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Article: Best Restaurant Lighting Design Ideas: Types, Styles, & Fixtures

Best Restaurant Lighting Design Ideas: Types, Styles, & Fixtures

Written by Henry Phan Update
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When stepping into restaurants, along the service and food quality customers receive, the vibe and atmosphere play a crucial role in each guest's experience. Inadequate lighting can have a substantial impact on the experience of your guests.

Therefore, if you are building or looking to upgrade a restaurant to attract new customers and engage existing ones, consider making changes to the lighting. In this article, Rowabi will provide you with restaurant lighting ideas that can transform the entire look, helping you choose suitable lights for your establishment.

Why is restaurant lighting important?

The study of how customer behaviors evolve in restaurants has been extensively researched, revealing the significant influence of seemingly minor factors such as lighting.

Research by Sadia Farooq and Engr. Aqib Ahmed (1) indicates that a well-planned restaurant lighting scheme positively affects patron turnover rates and influences customers' menu selections.

restaurant lighting ideas

A recent Cornell University study (2) underscores the importance of restaurant lighting, showing that dining in a brightly lit environment increases the likelihood of patrons choosing healthy menu options by 16 to 24%. Bright lights contribute to diners feeling more alert and emotionally engaged, impacting various aspects of their dining experience, including the duration of their visit.

Additionally, a 2012 study (3) also from Cornell found that a relaxed dining environment slows consumption and enhances satisfaction, allowing diners to enjoy their meals more thoroughly. Therefore, getting the right lighting is crucial and essential for every restaurant.

Main kinds of restaurant lighting

Lighting plays a crucial role in shaping the ambiance and enhancing the overall dining experience. However, each type of lighting serves specific purposes within a restaurant space, depending on the desired mood, scale of the establishment, size, and clientele demographics.

There are four primary types of lighting to consider: ambient lighting, accent lighting, task lighting, and table lighting:

Ambient lighting

  • This type of lighting establishes the overall tone and atmosphere within a restaurant. Many establishments incorporate natural light through windows or skylights along with overhead fixtures to achieve ambient lighting.
  • Essentially, it provides general illumination that brightens pathways and activities for both guests and staff. Ambient lighting is carefully balanced to ensure the dining area is well-lit without being overly bright or too dim.

Accent lighting

  • Accent lighting is employed to emphasize particular features or areas within the restaurant, such as artwork, architectural elements, or decorative displays.
  • Its purpose is to add depth and visual interest by drawing attention to focal points, creating a captivating and dramatic ambiance. Generally, accent lighting serves a decorative role more than a functional one.

Task lighting

  • It offers targeted illumination for specific activities carried out in the restaurant, such as food preparation, cleaning, or reading menus.
  • Moreover, task lighting can exhibit a sense of refinement of establishments when applied to pathways in the lobby for customers heading to restrooms. It improves visibility in operational areas, facilitating a smooth workflow.

Table lighting

  • It is specifically designed to illuminate dining tables, improving visibility for diners and adding a sense of intimacy to their dining experience.
  • You can use table lamps or candlelight to create a cozy ambiance at each table, enhancing the overall atmosphere and making the dining experience more personalized and inviting.

15 types of lighting ideas for restaurants

In this section, we'll discuss various lighting options and restaurant lighting fixtures that you can consider for your establishment:

Natural light

Depending on the restaurant and its theme, natural light can be a vital source of illumination that sets the mood for customers. For restaurants situated in high-rise locations, large windows, skylights, or glass walls are essential to creating a bright and airy atmosphere.

natural light creates a cozy ambiance and saves energy during daylight hours
Natural light creates a warm and cozy atmosphere while also saving on energy costs during daylight hours. Source: Niche Modern (4)

Incorporating these elements allows guests to enjoy views of the surrounding environment, fostering a deeper connection with nature and enhancing the overall dining experience, especially for those emphasizing natural ingredients in their menu or branding themselves as a natural-friendly restaurant.

