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Gabriela Anez-Lobon
By Gabriela Anez-Lobon on December 30, 2023

Best Restaurant Lighting Design & Selecting the Right Ideas

Knowing how to select the right restaurant lighting design can transform your dining space, setting the perfect ambiance for your guests.

Using innovative bar and restaurant lighting ideas not only enhance the aesthetic appeal but also impact your bottom line positively.

In this guide, we will delve into the world of restaurant lighting, exploring the best practices, and revealing savvy, cost-effective lighting solutions.

Our expertise will illuminate the path to a beautifully lit, profitable, and captivating dining environment. 

How to select the right restaurant lighting

Proper lighting is very important for all parts of a food operation, and there are several options to consider when choosing the right lighting for your restaurant.

Lighting can affect the mood of your guests, so it is important to choose a type that will fit with your brand. Each type serves a distinct purpose and contributes to the overall feel of your establishment.

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting serves as the primary source of light, carefully designed to set the desired mood and atmosphere. 

The main dining area is the prime location for this type of illumination, as it is where diners spend most of their time. A balanced, well-distributed light in this area aids in creating an inviting atmosphere, enhancing the appeal of your dishes and encouraging longer stays. 

Task lighting

Task lighting is specifically designed to serve a practical purpose in a localized area. For example, in the kitchen, task lighting can be strategically placed to provide focused illumination that aids in food preparation.

By providing targeted lighting, task lighting not only enhances the functionality of your restaurant but also adds a touch of sophistication and elegance to your space, making it a memorable dining experience for your guests.

Accent lighting

Accent lighting, with its carefully positioned fixtures and well-chosen light sources, has the remarkable ability to add depth and dimension to your space. By expertly highlighting specific areas or objects within your restaurant, accent lighting elevates the visual experience for guests.

In addition to enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal of your restaurant, accent lighting also serves as a powerful tool for creating focal points and drawing attention to specific aspects of your establishment. 

Best restaurant lighting design types

Choosing the right restaurant lighting designs is both an art and a science. Good lighting requires the perfect balance of ambiance, function, and style can elevate the dining experience, leaving a lasting impression on your guests.

Here are the best lighting for restaurants to make them truly shine:

Pendant lights

Pendant lights can add a unique sense of elegance and sophistication to your restaurant. Suspended from the ceiling, these lights create a captivating visual impact while providing both ambient and task lighting.

With their versatile design, pendant lights can be strategically placed to highlight specific areas, like dining tables or bar countertops, enhancing the overall dining experience.

Whether you desire a cozy and intimate atmosphere or a vibrant ambiance, pendant lights offer endless possibilities.

White LED pendant lights in a small modern restaurant


Chandeliers, with their intricate designs and elegant craftsmanship, are a timeless classic in the realm of restaurant lighting. They exude an air of sophistication and luxury, enveloping your dining space in a warm, inviting glow.

When strategically positioned at the heart of your restaurant, these magnificent fixtures not only serve as a stunning focal point but also elevate the overall aesthetic appeal, creating a truly memorable dining experience for your patrons.

Wall sconces

Wall sconces bring a blend of style and functionality to your restaurant's lighting design. With their ability to cast either upwards or downwards illumination, they add a layer of depth to your space, highlighting architectural features and enhancing the atmosphere.

They also serve as a source of indirect lighting, softening the overall ambiance and making your restaurant feel even more inviting. They are excellent for corridors, entranceways, or accenting artwork, adding a touch of sophistication and elegance to your establishment.

Restaurant track lighting

Track lighting for restaurants are functional and ideal if you want to highlight specific features. With versatile and adjustable heads, track lights provide flexibility to direct light precisely where needed. Illuminate art, accentuate a unique wall feature, enhance the dining area, etc.

The ability to effortlessly create a focal point and adjust the spotlight adds an extra touch of elegance. This allows you to creates a captivating ambiance for diners to enjoy their culinary experience to the fullest.

Functional lighting

Functional lighting is all about maximizing functionality and efficiency. This kind of lighting is best suited for food preparation areas and other key workstations.

This style should be bright enough to facilitate the speedy execution of tasks but not too bright that it causes glare or creates an uncomfortable working environment. The right balance of brightness is essential for various areas in a restaurant, including kitchens, storage spaces, and other operational zones.

