Because lighting has such an immediate and profound effect on the atmosphere in a restaurant, many restaurant owners work hard to ensure their lighting is strategically designed to set the perfect mood for their location. However, crafting the ideal lighting design, selecting all of the right equipment, and installing that equipment correctly can be highly complex and lead to numerous challenges. Below, we’ll discuss how lighting affects restaurant-goers, the most common lighting challenges restaurants face, how to overcome those challenges, and the risk of not addressing them.
How Lighting Affects Restaurant-Goers
According to a recent survey of restaurant patrons, 91% said that ambiance plays a role in their dining choice, and more than one in five diners named ambiance as their top factor for picking a restaurant. This means that for a large portion of your customers, the ambiance you create is as important as the food you serve or your customer service. Because lighting is one of the most influential factors in setting a mood, your lighting choices have a massive impact on how customers feel inside your restaurant and whether or not they decide to come back.
The Most Common Lighting Challenges
1 Balancing Light Levels
The key to establishing the right amount of brightness in your restaurant is to remove surfaces and colors that create glare and eye strain. When our eyes are forced to adjust quickly to a rush of light, this causes discomfort, headaches, and a poor dining experience. However, you must maintain an ample amount of light for your customers to read your menu and enjoy the appearance of their dish.
Give your guests the light they need and reduce the potential for visual discomfort by softly illuminating all areas, painting surfaces with lighter colors, and preventing bright daylight from causing glares and pain.
2 Switching to LEDs
Many grocery store operators struggle to switch to LEDs because of the initial investment. However, LED lights are proven to pay for themselves with the amount of energy they save. In fact, LEDs are becoming so popular they are projected to make up over 60% of the world’s lighting in 2021 because of their superior energy efficiency. And LED technology has improved dramatically over the past decade, giving you greater capacity to control and maintain proper light levels, color temp and dimming levels down to zero without flickering or your lights dropping out altogether.
3 Choosing Complementary Decor
As mentioned above, filling your restaurant with lighter-colored walls, decor, countertops, tabletops, bars, and floors will help spread light throughout your restaurant and make it more warm, welcoming, and easy on the eyes for your customers. But, remember that if you have dark colors mingled in, like dark menu paper, dark wall decor, and furniture, these can create an unwanted contrast and negatively impact the ambiance you’ve established for your guests.
If you prefer a darker space, the way to avoid straining eyes is to provide less light and more surfaces to diffuse that light. You will also want to offer a fair amount of indirect lighting to prevent glare. Don’t forget to include non-glossy surfaces if your restaurant lets in a lot of natural light as well. Glass over a picture and shiny metal furniture are just a few common sources of annoying glare. Use satin or matte finishes for surfaces that will be in direct sunlight.
4 Controlling Excess Light
If you have excess light from unshaded windows, bright kitchen lighting, hallways, outdoor lights, or the reading light at a host stand, and you don’t want to replace all of your glossier decor, here are a few alternatives:
- Add blinds, shades, or curtains for the windows
- Move outside lights away from windows
- Move or shade any light bulbs that are creating unnecessary light
- Tour your space frequently so you know where glare may occur for your customers
Risk of not Addressing Lighting Challenges
Even with a prime location and fantastic food, it’s unlikely customers will want to spend time eating and drinking at your restaurant if your lighting is not up to snuff. If people are straining to see menus or using the menu to shade themselves from glaring sunlight, you have a recipe for complaints and unhappy customers on your hands. The risk of not addressing the lighting issues at your restaurant is that you will struggle to grow your customer base, and those that do frequent your space may venture to the restaurant across the street for a better experience. Ultimately, poor lighting means fewer returning customers and fewer sales.