Outdoor lighting

Outdoor dining has become a popular trend as people seek to immerse themselves in nature and enjoy fresh air while savoring their meals.

choose suitable outdoor lighting based on the layout of your outdoor space
Depending on the layout of the outdoor space, you can choose suitable lighting options. Source: Pure Wow (5)

Outdoor restaurant settings often involve fully open spaces adorned with lush greenery and flower beds.

This setup provides an opportunity to incorporate lighting elements such as hanging lanterns and string lights adorned with medium to large bulbs to enhance illumination.

Additionally, utilizing table lamps or candles on each table allows guests to freely and comfortably browse the menu.

Smart lighting

Smart lighting has become a popular restaurant lighting design choice recently, especially for establishments catering to the needs of younger demographics. This innovative technology allows restaurants to create personalized lighting scenes tailored to specific times of day, events, or customer preferences.

With features like color-changing capabilities, restaurants can be flexible in synchronizing lighting with events or promotions to create captivating visual experiences.

combining blue and purple colors can bring life to the space
Combining blue and purple colors like this can really liven up the space. Source: The Rail (6)

Exposed ceiling & lighting ideas

Exposed ceiling designs in restaurant settings offer a stylish and industrial aesthetic that pairs well with creative lighting concepts. These ceilings, often defined by visible ductwork, pipes, or structural elements, serve as a rugged and intriguing backdrop for innovative lighting fixtures.

restaurants often use single small pendant lights instead of large fixtures
In these settings, restaurants often opt for single, small pendant lights instead of clusters or large fixtures. Source: Gourmet Marketing (7)

Restaurants embracing this style often incorporate pendant lights featuring exposed bulbs or geometric designs to strike a balance between prominence against the ceiling and provide ample illumination.

Focused illumination

Focused illumination plays a critical role in restaurant settings, particularly in fine dining establishments or those catering to an upscale clientele seeking a private dining experience.

In these settings, focused lighting is often tailored to individual tables, with gentle, dimmed light cascading from the ceiling.

spotlighting individual tables enhances a romantic atmosphere perfect for intimate date nights
Spotlighting individual tables enhances a sense of romance, making it ideal for intimate date nights. Source: Neoz Lighting (8)

By highlighting specific areas with focused lighting, restaurants can elevate the overall ambiance, accentuate key design elements, and cultivate a dynamic and visually captivating dining atmosphere.

Menu lighting in restaurant settings is crucial for ensuring that guests can comfortably read and navigate through menu items. This type of restaurant lighting design is specifically designed to provide adequate illumination directly at the areas where menus are presented.

menu displays serve as focal points and help customers navigate food offerings
These menus serve as both focal points and aids for customers to get an overview of the food offerings. Source: Pinterest (9)

Many casual and budget-friendly restaurants utilize this approach to conveniently assist customers, and it can also serve as a decorative element to enhance the overall ambiance.

Additionally, some establishments incorporate LED panels integrated with menu displays, commonly seen in fast-food or quick-service restaurants, to streamline the ordering process and enhance the visibility of menu options.

Wall accents

Lighting is often one of the first elements that catch customers' eyes when entering a restaurant. Therefore, some restaurant owners opt for prominent wall accents instead of relying heavily on pendant lights or chandeliers.

restaurants transform their largest wall into captivating focal points
This restaurant transforms its largest wall into a captivating focal point that draws guests' attention. Source: Aydınlatma Portalı (10)

These accent walls stand out through their texture and the way LED lights are strategically placed along the edges, creating depth within the space. A popular technique used for highlighting walls is wall grazing lighting.

This approach not only illuminates the wall but also transforms it into a piece of artistic expression within the restaurant.

Spotlighting for logo emphasis

Have you ever been impressed by LED lights illuminating a logo in a restaurant like the one below? This is a popular restaurant lighting idea, especially for establishments with a retro, vintage, or classic style, or for nighttime pub bars.

intricately crafted logo lighting combines colors perfectly
This logo lighting combines colors perfectly and is intricately crafted. Source: Wallpaper Flare (11)

It's a way for brands to make a statement and draw attention from customers, with the soft, gentle glow of this lighting standing out subtly yet distinctly within the space.


