest and a focal point that fits in with the restaurant’s decor and theme. They will also provide task lighting for dining.


  • CHOOSE ADJUSTABLE HEIGHTS – Opt for a pendant light whose height you can customise. Then, you can hang them as high or as low as you like to achieve the desired effect.


  • LIGHTING BARS AND COUNTERS – Pendant lights hanging over the counters and bars give decorative but functional lighting for customers and bartenders alike. They can also contribute to the ambience of the space and attract guests toward the bar.


  • HANGING PENDANT CLUSTERS – Hanging more than one pendant in little bunches will not only ensure ample lighting but can also enhance the appearance of the dining space itself.


  • DIMMABLE PENDANT LIGHTS – With dimmable lights, you can adjust the lighting level throughout the day to suit the mood of the moment.

modern restaurant lighting with large pendant lights

How To Light Outdoor Spaces in a Restaurant

Outdoor restaurant lighting is just as important as the interior lighting of your restaurant. Restaurant lamps placed outdoors can make the restaurant more appealing from the street and make it easier for guests to see as they approach the building.

To make the outdoor space safer and more secure, you can install lights along any pathways leading up to the restaurant. You can also install pendant lights or wall sconces near the entryway of the establishment.

You may also want to consider a well-lit car park. This can deter vandals while also making every area on your property safer and more comfortable for guests.

If you have outdoor seating, you can apply a lot of the same design elements and restaurant lamps there as you would indoors. This includes lights hanging over dining tables, wall lights for ambience and ground lights to illuminate pathways.


How To Create Ambience When Lighting a Restaurant

Minimalist lighting designs often lend themselves to a nice ambient feel that you can easily incorporate into your restaurant. Below are a few tips on creating ambience with restaurant lighting:


  • CHOOSE THE RIGHT PLACEMENT – If you want to create a more romantic feel, you can use under lighting. This includes lights under bars, cabinets and other such fixtures. This provides a softer and more flattering light for diners to enjoy their time at your establishment.

Conversely, if you want lighting to be centre stage, you can make it more obvious with hanging lights above tables and bars.

  • USE NATURAL LIGHTING – If your restaurant has a lot of windows, you can use that to your advantage. Plan your lighting around the existing natural light that is present during the daytime and early evening.


  • CONSIDER THE MOOD – If you want to make a moodier, more atmospheric space, it is recommended that you choose lights with a lower colour temperature.


  • COMPLEMENT THE DECOR – Be sure to choose lights that work well with the existing decor of the rest of the restaurant.


Why LEDs Are the Best Choice for a Restaurant

LED lights are the most commonly used type of lighting for restaurant environments. There are many reasons why they are the preferred lighting style, including:


  • ENERGY EFFICIENT – LED lights use most of their energy as light instead of turning it to heat the way traditional bulbs do. Better use of energy can cut costs on your energy bills.


  • NO HEAT OUTPUT – Without any heat being generated, the bulbs stay cool to the touch, which is important for customer safety. This may also create a more comfortable dining environment.


  • ECO FRIENDLY – Restaurant lighting with LED bulbs will be easier on the environment due to the substantially smaller amount of energy they use. This can help you reduce your restaurant’s carbon footprint as well.


  • LONG LIFE – LEDs are able to last for 20,000 hours at the minimum. This will allow you to purchase them with reduced frequency, saving you money on the bulbs themselves.


  • VERSATILITY – LED lights allow you to choose the colour temperature and brightness, so you can stay in control of the atmosphere of your restaurant.


Unlike traditional halogen bulbs, for instance, they output most of their energy as light instead of heat. Not only can this save you big on energy bills, but it can make the restaurant more comfortable for guests.

Using LED light bulbs in the lamps at the table instead of halogen can limit the amount of heat that is generated at their tables to keep quests from feeling too hot. Since there won’t be multiple bulbs out-putting heat into the air, you won’t be overworking your air conditioning system, meaning lower energy bills in that regard, too.


  • COLOUR OPTIONS. Unlike other bulbs that tend to only go one way or the other, LED lights allow you to choose the colour temperature you’d like to shine.
  • LONG LASTING. Because LED lights tend to have a minimum life of 20,000 hours, you won’t have to constantly be changing the bulbs. Compare this to standard halogen lights that tend to burn out after only 1,000 hours of use. This means spending less money on replacement bulbs or having contractors come in to change the bulbs in more complex lighting systems in the restaurant.


