After much preparation, you’ve got your restaurant menu taken care of, and you’ve hired the best staff to handle your hungry customers. You’re ready to open up for business, right?


Unfortunately, none of your prep work will matter if you don’t set the right mood. The best way to do this is to use good restaurant lighting tactics.

The lighting might not be what attracts customers to the restaurant, but it is what gets them to stick around and come back. So, you’ve got to make sure that you don’t mess it up. Check out this guide to modern lighting ideas to learn how to get started.

Types of Lighting

As you’ll notice later on in this article, when it comes to lighting, you’ve got your options. There are a million different fixtures that you can incorporate into your floor plan.

No matter what kind of fixture you choose for your restaurant design, however, it’s going to fall into one of four categories. These are ambient, accent, task, and architectural lighting.


Ambient lighting is the main source of illumination in a room. You can create it by using fixtures or by letting in the natural light from outside.

Since it’s easy to make this type of lighting happen with pretty much any fixture and most customers are already used to being around it, ambient is the most commonly used source of lighting in restaurants. Its purpose is to not only set a mood but to help customers see what they’re doing.


If you have a bunch of amazing artwork hanging on the walls in your restaurant, you’ll want to bring attention to it. That’s what accent lighting is for.

Business owners use it when they want to highlight a section of their establishment or a particular object. It’s a great way to add several little focal points around the restaurant and give the business a dash of personality.


Using task lighting is all well and good, but it shouldn’t be the only source in the room. It’s provided by smaller fixtures. For example, a pendant light dangling over a table counts as task lighting.

It’s illuminating the table so customers can read their menus. Since this lighting source is so close to the customers, you want to keep it on the soft side. It needs to provide clarity without blinding people.


There are three parts to architectural lighting. The first is aesthetics. This focuses on the emotional impact that lighting and architecture have on people.

The second is function. Yes, the lighting needs to take people’s breath away, but it should be able to perform its main task as well. Lighting your restaurant.

The third thing is energy efficiency. Customers care about green businesses and you should too. By opting for efficient LEDs, you can shave some money off your power bill each month.

You can go here if you want to learn more about architectural lighting.

Lighting According to the Time of Day

Depending on what the time of day is, you’ll treat your lighting a little differently. Many establishments choose to use brighter lights during the mid-afternoon and dim things down at night. This is only one example.


The idea for your morning lighting is to try and mimic the sunlight outside. You want to wake your customers up, so use warm hues. Whites and yellows are the way to go.

This will make your customers feel welcomed. They’ll want to waste the entire morning eating breakfast at your establishment.


Your afternoon lighting will vary depending on what time of afternoon you’re working with. To this end, we recommend having some lights on dimmer switches.

This way, you can sort of play around with your lighting as the evening moves on. You want to be able to mimic the feeling of the natural lighting outside.


Most establishments like to keep things relaxed at night. This is the time when most restaurants and bars switch over to intense accent lighting.

This will make it bright enough for your customers to be able to see their meal while still capturing the same feeling as the illumination outside.

Types of Lighting Fixtures

Now that you know about the different types of lighting, let’s move on to fixtures. There are tons of lighting ideas that you can pull off by using the right ones for your space.


Pendant lights are also called drop lights in some cases. They hang from the ceiling on a cord or chain. They’re one of the most unique lighting options in that they can fit almost every type of role that you need them to.

If you hang them in clumps, they can provide general ambient lighting. If you place them in singles over tables, they can create task or accent lighting.

Due to their flexibility, pendant lights are the most common type of fixture. You can’t walk into a single establishment without seeing them hanging all over the place.


Chandeliers are used a lot in high-end restaurants. They can add a touch of elegance to a space and work well as a beautiful focal piece.

Like pendant lights, chandeliers hang from the ceiling. Nine times out of ten, they’re equipped with multiple bulbs, making them a great source of ambient light. If you get creative enough, they can work as a nice accent light as well.

Ceiling Fan

If you own a large restaurant, using a few wall lights and pendants might not be enough to illuminate your entire building. Ceiling fans are a much better choice in this case.

They light large portions of a space from above. This is what allows them to reach many areas that other lighting options can’t.


How late does your restaurant stay open? If you see customers from morning till night, keeping the place lit up can cost a lot of money. That’s what LED lights are for.

They last much longer than traditional bulbs, so you won’t have to replace them as often. This makes them incredibly energy-efficient. They’re also a lot brighter than any other bulbs you can get, and you can use them pretty much everywhere.


Recessed lights are fixtures that are installed in a hollow area in the ceiling. Almost any type of bulb can be used in these fixtures. The most popular type is LEDs.

Besides providing enough light to illuminate an entire room, you can also put your recessed lights on a dimmer. It’s perfect for restaurants that are open late into the evening.

Track Fixtures

Track lighting uses a bunch of small fixtures to light up a restaurant. They usually run along a set pattern on the ceiling or walls. They come in large quantities, so you’ll be getting a lot of bang for your buck.

It can act as a type of accent lighting to bring attention to various areas of your establishment. You can also change what position they’re in throughout the day.

Wall Accents

Like hanging pendants, wall accents are pretty versatile. For smaller establishments, they can act as an accent light or a main source of illumination.

If you have stuff on your walls, you can use this type of lighting to bring attention to it. Out of all your options, wall accents are the easiest to install and keep up with.


Candlelight is a bit old-fashioned, but it’s ideal for creating a romantic atmosphere. It’s also good for themed restaurants, and it won’t cost you much to keep them lit.

There’s only one little drawback. You often have to combine candlelight with one of the other lighting options on this list. The reason being is that candles don’t offer quite enough illumination on their own.


Lasers shine an intense beam of light in a single direction. They can be a bit much, but they’re perfect if you own a bright, high-energy establishment.

Outdoor Lighting

When the weather is nice, many people would rather sit outside with their meal instead of dining inside. If you have an outdoor seating area, you’ll need to incorporate some type of lighting. The sun has to go down eventually.

Even if you don’t offer outdoor dining, you’ll still want to incorporate some lighting in your parking lot. It will make it easier for customers to get around. You can also use it to bring attention to your signage.

Your Restaurant Lighting Guide

There’s one thing that any good restaurant can’t do without. This thing isn’t an amazing menu or competent staff. It’s your lighting.

Having proper restaurant lighting doesn’t only allow customers to see what they’re eating. It will also set the entire mood of the establishment. Start working on your floor plan today.

Are you looking for more ways to design your restaurant? Check out our blog daily for all the latest tips and tricks.

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