Top 10 Restaurant Lighting Ideas That Inspire

Did you know that 91% of customers say that the appeal of a restaurant’s ambiance influences their decision to visit and dine? The restaurant lighting is a very important factor in restaurant design.

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A vibrantly designed interior and exterior that appeals to the eyes, not just the tastebuds — is what every restaurant owner and designer wants. And that is probably what you’re working to integrate into your restaurant design. However, curating that perfect ambiance goes beyond just selecting quality interiors as studies show that restaurant lighting can have a big impact on consumer perception, interior mood, and even the taste of your food!

To help paint a clearer picture of how to illuminate your interior best, we took the liberty of enumerating why it matters, and what are the main kinds, and listed 10 lighting ideas for restaurants that you can draw inspiration.

restaurant lighting ideas
restaurant lighting ideas

Why is Restaurant Lighting Important?

Lighting can be a central component in creating a striking visual look that will leave a mark on diners. Here’s why.

It will set the restaurant’s mood.

The reason people go out is that they want a different experience from their usual dining table. They want an ambiance that’s conducive to partaking in a hearty meal while providing a place to socialize comfortably. The mood of your restaurant is dictated by your interior design and lighting. So, it’s imperative you choose the right lighting that fits your brand and will enhance the customer’s experience best.

Bright lights and low lighting, artificial and natural lighting — all these have an emotional and psychological impact on how people will see your restaurant. For example, low lighting creates a more intimate space, while a well-lit room provides a more inviting atmosphere.

So, consider lighting types with your customers in mind.

It can generate more sales.

The right lighting and mood can influence your customers to stay longer. And the longer they stay, the more likely they are to spend more. Even better, good food coupled with stellar aesthetics can keep them coming back in the long haul.

Remember what we said about how lighting can make food taste even better? Strategic lighting can make the food more appealing. You can capitalize on this by placing lighting fixtures in areas of the dining room where you want to accentuate the food or by placing LED lights at the bar to draw more attention to it.

Main Kinds of Restaurant Lighting

Figuring out which fixtures you should use to curate the atmosphere you want begins with knowing the specific kind of lighting you want to influence the sensory experience of your customers. Different fixtures and placements will achieve a specific look and mood.

Each of these breathes life into a space differently and will require different lighting fixtures and sources to work their magic. Let’s go through them one by one.

Ambient Lighting

This kind of lighting is the main source of light that you see in space and is the most common. Ambient light allows people to move comfortably around the room without reflecting a harsh glare. You can achieve this either by using natural lighting through large windows or artificial sources like overhead fixtures.

Because it’s the general light source in space, ambient lighting plays a big role in setting your restaurant’s overall mood.

Ambient lighting is a staple in restaurants and bars because it’s basic and versatile enough to be coupled with any other type of overhead lighting and fixtures. It is typically installed mounted on the ceiling (i.e. recessed lighting like chandeliers); through wall sconces or torchieres that illuminate the walls with bright light; or valences that bounce the light off the ceilings and walls.

When considering ambient lighting in your restaurant design, think of it as the base you’ll work with. You can add more depth to this by supplementing it with light fixtures that provide an accent, task lighting, or both.

restaurant ambient lighting
restaurant ambient lighting

Accent Lighting

If you have exquisite style features in your restaurant that you want to show off, then accent lighting is the way to go.

Accent lights are very concentrated lights meant to draw a customer’s attention to a focal point in your restaurant. That’s why it’s one of the best ways to show off your restaurant decor strategically while adding personality to the space.

This kind of lighting is meant to serve a more decorative purpose rather than a functional one. And though it is not essential in illuminating the space, it adds touches of depth to the design which makes it a great option for elevating the customer experience from the moment they walk into your restaurant.

You can opt to use accent lighting to showcase beautiful paintings in a long hallway, emphasize the private booths to communicate exclusivity, and the great collection of liquors at the bar that welcomes a night of socialization.

restaurant accent lighting
restaurant accent lighting

Task Lighting

Task lighting is exactly what it sounds like: it lets your team or a customer accomplish tasks like cooking or reading a menu.

Essentially the most versatile of the lighting solutions you can use, various types of fixtures can be used to create the necessary task lighting. This usually comes in the form of fluorescent lights, small ceiling-mounted lighting fixtures, or small lamps that provide bright lighting to a specific area, like a food menu or hostess stand. In restaurants where a chef would cook the food right at the table or close to customers, more overhead lighting would be needed.

It’s important to remember that task lighting is not meant to stand alone, instead, it’s meant as a functional light contrast. So, it should be coupled with soft ambient or accent lighting. Before you choose the task lighting fixture you want, it’s better to list all the activities that will be performed in each room of your restaurant.

restaurant task lighting
restaurant task lighting

10 Types of Lighting

When it comes to zoning in on the lighting fixture or style you want in your restaurant, there are multiple types you can choose from. Depending on your brand, theme, and operating hours, you can combine these lighting options to make your space visually appealing to customers.

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Natural light

The warm, bright light coming from the sun is not only cost-effective but also great for enhancing the aesthetic of your space. You can allow beautiful streaks of sunlight to illuminate specific areas of your restaurant through strategically placed windows.

If you boast splendid views of a beautiful landscape or cityscape, floor-to-ceiling windows can allow the fullness of the natural light and landscape to captivate your customers. Just study the natural light patterns and provide blinds when needed to keep the sun out of their eyes.

natural light
natural light


If you’re going for a fine-dining feel and have a high ceiling you can spare, then making it a point to install a chandelier is an easy way to create the sophisticated mood you desire. These light fixtures never go out of style and will immediately make a strong statement to anyone who sees them.

