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Tips to get your restaurant's lighting right

Do you have a restaurant, bar or café and wonder how you can give it a special touch? Did you know that lighting is one of the most important aspects of designing a restaurant business? A good lighting design can transform not only the space, but also the experience of your customers. Remember that they are the ones who will rate you well on networks and recommend you to their friends.


Below, we reveal the best ideas for balancing the aesthetic desire to create a unique and distinctive atmosphere with the practical need for a functional space that integrates with your business. You will discover:

... which criteria you should consider when planning lighting.

... the optimal lighting of the various spaces: entrance, terrace, dining room, work area, bar, counter, table, decorative elements ...

... the choice of efficient light sources for restaurant lighting, be it ambient lighting, spot lighting or accent lighting

... which light is suitable for which time of day: breakfast, lunch and dinner

... choosing the right light so that your dishes do not fade in colour

... how technology can help you reduce the cost of your electricity bill


For your restaurant's lighting project, you should consider first and foremost the type and layout of your establishment and also what your customers are like.


WHAT IS THE LAYOUT OF YOUR RESTAURANT AND WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS?

Fast food, Italian cuisine, Japanese cuisine... For couples, for families... Open all day, open only at night... Urban restaurant, rustic restaurant, design restaurant... With large windows, with hardly any natural light...

Indeed, you must first consider the type of restaurant and its clientele. A fast food establishment is not the same as a restaurant for families or a luxury restaurant.

In the first case, the solution tends to focus on simpler lighting because of the speed and simplicity of the business.

In family restaurants, cafés and other energy-intensive establishments, the installation of bright lighting is a good idea, either natural light with large, translucent windows or bright ceiling lamps.

In gourmet restaurants, the lighting project is more complex, as the aim is to create an atmosphere that encourages guests to stay longer and enjoy the full dining experience.


WHAT WILL BE THE DISTRIBUTION OF YOUR PREMISES?

It is equally important to properly light each area of a restaurant, taking into account the intentions and needs (comfort and safety) of each space.


LIGHTING THE FAÇADE AND ENTRANCE

The façade is the first impression customers have and one of the images that usually appear in search engines, social networks, blogs... ... As for the dining room (as discussed below), the lighting of the façade, the sign and the door should reflect the style of your establishment and invite people to enter.


KITCHEN AND WORK AREA LIGHTING

In this area, we recommend cool white lighting. The lighting should help staff feel comfortable and be able to work efficiently, focused and safely.

We also recommend that each kitchen staff member has specific lighting points for their work. In addition, this type of white light allows the natural colour of the food to be clearly visible.

Between the kitchen and dining room, we recommend an area with transitional lighting to help the eye get used to any differences and to avoid glare.


SERVICE AREA LIGHTING

As this is also a working area (reading orders, operating the cash register or POS, preparing cocktails...), we recommend installing lighting with a higher colour temperature whenever possible, as it helps to distinguish colours better. We always recommend localised and concentrated lighting so as not to compromise the lighting environment achieved for the surrounding spaces. In this sense, the use of LED technology makes it easy to control the extent of the over-illuminated area.


BAR LIGHTING

In many restaurants, the bar counter enjoys great prestige and is also the place where waiters prepare drinks. The lighting should therefore take both factors into account.

It must be differentiated and we suggest placing spot lighting (with spotlights or pendant lamps) and/or linear lighting to frame this space (especially in the showcases, shelves or drinks counters), as required. A good option for this purpose are LED strip lights (with a choice of more than 16 million colours), which, for example, can be attached to the lower ledge or under the bar counter.


DINING ROOM LIGHTING

This is the area that allows for the most creativity and should 100% reflect the image of the restaurant.

As a rule, most guests prefer subdued ambient light that favours a quiet conversational atmosphere. Often, the light sources at the tables and bar are already sufficient to bathe the room in the necessary brightness. In larger establishments, other options should perhaps be considered, such as installing luminaires that emit part of their light indirectly through a transparent screen, thus also illuminating their surroundings.

In any case, lighting must allow safe movement of staff and customers.


TABLE LIGHTING

The choice usually falls on beautifully shaped pendant luminaires. To avoid glare and permit free visual contact, the distance between table surface and lampshade should be at least 60 centimetres. Ideally, they should also radiate direct light downwards to avoid shadows.

Pendant luminaires with translucent shades also provide a pleasant diffuse light that illuminates the surroundings and creates an intimate atmosphere for conversation.

Since the entire table surface needs to be well illuminated, it is advisable to choose pendant luminaires that match the table size. For round and square tables, for example, a pendant luminaire with a large drum or cylinder shade is a good choice.

