Restaurant Lighting

Best Practices for Designing Your Restaurant Lighting

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There is no by-the-book way to put together a perfect restaurant experience. Partly, because every restaurant is unique. From the food you serve to the ambiance you create. This means there is no singular "right" way to light your restaurant. But there are definitely some best practices that every restaurant should consider when planning, maintaining, or improving their facility.

As commercial lighting experts, today we're here to share some of those best practices to ensure that you have comfortable guests, efficient staff, and a safe facility.

Kitchen - Clear Illumination

The best place to start with kitchen lighting is the FDA regulations. Which mostly state that your staff need to be able to clearly see the food and surfaces they are working with. This ensures high-quality preparation and no mistakes that could result in illness or allergic reactions. However, there's also your staff's comfort to consider.

Glaring fluorescents, for example, have been proven to cause eyestrain and headaches no matter how clearly they illuminate the work space. Not to mention energy-inefficiency.

Your kitchen lights should be bright, in the cooler range of colors for visual clarity, and provide diffuse illumination rather than glaring or buzzing bulbs. LEDs behind a frosted cover are the standard way to achieve this today.

Walk-In Coolers - Sealed Temperature-Resistant Fixtures

Of course, your walk-in coolers also need to be clearly lit so that staff can find what they need, read labels, and clean thoroughly. But the walk-in has different safety and efficiency requirements.

Walk-in lighting, naturally, needs to be temperature-resistant. This ensures that it will not take damage whether the walk-in is used as a large fridge or freezer. LEDs are incredibly temperature-resistant, as they do not require a burning filament or gas-filled tubes. 

But your walk-in lighting also needs to be mold-resistant, as there is often excess moisture inside of coolers. And the warmer air inside the light fixture is a perfect incubation space for mold. The best way to ensure mold-free lighting is to make sure your walk-in light fixtures are sealed and air-tight.

Dining Room - Gentle Diffuse Illumination

Every restaurant lights their dining room(s) differently. After all, this is part of the ambiance and unique restaurant experience that you work hard to create. Whether you have hanging amber-glass lamps in the style of old moodily lit pubs, a collection of mismatched cheery chandeliers, or ceiling strip-lights, you can still refine your lighting choices inside your decorating style.

Mainly, you want to think about guest eye comfort. Every bulb is an opportunity to accidentally catch someone in the eye and decrease their meal enjoyment. So like your kitchen, you want to think about bulbs and shades that offer gentle, diffuse illumination instead of bringing pin-pricks of lights or glaring fluorescents.

Parking Lot - Bright and Complete Coverage

Then there's your parking lot. Many restaurants neglect parking lot lighting, but this is a vital part of your building security. A dark parking lot is easy to lurk in and vandals or car thieves may find your parking lot the perfect opportunity to prey on your facility or customers.

Fortunately, the key to discouraging vandals (and making your parking lot safer to walk and drive for guests) is bright illumination with complete coverage of the entire lot. If you have a small parking lot, you can do this with lights mounted on the building itself.

LEDs are the brightest low-energy option and their temperature resistance makes outdoor use quite practical. If your parking lot is larger, consider a light pole or three to make sure every corner of the lot is lurker-free.

Staff Room - Whatever You Want

Finally, there's your staff room. Most restaurants have at least a small area where staff take their breaks and keep their personal items. This is the one area of your restaurant that you can light however you want.

Or more to the point, anyway that helps your staff to relax. Some places may light the staff room moodily with lamps to create a dim, relaxing space. Others light it brightly so that staff can see what they're doing during break-time. 

Just make sure that your break room lighting really is relaxing, meaning no glaring, buzzing, or blinding bulbs. This will help your staff to truly relax when they're on break and come back more refreshed than they would be otherwise. Talk to your staff about how they want the staff areas to be lit.


How you light your restaurant is a unique choice that every restaurateur makes on their own. But that doesn't mean you have to make plans without a map. Here at MultiSite LED, we know commercial lighting inside and out. Contact us today for a consultation on how to best upgrade or plan your restaurant lighting design.