Ideal for high-end dining, chandeliers have multiple bulbs that can function as an accent or ambient lighting, depending on the size.


Hanging pendants

One of the most commonly used lights in restaurants and cafes, they come in diverse designs, heights, and sizes that can fit any style you’re going for.

These lighting fixtures are so flexible that you can use a series of clear pendant lights to provide ambient light and multiple dark-colored pendants to serve as table task lights. Then, placing one or two pendant lights on specific style features will create focal points for accent lighting that can add more drama to your look.

Because hanging pendants are very practical and sleek, it’s no wonder they can be found in almost any restaurant design.


Wall Accents

Wall accents are similar to hanging pendants, except they’re mounted on a wall. These lighting fixtures are also incredibly versatile and can create depth to any surface — especially when used creatively.

These can be placed practically anywhere at restaurants: as an accent to big fabulous mirrors, a task light in a brick wall, or welcoming light at the main door of your restaurant. Whatever use you may find for them, they’ll work wonders in showcasing the architecture of the space you put them in.

wall accents
wall accents


The power of candlelight is simple yet timeless, and any restaurant owner who wants to draw in couples should have this on their list. Its soft, golden glow radiates a warmth perfect for creating a romantic atmosphere.

And although this is can seem a little bit old-fashioned, it’s simple enough to be paired with ambient or accent lighting; yet, stunning enough to still captivate. Because one candle isn’t typically bright enough to illuminate the whole table, using multiple candles or coupling this with LED lights or mood lights may be a good idea.

Make sure to be mindful of safety practices when working with candles to avoid inconveniences and accidents.


Recessed Lighting

Also known as ‘can lighting’, they are easy to search for and can be placed in hollow openings on the ceiling. Recessed lighting is used in many different ways, from general lighting in parking lots to accent lighting in bars. One of the major selling points of this lighting is that it can be used with any type of bulb. The most commonly preferred by restaurants and bars are LED bulbs because of their energy efficiency. Better still, it can be installed with a dimming feature.

Because of the minimalist style of these light fixtures, you can explore various styling options with them. An example is to place LED light on the floor creating an elegant illuminated pathway or you can install small recessed LED lighting in the bar to have a more subdued mood.

recessed lighting
recessed lighting

LED Track Lighting

Perfect for modern industrial designs, restaurant LED track lighting won’t just effectively brighten an area of your space. It’ll make it look nicer, too. There are countless selections of track lighting fixtures available on the market, so the search will be easy to find the one that suits your needs.

This type of lighting offers plenty of benefits because it is essentially a series of small lamps lined up into one horizontal or vertical fixture. Each of the lamps can be effortlessly directed to any part of the room. Despite its brightness, LED lighting is relatively cooler and cost-saving compared to conventional bulbs. That’s why it’s a favorite among innovative restaurateurs looking to save more in operational costs in the long haul.

restaurant track lights
restaurant track lights

Menu lighting

Your menu lighting will vary depending on your restaurant setup. It can be displayed outside where passersby can see it, on a wall visible upon entering or printed out like a brochure.

If it’s outside, one of your main goals is to make sure that people take notice of your menu, especially if your restaurant is in a busy location. Emotive lighting can be just the thing you need to give your menu that eye-catching boost to make them pause, browse through your offerings, and invite them in.

For wall-mounted menus, you can use track lights or even led strips to make a statement backlight and highlight your offers better. In contrast, a good lamp can serve as an effective task lighting for helping customers read table menus.

Menu lighting
Menu lighting

Smart lighting

LED lights are a prime example of smart lighting. They are highly economical and less environmentally harmful because they are energy efficient.

They’re also called ‘smart’ because they can provide you with a handful of innovative features like daylight sensors, dimming control, and auto shut-off that’s great for your wallet in the long run as you cut down on utility bills.

For example, your smart lights can be turned off or dim during the morning when natural light is abundant and eventually grow brighter as the sun sets. You can also use an automatic turn-off setting for bathrooms or areas that people from time just occupy to time.

An innovative restaurant lighting option that saves you money.

smart lighting
smart lighting

Outdoor Lighting

The outdoor patio or storefront of your restaurant extends your space and warrants as much attention as the interiors. It’s one of the things that consumers look for in a post-pandemic world.

Outdoor lighting isn’t complicated; depending on your space, you can even use accent string lights or lanterns as some of your outdoor lighting options! A beautifully lit al fresco decorated with warm lights that illuminate the trees or a beautiful architectural piece can be particularly inviting to customers looking to enjoy a romantic date.

restaurant outdoor lighting
restaurant outdoor lighting


Investing in great restaurant lighting ideas is integral to capturing consumer interest and building brand loyalty. With the right design, lighting can be strategically used to create compelling sensory experiences that your customers won’t forget.

With ambiance being a major criterion in customers’ selection of their top restaurants, the power of a good lighting idea is not to be underestimated. Quality lighting design is an investment that can pay off tenfold in the future when done right.

Consult An Expert and Get Tailor-Fit Recommendation

With so many choices in the market, selecting the right LED lights for your restaurant can be a daunting task. But that’s exactly why we’re here.

Our expert team at RC Lighting is always ready to provide the assistance you need in finding the best lighting options your money can buy. Just tell us your vision and goals, and we’ll give you a custom recommendation on the best LED lighting ideas that won’t just make you stand out but even save you money.

Send us an inquiry today, and together, let’s create a stellar dining experience that your customers won’t forget.

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