Top 10 Tips for Lighting a Restaurant and Bar

Below, we’ll lay out some of the tips you should be able to benefit from the most when it comes to your bar and restaurant lighting.


  1. Layer the Lighting

No matter what kind of system you are designing, from hotel restaurant lighting to domestic lighting and everything in between, layered lighting is crucial. It is not enough to just have one kind of lighting in a space if you want it to be able to reach its full visual potential.

Instead, you should look to incorporate all three of the main types of lighting: ambient lighting, task lighting and accent lighting.


  • Ambient lighting will serve as the main light source in the room. It is something that can be created using either natural light or downlighters on the ceiling. Ambient light will shine over a greater area of space to allow guests to move around easily and to see well. This type of light is excellent for restaurants, bars and breweries of all kinds.
  • Task lighting lets staff members and customers alike perform various actions with greater ease. This can mean everything from preparing food to reading menus. This sort of lighting is typically supplied by hanging lamps over tables and food preparation stations. It is also commonly seen in the form of a small lamp placed on the hostess stand.
  • Accent lighting is where the mood lighting of your restaurant comes in. If you have a particularly beautiful architectural feature that makes your restaurant stand out, accent lights can show it off. These lights can also be decorative in and of themselves, standing out as an artistic feature wherever they may be.


  1. Light Area by Area

Not every space in your restaurant is used for the same purpose. It makes sense, then, that you should be lighting each portion according to the way the space will be used.


  • TABLE LIGHTING. Tables will need to be bright enough to easily see the menus and to see one another. Strike a balance between bright and visible and low and intimate to create a private little area that doesn’t have glaring lights. Oftentimes, you will see a soft light with a diffuser in short LED pendant lights.
  • SEATING AND RECEPTION AREA. This area should be a bit brighter than the rest of the restaurant and can benefit from LED ceiling lights and LED wall lights. Ceiling lighting will provide the ambient light the space needs, while wall lights make up for any shadows cast by it. This will make the reception area more inviting. Accent lights are beneficial for this area, as they will give guests something to look at while they wait.
  • KITCHEN LIGHTING. Lighting in the back of the establishment should be bright and illuminating. Use cool lights with high lumen counts but be sure the lighting does not bleed over into the front of the establishment where the guests are.
  • FOCAL POINTS. Using accent lighting, you can draw attention to the different areas in the restaurant that stand out visually. LED track lighting is best used in these areas, especially if you are displaying works of art or photographs.

restaurant lighting with pendant lights over the tables

  1. Change Lighting Throughout the Day

As the day wears on, levels of light naturally change. Even if you don’t have a lot of natural lighting in the area, you can change the brightness of the light by using dimmer switches.


  • BREAKFAST LIGHTING. Bright lights are recommended for early morning hours, especially light that mimics daylight. It is good for allowing guests to wake up for the day, read the newspaper and so on.
  • LUNCH LIGHTING. Moderate light levels are ideal for this time of day.
  • DINNER LIGHTING. During this time, low lighting that is able to intensify the mood and atmosphere of the restaurant is best. Doing so creates a more intimate environment and won’t feel harsh on the eyes when guests come in from the dark later in the day.


  1. Don’t Overlook Outdoor Lighting

Guests don’t want to walk up to a dingy-looking restaurant that has barely any lighting outside. Instead, use the outdoor space to install exterior light that sets the tone for the interior. There are a variety of outdoor lights and ways you can use them to lead guests to the door and enhance the look of your establishment.

LED wall lighting, ground lights, soffit lights and low level lighting on the steps can not only beautify the restaurant’s exterior; it can also make it feel safer and easier to navigate.


  1. Choose the Right Colour Temperature

LED lights are known to have colour temperatures. These temperatures are indicated in units Kelvin. The higher the Kelvin rating, the cooler the light; the lower the Kelvin rating, the warmer the light. For example, warm white lights around 3000k to 3300k are gentle on the eyes but still bright enough to see, making them ideal for the area of the restaurant where guests will be dining.

