When designing a restaurant, the owners often tend to focus on the interior décor, furniture, and brand image. However, one such element that is often overlooked but equally important is the restaurant lighting. To get an idea of how big an impact lighting has on the restaurant’s look and feel, a study found that 91% of casual diners said that ambiance plays a key role in their dining choice and experience. The restaurant lighting impacts how the objects are perceived, this also included food and beverages.
However, the lighting needs to be effective and efficient at the same time. To ensure this, we’ve put together four restaurant lighting tips and tricks that’ll help you take the guest experience to a whole new level.
1. Glare Prevention: Contrast Over Brightness
No one likes to have a bright light coming straight into their eyes. This applies to restaurant lighting as well. The trick with functional restaurant lighting is to balance the intensity of light in an area that eliminates glare and eye strain.
In a poorly designed lighting space, our eyes have to constantly adjust to the amount of light coming when we move our eyes around. Depending on the severity, this leads to mild discomfort to headaches. Thus, in restaurants, glare prevention is a top priority in improving the guest experience.
Places like bars and dinner spaces have to pay close attention to avoiding glare. One of the most common mistakes in such establishments is placing a dim light on the table. The issue here is that the light doesn’t actually illuminate the surface it is meant to illuminate. Even a dim light when contrasted with dark surroundings can appear bright, which is quite an eye straining. This makes looking around the space and then back at the table uncomfortable.
This issue of visual discomfort can be avoided with a proper balance and contrast of light sources. Illuminating nearby areas, painting the walls with a lighter color, and maintaining shade in areas with bright sunlight are just some of the ways that can help you improve the guest experience.
2. Use Color Temperatures to Your Advantage
There are both technical and subjective aspects to lighting design, but generally speaking, there are trends in how color affects our emotions.
- Light sources that have cool blue tones, and high color temperature, improve our attention to detail. However, high exposure to cool light sources can induce anxiety and stress.
- Light sources that have warm yellow tones, and low color temperature, have a relaxing effect, making them ideal for spaces like hotel rooms, bedrooms, and even restaurants.
A side note to the above points is that even though high color temperatures are considered “cool” and low color temperatures are considered “warm, it is actually referring to the light color being produced and not the actual temperature.
3. Choose Your LEDs Carefully
Investing in LEDs is a smart decision for all kinds of businesses since the amount of energy saved essentially pays for the initial investment for getting LEDs.
Since LED light sources are being adopted in almost all businesses, this brought new and critical considerations for using LED in restaurant lighting.
LED technology is constantly developing and changing. This is why you don’t see repair services for LED products because it’s quite expensive to learn the new features and challenges it brings along with them.
In the case of restaurant lighting, the question arrives, what if the LED fixture fails? How would it affect the business? As newer LED technology comes into the picture, the newer LED bulbs will be brighter and have different Kelvin temperature than the ones that are currently available.
To tackle this, buying lots of LED bulbs, more than required, would eliminate the problem of having inconsistent brightness of LED bulbs. The other alternative however is to invest a higher amount due to energy bills from incandescent bulbs.
4. Use High CRI Lighting to Make Your Dishes Look Appealing
Color Rendering Index (CRI) tells how well a light source shows the color and textures of surfaces, the maximum value being 100. CRI is often confused with Correlated Color Temperature (CCT). CRI describes the ability to show the color and textures of other surfaces, and CCT describes the color of the light source.
High CRI in restaurants translates to lighting sources improving the appearance of food and beverages, which is always a plus. One important thing to keep in mind is that the inverse is true as well. Poor lighting has a negative impact on how your guests perceive the food served to them.
5. Take Care of Stray Lights
While you’re focusing on indoor lighting fixtures, an external unavoidable light source can mitigate all the time and effort you put into providing your guest with an amazing ambiance.
Stray lights can come from many sources like unshaded windows, kitchen lighting, outside lights, etc. The presence of stray light forces you to adjust to the light intensity difference when you look around. As mentioned earlier, this is undesirable in restaurants.
Below are some of the practices that can help you take care of stray lights –
- Use shaded windows
- Reposition outside lights
- Ensure the light bulbs aren’t visible and are properly shaded
- Use non-glossy paints for walls that your guests can see, especially kitchen walls
Keeping an eye out for any stray light shining on your guests can help you take the steps required for minimizing any discomfort due to stray lights.
Michael Tobias, PE, is the principal and founder of NY Engineers. He leads a team of over 50 MEP/FP engineers. Although New York Engineers’ main headquarters are in NYC and Chicago the business has led over 1,000 engineering projects in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland, and California, as well as Malaysia and Singapore. Michael is an advocate for green technology and energy efficiency and approaches engineering as a vehicle to raise the quality of life.
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