Best Lighting for Restaurants & Bars: Ultimate Guide

Best Lighting for Restaurants & Bars: Ultimate Guide
January 17, 2020 Levi Olmstead

Designing a restaurant, bar or brewery requires an ample amount of research and planning. It’s important to decide the desired mood you want to create in your space along with considering the location of it. Is your restaurant trying to attract families? 

Is your bar in the downtown of a city or is it in a small town? Does your brewery operate earlier in the afternoon or later into the night? All of these things are important when deciding on design of restaurant interior design space and floor plan layout, but are especially important when deciding what kind of lighting you want to install.

Light is perhaps one of the biggest factors that determine the mood of a space. Lighting can make or break the way a person feels in a room and whether or not he or she will come back to your business based on how enjoyable the experience was. Creating a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere won’t only be beneficial to your customer’s experience, a positive atmosphere will benefit your income as well. 

Here are some quick pointers to help you understand and know how to create the desired environment in your restaurant, bar, or brewery by using the right lighting:

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What Are Common Kinds of Lighting for Restaurants, Bars and Breweries?

1. Ambient Lighting

This is the most commonly used form of lighting overall. Ambient lighting is lighting that comes from windows and lighting fixtures that will also substitute for natural lighting. Ambient lighting is known for creating warmth and depth in a room as well as illuminating a space without glare. 

Ambient lighting is great for restaurants, bars and breweries alike because it’s basic, the eyes are used to it and because it can be created using almost any type of lighting fixture.


2. Accent Lighting

Accent lighting means lighting that is focused on a particular part of a room or object in the room. The brighter of the lights is placed around an area or object illuminating it rather than the room as a whole. 

Accent lighting can be a great addition to your business if you are trying to show off a certain part of it.


3. Task Lighting

Task lighting is usually found in smaller lighting fixtures and is meant to illuminate certain up close up tasks or places; like a table. Usually, task lighting is not meant to be the only source of light in a room.

Typically, task lighting is found around the home rather than places like a restaurant, bar or brewery. However, task lighting could be beneficial for additional lighting in spaces that may get dark at night or areas that are dimly lit.


Best Lighting for Different Times of the Day

As natural light changes outside, lighting in space should also change. Considering the hours of operation of your business will help you decide what lighting will work the best. Below are some tips for lighting depending on the time of day for your business:

Morning Lighting

Does your restaurant do the most business in the morning? Are you open earlier in the day rather than late at night? Creating lighting that mirrors sunlight is the best type of lighting for the morning, this means warm lighting. Using lighting that gives off soft white and yellow hues are great for businesses that want to create a welcoming feeling for customers early on in the day.

Afternoon Lighting

Depending on the time of year, afternoon lighting will be different. Afternoon lighting should be able to be manipulated from warm hues to bright as the natural light outside changes. The use of lamps and lights that are able to be dimmed is a good way to be able to play with afternoon lighting in your business. 

Night Lighting

Bright accent lights are best for businesses that are open into the night. Bars especially are typically darker at night in order to create a relaxing feel; the same applies to restaurants and breweries that may be more well-lit during the day. Accent lights allow you to illuminate certain areas while keeping a majority of the space dark, to mirror the outside natural light.

Types of Lighting

There are the countless different types of lighting that you have the ability to choose from for your business, here are some ideas:

1. Lighting Fixtures

Lighting fixtures are important to consider when designing your business. Lighting fixtures can be manipulated in a variety of different ways to create different kinds of lighting. An easy way to use lighting fixtures in your business without replacing all of the already existing lights is to install a hid retrofit kit. These kits allow you to use different kinds of lighting without having to alter the entire design of a space.


2. Smart Lighting

Smart lighting is lighting that is designed with the environment and energy efficiency in mind. Smart lighting is any kind of lighting that uses bulbs and lighting fixtures that don’t use a lot of energy and are not harmful to the environment in any way. Smart lighting can essentially be installed in any type of business.