On the other hand, cool white lights such as 6000k colour temperatures are often bright and sometimes harsh in the wrong environment. They are better suited for use in the back of the establishment where the staff is working and cooking. Colour temperature matters in any environment, and this is especially true in restaurants where you want to set a mood. Be sure you use the right colour temperatures in the right environment for best results.


  1. Modernise the Lights

If you want to make an impression on your guests, the appearance of the lights matters as much as the bulbs. Lighting gives you an opportunity to decorate your restaurant using fixtures that stand out. Depending on the appearance and style of your brand, you can invest in sleek lights that are simplistic and metallic or go bold and play with colours for contrast.

Light fixtures come in many shapes, sizes and styles, so you can choose statement lights that draw the eye or elegant, smaller lights that add up visually when used across each table.


  1. Invest in Energy Saving Lights

No matter how many hours a day your restaurant is open, you are going to be running lights for most of it. If you want to save as much as possible on your energy bills, investing in energy saving, low energy lighting is a must. LED bulbs are naturally energy saving, outputting most of the energy as illumination instead of heat like some other bulbs.

Not only can this save you money on electricity bills but can also make the restaurant more comfortable by limiting the amount of heat your guests have to endure.


  1. Consider the CRI

Much like you should be thinking about the colour temperature of a light, you should also opt for a colour rendering index that accurately reflects the colour of the food. If you’ve ever put on a shirt in a store only for it to look different after you step out into the sun, you already are aware of the importance of colour indexing.

If you want your food to be accurately represented both on a menu and on a plate, proper CRI is important.


  1. Add Some Diffusers

The light that sits over your guest tables is perhaps the most crucial of all. If you want your guests to have a good dining experience and come back again, they need to be comfortable. While having a darker restaurant atmosphere with low lighting can evoke the feeling of fine dining, if it is too dark, it can be difficult to see. At the same time, you don’t want it to be overly bright.

Adding lights that have diffusers can help soften the light and spread it out more easily across the tables.


  1. Stick With Your Brand

Lighting is used to set a mood. If you want to evoke a certain feeling in a restaurant or promote a type of atmosphere, the lighting you choose matters. For example, if your restaurant is quirky and modern, using colourful, eye-catching bulbs with a lighter colour can help create a modern and light-hearted mood. If you prefer your restaurant to be a romantic dining destination, warmer lights at a lower level can create that feeling.


How Lighting in a Restaurant Helps To Make a Good First Impression

Lighting in a restaurant makes an impression both indoors and out. The exterior lighting gives guests an idea of the restaurant before they even step into it. It can make or break their first impression just while walking up to the door.

Once inside, if the transitional lighting is too bright or too dull, it can make guests feel uncomfortable and may even have them turning to leave. If you want it to feel romantic and intimate for guests coming on a date, you don’t want bright, harsh lighting that may have them thinking second thoughts, for example. Fast food restaurants, on the other hand, can benefit from brighter lights, as this will give the impression of a bright, open and speedy environment.


Why You Must Also Consider Lighting in a Restaurant Kitchen

Before the food ever makes it to the guests, it must be prepared in the kitchen. For this reason, this type of lighting cannot be overlooked. Proper ambient and task lighting in the kitchen is paramount to the staff being able to do their jobs, from preparing the food itself to cleaning the dishes spotlessly afterward. It is recommended that the task lighting in this space be a cool colour, around 6000k, to make it easier to work by.


Why Your Lighting Must Match the Style of Your Restaurant

If you choose lighting that goes against the mood of your restaurant, it may impact the dining experience of the guests. Using the example of romantic dining, guests expect to come into a restaurant that is low lit and intimate more often than not. If your lights are cool, bright and glaring, it can completely ruin the atmosphere that they were hoping to enjoy.

On the other hand, if your restaurant and bar are advertised as an upbeat sports bar-style establishment but the lights are low enough to look like candlelight, this can rob guests of the light-hearted and casual dining style they were hoping for when they chose your restaurant.


Should You Use Dimmer Switches on Restaurant Lighting?