Candlelight is an essential element for intimate dates and romantic conversations, creating a warm and dreamy atmosphere that enhances bonding among guests. With its soft, shimmering golden glow, candlelight adds a subtle highlight that brings people together.

candlelight creates a warm and romantic ambiance
The warm and romantic glow of candlelights adds a cozy and intimate ambiance. Source: HalloTravel (12)

Due to its lower intensity, multiple candles of varying sizes can be used on the same table to create a diverse and enchanting display. This restaurant lighting idea is also popularly employed in outdoor dining settings, further enhancing the ambiance.

Pendant lights as focal points

Hanging pendants are a ubiquitous choice for restaurant lighting, regardless of the theme. One of the remarkable aspects of pendant lights is their flexibility, offering a wide range of options in size, quantity, height, and design.

the natalia pendant light is ideal for most restaurants and available for pre order at a 30 discount
The Natalia pendant light, ideal for most restaurants, is now available for pre-order at a 30% discount. Source: Rowabi

Typically, restaurants adopt a layout where each dining table is adorned with either a single pendant light or a cluster of smaller pendant lights. This approach allows for customization based on the restaurant's desired ambiance.

To achieve a timeless and enduring aesthetic, contemporary and modern pendant designs are often recommended for their simplicity and elegance.

Recessed lighting for a chic look

Recessed lighting is favored for its convenience and space-saving design. This restaurant lighting choice seamlessly integrates into ceilings or walls while providing ambient illumination throughout the dining area.

modern recessed lights offer a contemporary look
Today, recessed lights come in modern and innovative designs that offer such a contemporary look. Source: MP Lighting (13)

People can choose from options like round recessed lights or more modern and sleek elongated designs. Recessed lighting is commonly used to provide ambient lighting, enhancing the overall atmosphere of the restaurant with a subtle and versatile glow.

LED track lighting

LED track lighting is indeed a versatile and practical choice, offering the flexibility to direct light precisely where needed. This type of lighting features a track system with adjustable fixtures that can be moved along the track to illuminate different areas or objects within the space.

led track lighting is popular in casual dining restaurants
LED track lighting is commonly used in casual dining restaurants. Source: Steon Lighting (14)

It can be used to highlight specific design features or as task lighting for dining tables. While LED track lighting may not stand out dramatically in terms of aesthetics, it is an affordable and straightforward option that provides effective illumination without unnecessary complexity.

Commercial sconces

Commercial sconces are a versatile and impactful choice, offering both functional and decorative benefits in restaurant lighting design.

commercial sconces provide soft ambient lighting for a warm atmosphere
Commercial sconces provide soft, ambient lighting that creates a warm and inviting atmosphere. Source: Barn Light Electric (15)

Available in various styles, sizes, and designs, commercial sconces can complement a wide range of restaurant aesthetics, from modern and minimalist to traditional and elegant.

These fixtures are strategically used in restaurant settings to enhance the ambiance, adding sophistication and visual interest that contribute to a memorable dining experience for guests.

Restaurant ceiling fans

Restaurant ceiling fans are indeed a versatile addition to restaurant lighting designs, especially in establishments with an old-school vintage or traditional ambiance.

ceiling fan lights combine functionality and style
These ceiling fan lights excel at combining two functions into one product. Source: Reddit (16)

These ceiling fans are often designed with integrated light fixtures, incorporating small shades or bulbs to provide ambient illumination across the area without the need for additional complex pendant lights.

This combination of ceiling fan functionality with integrated lighting is well-suited for creating a warm and inviting atmosphere, evoking a nostalgic or classic feel that complements vintage-themed restaurants.

Illuminate the bar station

For contemporary restaurants, it's common to incorporate a small bar counter for cocktails and a coffee bar where baristas interact with customers, catering to solo diners and socializing alike.

this space attracts many solo diners to restaurants
This space is often utilized by many restaurants to attract more solo diners. Source: LiD Design (17)

Under-table LED lighting can be added to provide subtle illumination and enhance the modern ambiance. Additionally, installing a few small pendant lights above the bar counter can further contribute to the contemporary aesthetic while leaving ample space for patrons to relax and converse comfortably.