3. Natural Lighting

Natural light, of course, is light that comes from the sun. Natural light, however, can be manipulated to illuminate certain areas of space with various windows and lighting fixtures. Natural light is great for any sort of space but is especially beneficial for businesses that are open during earlier hours of the day where sunlight is more apparent.


4. Outdoor Lighting

There are a variety of ways that outdoor lighting can be manipulated and used to illuminate different parts of a restaurant, bar, or brewery. You can use lighting fixtures and different kinds of bulbs to use outdoor lighting to your benefit.


Popular Restaurant, Bar and Brewery Lighting Fixtures

Lighting for restaurants, bars, and breweries is unique when compared to lighting in other types of businesses and homes; the reason being the various demographics that come through the door on a daily basis. After you’ve established the desired mood for your business, use some of these lighting fixtures to actually create that mood:

Pendant Lights

Also referred to as drop or suspending light, pendant lights are lights that hang from the ceiling by a cord, chain or rod. These lights are often hung in multiples and are great for hanging over tables and bars. A major benefit of pendant lights is its ability to be used as general/ambient lighting or accent lighting. If used in multiples, they can create general lighting, or if used in singles they can be used for accent lighting. 



Chandeliers typically create feelings of elegance and sophistication; great for high-end restaurants and upper-class bars. Chandeliers use multiple bulbs, so depending on the size, they can be used for accent or general, ambient lighting.


Wall Lights

Wall lights are ideal for businesses that want to create a bright and larger feeling atmosphere. These kinds of lighting fixtures add overhead lighting and provide the main source of light for spaces.


Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans can be beneficial for lighting larger restaurants, bars, and breweries by illuminating bigger areas that other, smaller lighting fixtures may not be able to reach. This is because all of the lighting is coming from above.


Track Lighting

Track lighting is a lighting fixture where smaller light fixtures or bulbs are attached on a long track that then attaches to the ceiling. Track lighting highlights an area’s best features, acting as a form of accent lighting. These are excellent for restaurants, bars, and breweries because their position can be changed throughout the day as well.


LED Lighting

An upcoming trend in interior design, LED lighting can go anywhere and is extremely energy and cost-efficient. LED bulbs last 80% longer than other bulbs, so they have to be replaced less, making them a great choice for a business that frequently has people in it. LED bulbs are also brighter so it will be ideal for restaurants, bars, and breweries that are open from the morning into the night.


Recessed Lighting

Recessed lighting, also known as can lighting is a type of lighting fixture that is installed in a hollow opening in the ceiling and illuminates entire rooms. A major benefit of a recessed lighting fixture is that essentially any sort of bulb can be used in it; the most popular choice for restaurants, bars and breweries is LED recessed lighting.

Recessed lighting also usually has the ability to be dimmed so is ideal for businesses that want or need that option.


Utility Lighting

Utility lighting is a lighting fixture that aims to create and distribute light efficiently to large areas. This form of lighting is good for a business that has a large outdoor area or for a business that is in a darker location.


Laser Lights

Laser lights are monochromatic, directional and coherent lighting fixtures that project narrow and highly concentrated rays of light onto a certain area. These should only be used in a restaurant, bar or brewery that wants to create a feeling of electricity and brightness.


Lighting Impacts Your Business’s Mood

What do you want to say about your space? Who do you want to attract? What do you want people to say about your business? 

These are all important questions to ask yourself as you design your restaurant, bar or brewery. These questions will give you an understanding of the business design you want to create. 

From this understanding, you will be able to pick the lighting that will best fit your space and set the correct mood for all of your customers. Keep this outline in mind when picking out lighting for your restaurant, bar or brewery; your choices will be sure to impress and please your customers.

Additional Resources to Help You Start Your Dream Business:

Jennifer Bell
Jennifer Ball

Jennifer Bell is a freelance writer, blogger, dog-enthusiast and avid beachgoer operating out of Southern New Jersey.

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