Dimmer switches are an excellent way to maintain the mood of the restaurant throughout the course of the day. Without them, you can expect your lights to remain at the same brightness from breakfast to dinner, which goes against the way light naturally grows and wanes during the day. By not using dimmer switches, you run the risk of having uncomfortably bright lights at night as well, which can ruin the atmosphere of the restaurant.


Modern Restaurant Lighting Ideas


  1. LSL001 Square 1 Watt Recessed LED Wall Light

lsl001 1 watt square recessed stair lights indoor

Light up the pathways of your restaurant with the LSL001 Square 1 Watt Recessed LED Wall Light. This low level light features a square-shaped fixture that recesses into the wall and shines light down at a slight angle. It outputs 70 lumens of 3200k warm white light, which makes it ideal for staggering multiples near indoor staircases. The light measures 48 millimeters by 48 millimeters in size and comes in a brushed aluminium finish.


  1. LWA427 3 Watt Wall Washer Interior Wall Light

LWA427 3 watt modern wall mounted uplighters

Create mood and atmosphere with the LWA427 3 Watt Wall Washer Interior Wall Light. The fixture washes illumination up and onto the wall behind it, creating a decorative look. It outputs a total of 300 lumens of 3000k warm white light from its head that can be turned and tilted, so you can direct the light at any angle. The fixture is crafted out of high quality aluminium and is finished in your choice of black or white. The product measures 182 millimeters by 80 millimeters.


  1. LPL364 5 Watt Hanging LED Pendant Light

LPL364 5 watt handing LED pendant ceiling light fixture

Light up dining tables and bar tops with the LPL364 5 Watt Hanging LED Pendant Light. The pendant light hangs down from a 2000-millimeter drop cable, so you can dictate the height at which it hangs. It features a stylish, modern lamp shade in your choice of gold, black or white finishes. The durable aluminium pendant light measures 148 millimeters in diameter by 200 millimeters high and shines 400 lumens of 3000k warm white light at a 30-degree beam angle.


  1. LPL410 15 Watt Linear LED Pendant Light

LPL410-BK 15 watt hanging linear LED pendant ceiling light

Make a trendy modern statement over your bartop with the LPL410 15 Watt Linear LED Pendant Light. This pendant light features a total of five bulbs arranged in a linear fashion. They work together to generate a total of 1500 lumens of 3000k warm white light with a colour rendering index of 97. The durable fixture is crafted out of premium aluminium and comes in your choice of either white or black. The shade measures 900 millimeters in length by 110 millimeters in width and hangs from a 2000-millimeter drop cable.


  1. LDC727 20 Watt 2000 Lumen Recessed Anti Glare LED Downlight

LDC727 20 watt linear anti glare ceiling downlight

Bring modern recessed lighting into your space without any of the glare using the LDC727 20 Watt 2000 Lumen Recessed Anti Glare LED Downlight. This light features 10 bulbs recessed into the fixture in such a way that does not cause glare when you look at it. Instead, the design pools 2000 lumens of 3000k warm white light down onto the surface below it at a 24-degree beam angle. This fixture is built to last out of top quality aluminium that is finished in white with a black internal reflector. Overall, it measures 285 millimeters by 46 millimeters.


  1. LSP705 5 Watt Adjustable Surface Mounted LED Downlight

LSP705 5 watt adjustable surface mounted LED spotlight

Perfect for task and ambient lighting alike, the LSP705 5 Watt Adjustable Surface Mounted LED Downlight is a versatile downlight for any bar or restaurant. The sleek, compact light features a movable head that can be twisted 350 degrees and tilted 90 degrees to shine the light right where you want it. The fixture outputs 430 lumens of 3000k warm white light that shines at a 24-degree beam angle and is built to last from premium aluminium and comes in either black or white.


  1. LWA383 Round 6 Watt Outdoor LED Wall Light

LWA383 6 watt round exterior LED wall lights

Light up your restaurant’s outdoor space with the LWA383 Round 6 Watt Outdoor LED Wall Light. This wall light is round in shape with a durable aluminium exterior and an opal acrylic diffuser. The fixture shines 600 lumens of 3000k warm white light through the diffuser to soften and spread the illumination. This IP65 rated light is made to withstand exposure to the elements outdoors. The light measures 150 millimeters in diameter with an 80-millimeter projection from the wall.

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