Recessed lighting

Recessed lighting, also known as downlighting, is a powerful tool in decorative restaurant lighting. Installed into hollow openings in the ceiling, these fixtures are sleek, modern, and unobtrusive, creating a clean aesthetic that won't distract from ambiance of your restaurant.

It's a perfect choice for creating a well-lit, inviting atmosphere without resorting to harsh, overbearing lights. They offer a subtle glow that can be manipulated to focus on tables, counters, or bar areas. This ensures your guests can clearly see their meals, enhancing their dining experience.

White LED recessed lights in a small modern restaurant

LED lighting

LED lighting is the future of restaurant lighting design and, in our opinion, one of the best types of restaurant lighting, offering an impressive array of benefits that make it an unbeatable choice for savvy restaurateurs.

With their energy efficient operation, longevity, and versatility, LED lights are revolutionizing the way restaurants illuminate their space. All these factors put LEDs at the forefront of restaurant sustainability practices

Compared to traditional lighting solutions, LEDs consume significantly less power, making a substantial contribution to your bottom line. Their long lifespan translates into fewer replacements, saving you time and resources.

LEDS also integrate well with smart lighting systems, allowing you to easily control the lighting throughout the restaurant.

With a wide variety of color and tone options available, LEDs provide unparalleled flexibility for creating the perfect atmosphere in your restaurant.

Find Out More!

If you want to learn more about how LED lighting can transform your restaurant, we recommend checking out our guide on how can commercial buildings be more energy efficient.

Commercial restaurant lighting ideas by area

Let's now delve into some practical exterior and interior restaurant lighting tips, where we will explore how lighting is one of the most effective ways to set your establishment apart from the competition.

Here are some ideas for lighting your restaurant while achieving the perfect balance of function and aesthetics:

Restaurant facade/entrance lighting

The facade or entrance of your restaurant is the first impression your customers get of your establishment. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that your exterior lighting is both inviting and functional.

Consider using warm, welcoming lights to create a cozy and enticing atmosphere that draws customers in.

Wall sconces, pendant lights, or lanterns can be used to highlight your restaurant's name, logo, or any unique architectural features of the building.

You can also use pathway lights to guide your customers to the entrance, adding an element of safety and convenience.

Restaurant ceiling lighting ideas

Restaurant ceiling lighting plays a vital role in setting the mood and ambiance of your dining space. These lights are not just functional; they also contribute significantly to the overall aesthetic of your restaurant.

An ideal choice for ceiling lighting is the use of pendant lights. With various designs ranging from modern minimalist to rustic themes, pendant lights can easily match your restaurant's style and decor.

You can also use LED recessed that blend seamlessly with the ceiling, providing uniform illumination for a cozy atmosphere. 

We also recommend using chandeliers for a dramatic effect, adding a touch of luxury and elegance to make your restaurant look chic and upscale.

Kitchen lighting ideas

Kitchen lighting is a critical aspect of restaurant design that should never be overlooked. A well-lit kitchen is essential for maintaining safety, enhancing productivity, and ensuring the overall efficiency of your restaurant operations.

For specific task areas like chopping, cooking, and cleaning, consider using bright, direct lighting. Recessed or overhead LED lights can provide a focused illumination that helps your staff perform their tasks with more precision and less strain on their eyes.

Accent lighting can also be used to highlight key areas in the kitchen, such as the chef's table or a display kitchen viewable by customers. This not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of your kitchen but also enables your guests to appreciate the skill and artistry that goes into preparing their meals.

Restaurant bar lighting ideas

The lighting of your restaurant bar greatly impacts customers' experience, creating an atmosphere that promotes relaxation and social interaction. Balancing aesthetics and functionality is key, ensuring a visually appealing bar that facilitates efficient staff performance.

LED lights are a great option for bar lighting.

Pendant lights or chandeliers can add style, while under-counter LED strips provide functional and subtle lighting. Consider using color-changing LEDs to adjust lighting levels based on the time of day or event.

Also think about spotlights or accent lighting to highlight special features like a well-stocked liquor wall, artwork, or architectural elements. The goal is to create a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere that encourages customers to relax, socialize, and stay longer (and spend more) at your establishment.

White LED lights in a small restaurant bar

Restaurant table lighting ideas

Table lighting in a restaurant plays an integral role in setting the mood and creating a private, intimate atmosphere for your customers. Here, the choice of lighting should combine both functionality and aesthetic appeal.

