When it comes to great customer service, one thing to consider is your customer’s perfect dining experience. Your customers will appreciate it if your ambient lighting scheme was designed with their comfort in mind.
Even if you think that you got everything perfect, there are a few “touch-up” details you may want to consider in terms of light when creating an ambiance in your restaurant:
Purpose of our lights
We need lights not just for creating an atmosphere, but for a certain purpose, that is actually to be able to see things.
- Don’t hide them, highlight them! If you are thinking of dimming your lights, don’t make them too dim. People will not be too comfortable if they would not be able to see the menu or food that they are eating. Not to mention, people need to be able to see each other’s faces.
- Food presentation. You can use bright light that is directly above the food area that you wish to display.
- Focal points. In the restaurant, regardless of the light setting, there may be several things that need to be highlighted and that includes (but is not limited to) menu boards, fine art, and sculptures. Make sure these lights are at the right angle and are not shining into anybody’s face.
- Décor Accent. Proper lighting can do a great job of accenting your theme or décor.
- Lights for the bar area. Light with a tint of red goes well for the bar area.
- Lights for restrooms. Bathrooms are usually lit with white light for your skin tone to look more accurate in the mirror.
- Lights for waiters. To fulfill your customer orders quickly, you need to make sure there is enough light for them to move around and see their notes.
- Lights for kitchen. You cannot prepare quality food in bad-lit kitchens! Keep safety in mind when choosing proper lighting for the kitchen area. Overhead lights suit the kitchen area the best.
- Lights for cleaners. Your place should be able to light up properly when guests are gone and the cleaning crew is taking over.
- Exit and Emergency signs. Need to be always lit, so in case of emergency, people can exit promptly.
- Exterior lighting and outdoor patio. As the sun goes down, you will need to light your restaurant up! This is how your clients will know that you are open for business. Exterior lighting can elegantly highlight your landscaping and architecture. It is also needed to keep your sidewalks and parking areas safe. You can use a variety of lighting options outdoors, but floor lamps, string lights, and pendants seem to work the best.
- Sensory lights for the outdoors. Will keep away intruders during night hours and early morning.
1. Natural window lighting
Daylight rules! Natural light is more comfortable and this can be used to your advantage. Floor-to-ceiling windows, doors with glass panes, and skylights are just a few ways to make use of natural light.
Placing tables near the big windows will let your customers enjoy the warm sunlight. Always keep track of the sun’s position and what direction your restaurant faces.
At certain times, blinds can help block the sunlight so your customers can be shaded when the sun changes position.
- In the morning the sun is weak and probably will not interrupt peoples’ awakening routine. But if your windows are on the sunrise side and notice that your clients are struggling with reading their newspapers or iPhones, consider pulling the shades down.
- In the afternoon the sun is up and it is highly unlikely that it will cause too much trouble. But again, if you notice people struggling with being able to read the screen on their laptop – pull the blinds.
- In the evening, outside light can cause the most trouble as it may shine directly into people’s faces (but that depends if your windows are facing the sunset side). If people can’t see the screens of their electronic devices or each other’s faces because of this, they will not be happy and probably go to another place that does not have this problem.
2. Time of the day
To accommodate all three types of lighting, it is a good idea to install dimmers.
- If it’s morning, bright lights could be considered. People need encouragement to fully wake up and have a good setup for reading their morning newspaper.
- In the afternoon, bright to moderate light could be considered.
- At night (or evening), people just want to relax from their work or business and dim warm lights could be a proper solution to that.
3. Mood setting
Sometimes how we feel is more important than what we see and hear. You can do so much with a proper light setting to enhance people’s moods and the whole restaurant atmosphere in general.
- Bright fluorescent light sets up a mood of action, fun, and excitement. People will eat fast and get out fast. This is great for fast-paced environments, like fast food or take-out.
- Low warm light is great for setting up a romantic, homey atmosphere. It’s the comfort that we are after!