Another option is spot or linear table lighting. Several small pendant luminaires are suitable for this purpose, as are modern design luminaires with an elongated structure and several luminaires.


LIGHTING FOR DESIGN ELEMENTS

Architectural elements, lettering, displays, staircases, walls, framed pictures, paintings, signs, bottle racks, cornices, false ceilings... are examples of design elements that deserve careful lighting. Sometimes the installation of accent lighting is appropriate for these elements. Accent lighting is often used to illuminate a specific object or work surface. It is visually appealing, attractive and versatile. It can be used alone or in addition to ambient lighting.


OUTDOOR AND TERRACE LIGHTING

The outdoor area or terrace should also reflect the style and aesthetics of the restaurant, so lighting also plays an essential role. We recommend maintaining the line and coherence of the interior and taking care of the small details so that the outdoor area is also an inviting place that contributes to the gastronomic experience. For example:

  • For pergolas, we recommend outdoor hanging lights or decorative lamps to create a more impressive environment.
  • For umbrellas, we recommend linear warm light LED systems with diffusers to tune the light.


LIGHTING FOR DIFFERENT TIMES OF DAY

Also determine the lighting you need in your establishment throughout the day. When are you open? A café or bakery is usually busy during the morning rush hour and will not use the same type of lighting as a romantic restaurant. If your business is open for multiple time slots, you may want to adjust the lighting for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner.

  • Breakfast: We recommend bright lighting because customers need good light to wake up, check their phones, answer emails on their laptops or read their newspaper while enjoying their coffee. Incorporate natural light where possible.
  • Lunch: Here, lighting needs to be more moderate and subtle. However, there are exceptions. As mentioned at the beginning, we recommend bright lighting for fast food restaurants where people will not sit down to eat. This trick can also help you achieve faster turnover and get customers in and out quicker.
  • Dinner: Customers appreciate a relaxed atmosphere in these establishments, whether it's a casual or upscale restaurant. Dinner time is the most popular time to meet and eat out. People want to sit down and relax after a busy day. Dimmed lighting helps create the right atmosphere and makes your customers feel more comfortable.


FOOD IS STILL THE STAR, EMPHASISE ITS COLOURS

It has happened to many of us, we have tried on a pair of (supposedly) navy blue trousers in a shop and the first day we put them on it turns out that they are actually black.

The reason for this is that different light sources reproduce the colours of an object differently. For gastronomy, this is very important because we also eat with our eyes.

The lighting term that indicates how faithfully a light source reproduces the colour of an object is called the colour rendering index (CRI). It ranges from 0 to 100. The higher the CRI, the greater the colour accuracy. Therefore, a higher CRI will definitely work in favour of your gastronomic creations.


INTELLIGENT LIGHTING, A PRACTICAL SOLUTION THAT ALSO SAVES COSTS

Technology is advancing and home automation offers intelligent lighting solutions. In the specific case of your restaurant, it allows you to adjust and automate your blinds and artificial light sources to save time and money on your electricity bills.

Many of these systems can be conveniently controlled from your restaurant's control panel or an app on your smartphone, computer or tablet. Home automation can also extend to other aspects of your establishment, such as music, televisions, thermostats, fans and your security system.


WHAT ARE THE MOST POPULAR TYPES OF LIGHTING IN RESTAURANTS?

Pendant lights

They hang from the ceiling and can be placed above bars, tables, islands, counters and reception areas. They provide pleasant yet safe and suitable light for staff and customers when they need to read menus, for example.

Chandeliers

They hang from the ceiling and create a focal point in the entrance area or dining room. Provide a light and elegant style.

Ceiling fans

Provide both light and air circulation. Ideal for covered outdoor terraces.

Wall sconces 

Provide accent lighting. Placed on walls around pictures or photographs. Often used in bathrooms as vanity lights.

Track lighting

Several lights can be attached to a continuous track, ceiling or beam and adjusted to direct light in different directions. Creates focal points.

LED lighting

LED luminaires are ideal for restaurants and bars that are not looking for accent pieces or decorative lights. They are directional, so concentrate the light on a specific area.

They are also more energy efficient than other options, which translates into lower electricity bills.

Recessed lighting

In ceilings or walls, this type of luminaire sends narrow beams of light downwards. They are used for ambient or work area lighting.

Functional lighting

Optimal lighting for purpose-built rooms such as kitchens, dish rooms and storage areas.


CONCLUSION

When visiting a restaurant, the culinary delights are usually the main focus. However, it is only through the contribution of good interior design and the right lighting that breakfast, lunch or dinner becomes a unique dining experience that arouses the curiosity of diners.

By following the tips in our article, you will be able to assess the design and light sources that are right for your restaurant.


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