Restaurant lighting design plan

Above, we discussed the 15 best restaurant lighting designs, but the lighting needs can vary depending on the nature of the restaurant. Not every restaurant requires strong, bright lighting, nor is every restaurant suited for soft, dim lighting. Let's explore this further with Rowabi:

+ Low lighting

  • It creates an intimate and upscale atmosphere, particularly in a restaurant's bar and lounge areas, where patrons tend to gather closely. With softer lighting, diners engage in relaxed, leisurely activities that align with the desired relaxed and chill ambiance of the restaurant.
  • The subdued lighting encourages a slower pace and gentle demeanor, fostering a comfortable and inviting environment for guests to unwind and enjoy their experience.

+ Bright lighting

  • In contrast to low lighting, serves the opposite purpose and is most suitable for fast-food chains, canteens, or casual establishments that aim to discourage lingering.
  • Typically, these lights create a more brisk and lively mood, promoting faster eating and keeping things moving rather than encouraging relaxation.
  • The brightness of the lighting contributes to a sense of efficiency and activity, aligning with the quick-service nature of these dining environments.

+ Lighting for different times of day:

  • Lighting needs vary throughout the day to optimize the guest experience at different times.

++ Morning

  • Soft and subdued lighting creates a calm and welcoming atmosphere, ideal for breakfast. Maximizing natural light during this time enhances the gentle and glowing ambiance of early morning dining.

++ Afternoon

  • Using slightly brighter lighting during lunch promotes a lively and energetic ambiance. This lighting encourages a quicker dining experience, catering to busy lunch crowds seeking efficient service.

++ Evening

  • For dinner, a combination of ambient, accent, and task lighting is recommended to elevate the guest experience. This approach provides guests with a sense of intimacy and relaxation, allowing them to unwind and enjoy their meals at a more leisurely pace.

Faqs: Restaurant lighting ideas

What type of lighting is best for a restaurant?

  • The best type of lighting for a restaurant depends on the specific needs and ambiance desired. Generally, restaurants benefit from a mix of ambient, task, and accent lighting tailored to the space and brightness requirements.

How to design lighting for a restaurant?

  • When designing restaurant lighting, think about the atmosphere you want to establish. Use a combination of ambient, task, and accent lighting to serve specific purposes. Ensure the lighting can be adjusted to suit different times of day and moods.

Why do fancy restaurants have dark lighting?

  • Fancy restaurants often use dark or low lighting to create an intimate and sophisticated ambiance, which aligns with the mood they aim to achieve.

What are the light colors for restaurants?

  • Light colors for restaurants generally include warm tones like soft white, warm white, or even light shades of yellow or orange. These colors promote a cozy and inviting atmosphere.

Which lamp color is considered best for a restaurant or dining area?

  • Lamps with warmer colors (around 2700K to 3000K on the Kelvin scale) are considered best for restaurants or dining areas.

What is ambient lighting in a restaurant?

  • Ambient lighting in a restaurant refers to the overall, soft background illumination that sets the mood and general brightness level of the space. It's often provided by fixtures like chandeliers, wall sconces, or recessed lights.

What is the best light source for a hotel or restaurant?

  • The best light source for a hotel or restaurant can vary, but it is often LED lighting due to its energy efficiency, longevity, and versatility in color and design options.

What are the colors for fancy restaurants?

  • Fancy restaurants often use deep, rich colors like burgundy, dark green, or navy blue on walls and upholstery to complement the subdued lighting and create an upscale, luxurious feel.

Why do restaurants have yellow lights?

  • Restaurants use yellow lights (often in the warm white spectrum) to create a cozy and inviting atmosphere. Yellowish hues are flattering and can enhance the appearance of food.

Why do restaurants use red lights?

  • Restaurants sometimes use red lights to accent certain areas, like bars or lounge spaces, to create a vibrant, energetic ambiance. Red lighting can also stimulate appetite and create a dramatic effect.


Rowabi has delved into the critical aspects of why investing in quality lighting matters, explored various types of restaurant lighting, discussed innovative design ideas, and learned how to tailor lighting to suit a restaurant's unique goals.

By perfecting your restaurant's lighting, you can elevate performance and foster customer loyalty.


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