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How Does Lighting Affect Restaurants?

Mar. 21, 2022

After a long week at work, you're ready to head to your favorite, cozy and quaint restaurant. The service is great and the food is exceptional, but your attraction to this place has more to do with the atmosphere. After an hour or so here, you completely forget about that stress called work. With the "on/off" switch in the settings, the weekend officially begins. Whether you're going for a casual dinner or something more upscale, proper lighting plays an important role in your dining experience. The lighting in a restaurant affects many elements, including food presentation, mood lighting, and overall satisfaction.



Not all restaurants are created equal, and for that matter, neither is lighting. Consider your typical dining experience at a fast-food restaurant. It's full of vibrant colors, loud, upbeat music, and bright lights. This is often achieved with fluorescent lamps that have a higher color temperature of 3000-4000 Kelvin. The lighting of this color temperature produces a brighter white light and can produce a more alert environment, which is why you tend to feel rushed when you go to a fast-food restaurant.

Restaurant Lighting

 Restaurant Lighting    


A recent study conducted by Cornell University discussing lighting and music in fast food restaurants found that people who ate in brighter lighting and faster music ate more and enjoyed their dining experience less than those who ate in dimmer lighting and softer music. While dimmer lighting (usually produced by incandescent lamps with warmer white temperatures) can enhance your dining experience and create a more relaxed and serene atmosphere, a lack of lighting can become more annoying. If you can't see, you can't enjoy that big, juicy steak you ordered because you can't find the knife. The challenge with restaurant lighting is finding the balance.



Presentation is everything when dining out. If the drinks look questionable or a meal doesn't look good, it may be returned. If the food and drinks look inviting, customers are more likely to patronize the restaurant. That's why more upscale restaurants, use indirect lighting in the dining area of the restaurant. Direct light may cast shadows on the meals, making them look unattractive. Lighting control in the restaurant is also very important for food presentation. Using dimmers to adjust the relative lighting helps keep the mood, but it also enhances the ambient light level, creating a softer, more subdued light.

75w Osram SMD Led Track Panel Light

75w Osram SMD Led Track Panel Light



This is especially important in more upscale restaurants, especially at dinner, where Rakeesh Patel is the senior project architect at Hillstone, a luxury bistro. In our interview, he explained that each of Hillstone Restaurant Group's restaurants has its own unique qualities; the lighting choices are in the interior design. According to Patel, the restaurants incorporate layering in their lighting systems, using a variety of low-voltage, incandescent, LED, and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). They also integrate centralized dimming systems such as Lutron or Marlin to use zone lighting restaurant technology. 

Zone lighting helps to properly designate each part of the restaurant. For example, the lights used in the dining area are often not the same as those used in the kitchen; they may also differ in the way the bathrooms and entrances are lit, Patel explains, adding that in terms of lighting choices, restaurants want to achieve "functionality and drama to enhance the dining experience. Since most restaurants use a lot of light, dimmers are a huge investment, not only to create ambiance but also to reduce energy costs. Pairing them with more energy-efficient lights such as LEDs and restaurant lights can result in significant savings.


It turns out that when you catch the grub, the lights really do make a difference. They can create a fast-moving atmosphere or provide a calmer dining environment. Plus, with the right lighting, your food will look like it came out of a magazine, not off the street. So, the next time you choose a restaurant, consider whether the lighting provides the best "ambiance" for your food.

If you want to get more information about the different types of track lighting, welcome to contact us today or request a quote.  


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