The Top Guide to Lighting Your Restaurant or Bar (2022)

Grace Weitz
Post by Grace Weitz
March 17, 2022
The Top Guide to Lighting Your Restaurant or Bar (2022)

Designing your restaurant, bar, or brewery sets the tone for your entire establishment. How you outfit your space speaks to your larger brand and will attract potential customers. We have several top tips on how to design the overall look of your brewery or restaurant, but often it’s the smallest of details that matter. Such as your lighting. 

What may seem like a very tiny detail such as lighting can actually have a big impact on your business. The lighting sets the mood of your operation and illustrates your brand to your potential customer base. 

For example, if you are a family-friendly space operating during the day, your lighting should be different than a twenty-one-plus space that sees most of its traffic come through at night. All these factors contribute to the type of lighting that you’ll use in your brewery or restaurant. 

Seems like a lot? 

Don’t worry, we’re here to illuminate you. 

 

What We’ll Cover in This Piece:


Lighting for the Morning, Afternoon, and Night

Brightly lit bar and restaurant featuring natural light from big windows

(Photography courtesy of Shawnanggg | Unsplash)

The first consideration when it comes to your restaurant, bar, or brewery lighting is the time of day you operate. Taking into account your hours of operation will help determine what type of lighting is best for you. 

Morning Lighting 

The morning is a time for everyone—folks on their way to work who just want to grab a coffee, those who have just finished a workout and want to stay for a bite, families on their way to school, etc. If your establishment gets a lot of light while you’re open in the morning, the mood you want to set is a comfortable place for customers to start their day. 

Best Lighting: Warm lighting works best here. Use lighting with soft white and yellow tones. 

Afternoon Lighting 

What’s interesting about afternoon lighting is that it will change with the time of year. During the winter season in North America, it will get dark outside earlier. This means consider lights that have the ability to dim to match how the outside light changes. 

Best Lighting: Those that dim. On the spectrum, consider lights that can easily go from warm to brighter hues as the light outside dims earlier. 

Nighttime Lighting

General rule of thumb: When it’s dark outside you’ll most likely want to create a slightly dimmer atmosphere inside. Bars and restaurants tend to lower their lights at night to create a cozy, comfortable environment. 

Best Lighting: Accent lighting. Place brighter lights in a few strategic spots to create that ambience while also keeping the general tone darker inside. 



What Are the Different Kinds of Lighting?

Cozy bar with natural light provided by windows during the daytime

(Photography courtesy of Growth | Unsplash)

It’s important to create an environment where your clientele feels comfortable while also staying true to your brand. Different types of lighting say different things about your establishment. There are countless options, but in general lighting comes down to a few categories. 

Ambient Lighting

Simply put: This is the natural light that comes into your bar, restaurant, or brewery from the outside. If you have big windows or roll-up garage doors, you will definitely be able to take advantage of your ambient lighting. Since this is natural light, many different types of lighting fixtures work well with it. 

Overhead or Wall Lighting

This is your main source of lighting that your establishment doesn’t receive from the natural ambient light. These fixtures typically illuminate your different rooms from overhead or on the wall. 

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting plays off your ambient light or lack thereof. With accent lighting, you place brighter lights in certain spots around the room to illuminate a space or area without lighting the whole room. It’s a strategy that can be great for showing off pieces of art, an interesting part of your space like an herb wall or garden, or even just your tap list. Accent lighting is where you can get really creative and playful. 

 

The 5 Most Popular Styles of Lights

Remember how we said that lighting can come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and forms? (Actually in that sense, lighting is kind of like beer.) While it’s true there are an infinite number of products out there, we’ve tracked down a few of the most popular styles of lights to try right now. 

 

The Standard: Wall Lights

Darker restaurant lighting featuring wall lights and sconces

(Photography courtesy of Adrien Olichon | Unsplash)

A fairly standard way of lighting a restaurant, bar, or brewery, wall lights offer a large area of illumination. Many establishments use wall lights because they act as the main source of light. While this isn’t the most creative of options, wall lights certainly get the job done well. 

The Modern: Suspended Lighting

Trendy suspended lighting in a bar

(Photography courtesy of Gerrie van der Walt | Unsplash)

Pretty popular right now, suspended lighting (sometimes referred to as pendant or drop lights) extends down from the ceiling. Suspended lights hang from a cord, chain, or rod, offering a striking piece of modern lighting. You can hang them over the bar or even tables. Suspended lights that are used in a group are great for ambient lighting while those used independently can be great for accent lighting. 

 

The Grand: Chandeliers

Elegant chandelier hanging above seating at a bar

(Photography courtesy of Sarah Gotze | Unsplash)

Elegant and sophisticated, chandleries set a specific tone for your brewery, bar or restaurant. Higher-end establishments often use chandeliers to make a statement. They can be larger lighting fixtures and they typically have more bulbs, so that’s a consideration in terms of upkeep. But chandeliers are great for setting a mood. 

 

The Versatile: Track Lighting

Modern brewery featuring track lighting above table seating

(Photography courtesy of Lexie Barnhorn | Unsplash)

For one of the best forms of accent lighting, consider track lighting. This type of illumination consists of smaller light bulbs attached along a long track on the ceiling. They’re great for bars and breweries because track lights can normally be dimmed. 

 

The Creative: Can Lighting

Creative can lighting with built-in ceiling fixtures above dining room area

(Photography courtesy of 2ndKitchen)

If you’re a little bit more of an artistic or creative operation, consider can lighting. Also known as recessed lighting, this type of fixture illuminates a hollow part of the ceiling while simultaneously lighting up the entire room. One of the best advantages of can lighting is that the bulb can normally be dimmed, so it’s a great option for daytime-to-nighttime operations. 


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Grace Weitz
Post by Grace Weitz
March 17, 2022
Grace is the Managing Editor for Hop Culture and Untappd. She also organizes and produces the largest weeklong women in craft beer festival in the country, Beers With(out) Beards and the first-ever festival celebrating the colorful, vibrant voices in the queer community in craft beer, Queer Beer. An avid craft beer nerd Grace always found a way to work with beer. After graduating with a journalism degree from Northwestern University, she attended culinary school before working in restaurant management. She moonlighted as a brand ambassador at 3 Sheeps Brewing Co on the weekends before moving into the beer industry full time as an account coordinator at 5 Rabbit Cerveceria. Grace holds her Masters degree in the Food Studies program at NYU.