- Business lunches require a comfortable, but not too relaxing setup. You can use something in the middle for that purpose.
4. Brightness of light
Once again, your choices of lighting will be directly in tune with what kind of restaurant you have or planning to have.
- If you want high customer turnover, go with the bright light.
- If you want your clients to stay longer and order different drinks and deserts, go with dim lights.
5. Light density and coverage
- Spread your light evenly throughout your dining area for ideal customer comfort, without excessive bright or dark spots.
- Minimize shadows and glare effects by using indirect (bounced off) lighting.
- Use small spotlights to accentuate works of art and decoration in areas with low light in the rooms of the tables, in the same way as accessories oriented downward above common areas of movement, such as the reception area, bars of salads, bar areas, and bathrooms.
- Your reception and waiting area should be lit a little bit more, so your clients can see the host and look at the menu. This area should have a more inviting feel to it, so customers would have enough patience to wait for their table.
- Since the kitchen area is usually lit brightly, you need to ensure that this light does not “leak” into the dining area.
6. Type of clients you get
At some point, you will notice what kind of people are coming to your restaurant more often. It usually depends on the location of your restaurant. The downtown area usually attracts business people, college nearby – students, shopping malls – families with kids.
- Couples without kids. They would appreciate the intimate feel of the candlelight dinner. You can provide the same feeling with dim warm lighting (a bit in red tones) setup. If you want to give even more privacy to couples, you can put their light source directly on the table.
- Business clients. Many businesses are being done over a good dinner and a drink. These clients would appreciate moderate light, which is not too low or too bright.
- Families with kids would enjoy a calm atmosphere, but not to the point where the kids will fall asleep. Bright lights would encourage kids to run around and if your restaurant cannot accommodate that, keep your lights at a low level.
7. Light on your client’s face!
Well, we all don’t want to look weird to other people, especially if they are really important to us. If people will find out that lighting in your restaurant will make them less attractive, they will simply leave and never come back.
- Consider that overhead light will create an awkward shadow on your client’s face and this may not be something that they will want or like. You are here to make your client’s day, not break it. Indirect dim warm lighting solutions may improve the look of your client’s skin tones and the outfit that they are wearing.
- If you are determined to please your client with their looks, try setting up light in a way that reflects off the table.
8. Space accent
- Bright light sets up an illusion of a larger and cleaner space.
- Dim light makes the room look more private and cozy.
- Different heights of the ceilings require different lights. If your ceiling is very high, it will create an atmosphere of a big open space. If your ceiling is low, it creates an intimate atmosphere right off the bat. Set up your lights accordingly.
9. Light bulbs
That seems basic, but choosing the right light bulb does make a difference since they are what creates light in the first place (see our complete list below).
- Fluorescent light bulbs are used very often in fast food restaurants
- LED lights. More and more restaurants are using LED lighting since they are more energy-efficient and last longer. They come in a variety of colors and could save you thousands of dollars in the long run.
10. Dimming panels
If we are talking about dimming light, we will need a dimming panel with which you can adjust your light to any desired level, at any time of the day and do it consistently.
- Lutron is a great option for dimming lights and bringing shades down with a remote feature (through an app).
- Using a dimming panel will help with saving energy and with extending the longevity of your light bulbs.
One of the key ways to great lighting is to have matching lighting fixtures with a simple design. However, that is not always the case. Maybe your restaurant has a unique theme.
You can mix different materials of different shapes and sizes to give rooms in your restaurant a specific impression while maintaining a sense of harmony
12. Light Fixtures
The size, shape, and materials used for the lighting must fit the specific look and location of your restaurant. You can even mix and match the sizes, shapes, and materials.
This will add flair to your dining area and grab your diners’ attention. There are tons of light fixtures on the market and we will go over them in another article (you can check it out here), but they are the last thing to look at after you consider everything else, and by this I mean your needs and needs of your clients.
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