Types of restaurant lighting and what it says about your restaurant

10 March 2022
Design

Designing the perfect ambient space in your restaurant means taking into consideration the different elements of interior design. The architecture, the space, the paint and choice of colours, the furniture and the layout all play a vital role in creating an inviting and welcoming experience for your diners and customers.

But often restaurant lighting is not top of mind, and can be an afterthought in the design process. The value of restaurant lighting is underestimated with some restaurant management experts saying that lighting is the most important element of interior design. By not having the right type of restaurant lighting for the right intention, it will lead your dining patrons feeling underwhelmed or overstimulated.

With diners and patrons wanting to escape the drudgery of the pandemic and isolations, it is important all restauranteurs ask these questions when welcoming back patrons:

What patrons are you trying to attract? Is your venue located in the hustle and bustle of the city or in a quiet location? Do you operate earlier in the afternoon or later in the evening? How do you want your patrons to feel?

Types of lighting in restaurants

Ambient Lighting

As the name suggests, ambient lighting in restaurants is what creates the overall ambience and mood in your restaurant. Ambient lighting is responsible for creating the warmth and depth within your dining space and whilst illuminating your restaurant space without glare.

Low, soft-lit lighting can create an intimate, upscale experience making this type of ambient lighting perfect for a restaurant’s bar or lounge area. But the same effect can be recreated on tables by placing the right table lamp that diffuses the light onto the table, without glare, whilst still creating the intimacy and warmth between diners. Low lighting encourages diners to linger comfortably and stay for longer, perhaps for coffee and dessert coupled with good conversation.

Low, soft lit lighting creating intimate dining ambience 

Cordless table lamps for restaurants are a seamless way to create opulence and intimacy in any particular space of your restaurant, such as dining tables, the bar area or the cocktail lounge.  

NEOZ cordless table lamp, the Tall Poppy, in dining area

Bright lighting in contrast encourages a more energetic and lively mood, making this type of ambient lighting perfect for casual and family restaurants where bright lights and bright noises are to be expected. Bright lighting can also encourage diners to move on once their meal is complete, allowing for more turnover in the dining rush hour.

✔ Minimal glare

✔ Creates depth

✔ Intimacy and warmth

Accent lighting 

Accent lighting refers to the more decorative light sources around your restaurant space that attracts attention for visual interest. The backwall of the bar, paintings, architectural features and sculptures often require the right accent lighting.

Accent lighting used to draw attention to the bar area of a restaurant

Flood lighting or spot lighting is often used for the purpose of accent lighting to draw attention to a particular space in your restaurant, to highlight signs or to showcase art. Accent lighting can help illuminate your space without overpowering or take over the overall ambience of your restaurant.

Wall lights are often used in restaurants where lighting fixtures on walls can help provide additional overhead lighting. They are also used to create lighting and design accents around your restaurant space.

Chandeliers are typical examples of accent lights that draw your attention to overhead space of a restaurant. They are perfect for high-end restaurants and upscale lounges and bars looking to create a sense of elegance and grandeur.

✔ Attracts attention for visual interest

✔ Elegant and grandeur

✔ Great lighting and design accents

Task lighting 

Task lighting provides lighting assistance to perform tasks like cooking in the kitchen, illuminate pathways to the bathroom, or sufficient lighting for patrons to read the menu or view any buffet or self service areas.

Task lighting using ceiling lights to showcase dining tables

Some restaurants utilise task lighting from the ceiling to specifically showcase light right above dining tables, making the reading of a menu and viewing of food easy for diners. By having fixed lighting from ceiling to perform the function of task lighting, it prevents diners from experiencing direct glare from a closer lighting source.

However, depending on the layout of your restaurant and the types of patrons you serve, having fixed ceiling lights prevents flexibility in moving and adjusting dining tables to suit your space at any given time. Your ceiling heights will also determine the effectiveness and brightness of any fixed ceiling lights – having high ceilings (whilst architecturally beautiful to create space and depth) can impact on the effectiveness of lighting your restaurant (not to mention the costs involved in the electrical installation and configuration of fixed lights).

If your restaurant relies on flexibility to change and move dining tables, to expand for more (or less) diners to fit or to cater for functions, then perhaps a battery operated table lamp is the solution to your illumination needs.

Peter Ellis, founder of NEOZ lamps, explains how 25 years ago the inspiration for the first NEOZ lamp came about because of the hospitality industry’s need to be “moving the tables around but still illuminating them properly”.

“The Magill was the first lamp that we produced and one of the first in the world that had a halogen light source which gave off sufficient illumination to read menus, to actually see food on the table… that was the purpose, [which was] much brighter than the candle which was the traditional table lighting form back then.”

First released in 1995, this is the original NEOZ Cordless Lamp designed for the Penfolds Magill Estate Winery. Brush body with part frosted acrylic providing direct downlight and soft ambient side light.

By having a functional yet sophisticated cordless table lamp perform task lighting without the glare, means that your patrons will experience a level of dining where the lighting actually adds to the dining experience.

✔ Assistance for performing tasks

✔ Showcase dining tables

✔ Minimal style

✔ Flexible

Focus on finding the right light

After asking and answering the questions needed to find the right mood and ambience for your restaurant space, focus on finding the right light sources to produce the atmosphere you want your patrons to experience.

A balance of fixed lighting on your ceilings or your walls will provide the necessary overhead lighting that illuminates your restaurant for functionality and safety. But depending on your space and needs, concentrating on fixed lights throughout the space might be an expensive undertaking with the need to hire qualified contractors and electricians who understand your lighting vision.

Further, if your space requires a refresh but without the renovation budget, a more flexible lighting solution without the need (and cost) for electricians is available.

Cordless lamps that are battery operated is a great solution for restauranteurs looking to incorporate luxury and illumination without the challenges and expenses attached to restaurant renovations.

The Apex rechargeable battery table lamp is the spiritual and evolutionary successor to the ‘Magill’ lamp.

Finding the perfect cordless table lamp to match your restaurant ambience is a low impact way to build on your lighting designs and vision for your space. Cordless lamps allow for the flexibility of a changing layout and moving around of tables. The soft glow from NEOZ lamps means patrons enjoy feeling and looking good amongst each other, while the illumination angle from the lamp specifically hits the dining space to showcase the food.

The Apex rechargeable battery table lamp is the perfect example that marries the functionality of efficient glare-free downlight, with the provision of beautiful warm white illumination. With the design focusing on the soft glow on the inner diffuser cone and the compact body of ‘Aluminium Alloy’ or ‘Real Brass’, this lamp takes up very little real estate on the dining table.

Dan Freene, owner of Jung Sung in Chippendale, was looking for the right light for his dining tables because the ceilings were quite high, and as he mentions in our interview with him, he “looked around for a long time trying to find something to put on the table… it was either we put something battery operated because we don’t want to pollute the restaurant with cables or we look at sort of having drop down lights from above but that was going to cause an issue because we constantly change the shape of our tables depending on what the night has in store.”

Ultimately, Dan picked out the Tall Poppy NEOZ lamps for the fact that they are battery operated, rechargeable with a 12 hour battery life, dimmable and sits about 300mm high off the table.

If you would like to discuss your lighting needs for your restaurant and how NEOZ cordless lamps can provide a solution for your space, give the NEOZ sales team a call on (02) 9810 5520.

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