A 10 Step Guide to Lighting for Bars and Restaurants

In the age of Instagram, bars and restaurants are going the extra mile to make their food 'look' better. In fact, inventive restaurant-owners are designing their spaces around how Instagram-friendly they are. Lighting plays a huge role in accomplishing that. Take for instance Mr.Holmes Bakehouse in San Francisco and its famous neon sign. The restaurant rose to internet fame on the back of some really clever (and kitschy) lighting design.

Instagram is not the only reason, though, to pay attention to lighting in your bar or restaurant. We eat with our eyes first and if the lighting isn't flattering your plate, customers won't be enticed. Comfort of guests is also important and lighting plays a role here too. Ever walked into a restaurant that's poorly lit and thought of leaving early? That's what happens when lighting design isn't paid attention to. If you are opening your own food heaven, here is a 10-step guide to getting the lights right.


1. Keep lighting integral to the design and architecture

Very often, lighting is considered as an after-thought. When that happens, the light map of a place can become skewed. It is important that you take light fixtures into account right from the very beginning. For instance, when designing a restaurant, it helps if you have a hanging fixture over every table for optimum lighting for each guest. Having a pendant light over every table also helps you keep the lighting diffused in the rest of the restaurant, thereby creating a warm atmosphere.


2. Utilize different types of lighting

Bars benefit from accent lighting, while ambient lighting is the general lighting across the restaurant. Task lighting is needed for work areas, such as the billing counter. Lighting can also be used to guide customers' attention to different parts of the restaurant. For instance, if you have a wall-accent that's a mainstay of your design, you can use accent lighting to highlight it. Different lights have different functions, and they should be used as such.

Also Read: Advantages of Commercial LED Flood Lights


3. Keep the concept in mind

Not every restaurant needs warm, sophisticated lighting. For instance, if it is a hipster cafe, you have the license to go a little experimental in terms of lighting design. Similarly, if the restaurant is mainly going to serve brunch to high-profile clients, minimalist lighting design that utilizes plenty of natural light is probably the way to go.


4. Invest in mood lighting

Thanks to automation and LEDs, you are no longer stuck with one color temperature. Mood lighting allows you to adjust the brightness of a place according to the time of the day and the season. For instance, during winter months, people respond better to warm lighting. Similarly, a cafe should ideally have bright lighting, in comparison, since the major target-audience is office-goers who need their morning caffeine.


5. Pay attention to color render index (CRI)

When you go LED shopping, pay attention to the CRI of the fixtures you are paying for. CRI determines how well the lighting translates the color of your food and drinks. Higher the value, the better it is. Highest CRI for lighting fixtures is 100. While 80 is acceptable for bars and restaurants, you will do really well to be as close to 90 as possible.


6. Keep diners' comfort in mind

Install fixtures such that there is no direct glare. Be mindful of reflected light as well. If you have shiny fixtures in your restaurant, use frosted glass or other such diffusers to take care of jarring reflections. Most importantly, diners shouldn't have problems reading the menu or seeing the gorgeous food that you put out.


7. Use rope lighting to go experimental

Rope lights are great as accent lighting. A common way to use rope lights is to run them along any sort of edges, such as edges of a bar-counter. You don't need to stick to the tried and tested, though. Since rope lights can be twisted and turned in all sorts of ways, they are great to experiment with lighting accents. Maybe make a cool neon sign of your own to be Instagrammable.


8. Use some colors

Warm white or diffused white lighting is all great for the general area of your restaurant. But a bit of colored lighting can go a long way in making your restaurant stand out from the rest. The liquor shelf is a great place to use colored lighting. You could also use diffused colored lighting that is in sync with your brand's colors. However, make sure you don't go overboard with it, unless that's the concept you are going for.


9. Play with contrast

Contrasting lights are a great way to make certain sections of your restaurant or bar stand out. Contrast is created with a healthy blend of ambient and accent lighting. For instance, if it is a cafe with live music, you would want to highlight the area where a band or a DJ is playing.


10. Keep functionality in mind

Whatever way you choose to design the light map in your restaurant, keep functionality the primary focus. Aesthetics are great, but if they don't solve a purpose, customers won't appreciate them for long.

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