Table lamps are a popular choice for casual dining lighting. They provide direct, focused lighting and can also serve as beautiful centerpieces, enhancing the overall decor. Opt for dimmable lamps, allowing guests to adjust the brightness for a personalized dining experience.

Candlelight is another great option for table lighting. It provides a warm and soothing glow, creating an intimate and romantic atmosphere, perfect for fine dining restaurants. For safety, consider using LED candles instead of real flames to achieve a similar low lighting effect.

Restaurant dining room lighting

A well-lit dining room can evoke a sense of comfort and warmth, making your customers feel at home and encouraging them to spend more time in your establishment.

One way to light your dining room is by utilizing a mix of direct and indirect lighting. Overhead lights, such as pendant lights or chandeliers, can provide general illumination, while wall sconces or table lamps offer a more focused light source, casting a warm glow on the tables.

For a more modern touch, consider using track lighting. This flexible lighting adds a unique look to the room while providing ample light to all areas, and is great for ambient illumination or used in combination with other sources of light for a more dramatic effect.

Outdoor and terrace lighting

Strategically placed lights can highlight your restaurant's architecture, landscaping, and key features, creating a captivating dining environment.

To start with, consider the use of string lights, which can create a charming and festive atmosphere. Draping them across your outdoor dining area or weaving them through trees and railings can deliver a magical, fairy-like ambiance.

Outdoor wall lights or sconces can provide soft, indirect lighting, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. Consider using these fixtures to illuminate areas where guests gather, such as around outdoor bars or lounge seating.

Lastly, the use of spotlighting or accent lighting can help highlight unique features of your outdoor space, such as sculptures, water features, or beautiful trees. This can add depth and interest to your outdoor dining area, creating a visually appealing environment that enhances your guests' dining experience.

How time of day can influence lighting for restaurants and bars

The time of day significantly influences the choice of lighting in restaurants and bars, setting the tone for the dining experience and supporting the natural rhythm throughout the day.

During breakfast, maximize natural light for a bright and energetic ambiance. Large windows create an open feel, while cool, bright artificial lighting can simulate daylight when natural light is unavailable.

When lunchtime rolls around, restaurants should have bright lighting that accommodates the bustling activity, while not being as intense as during breakfast. The goal is to create a comfortable atmosphere that encourages quick turnarounds, especially in a fast food setting.

As the sun sets and dinner approaches, the restaurant's lighting should transition to a warmer, softer glow. Dimmed lights create a relaxed, intimate setting for leisurely dining. Pendant lights or chandeliers provide general illumination, while candles or table lamps add warmth and intimacy.

Late-night bar settings, on the other hand, call for a completely different lighting mood. The use of color-changing LEDs, spotlighting and accent lighting can create a vibrant, energetic atmosphere that encourages socializing and lingers late into the night.

It's important to invest on a solution that allows you to adjust the lighting to suit the time of day, occasion or theme.

With flexible lighting solutions, you can bring your brand message to life with just the right amount and type of lighting for any given situation. 

Thinking of moving your restaurant lighting design to LED?

Considering a shift to LED for your restaurant or bar? FES Lighting can help with your lighting project! Designing a restaurant lighting scheme with LED technology offers a number of advantages. LEDs consume less energy than traditional lighting solutions, allowing you to save money and be more environmentally friendly.

As your comprehensive bar and restaurant lighting consultant, we specialize in creating tailored, energy-efficient commercial lighting for restaurants that enhance the ambiance of your establishment and result in energy savings.

Our team can guide you in transitioning to LED lighting, ensuring a seamless process from design to installation, and even ongoing maintenance.

With us, you're not just upgrading your lighting — you're investing in an eco-friendly solution that delivers superior light quality and reduces your carbon footprint.

Ready to illuminate your restaurant or bar with the best? Contact us today to start your journey towards exceptional restaurant lighting.

Schedule a Call


What area of the restaurant requires the most light?

The area of the restaurant requiring the most light is the kitchen and work area. It's critical for safety and efficiency that the staff can clearly see the dishes they're preparing, and the equipment they're operating. This ensures a smooth and satisfying dining service for your guests.

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Published by Gabriela Anez-Lobon December 30, 2023
Gabriela Anez-Lobon

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