Indoor Design  / Restaurant and bar

Decorative lighting for restaurants: all the solutions

Posted On 18 June 2021

 In the catering world, in addition to the taste of the dish, the eye also plays a role. The same applies to the type of lighting you choose for your business. Decorative lighting is a fundamental feature in the design of a restaurant, because it fills the inside with shadows and shades, creating an atmosphere suitable for any environment and providing the customer with a visual, as well as tasty and satisfying experience.

Making a mistake in choosing the lighting could ruin this experience.

In fact, according to recent research, 72% of guests who entered by chance left the restaurant even before the service began due to poor or excessive lighting, while 74%, appreciating the welcoming and relaxing atmosphere created by the lighting, stayed longer. This shows how important it is to know how to choose the right lighting solution for your restaurant.

In this article, you will find more information on:

Moby Dick - Decorative lighting for restaurants

Moby Dick

The main types of restaurant lighting

To better understand which type of decorative lights could work for you, we will take a look at the difference between the three main lighting levels, each with different characteristics.

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting is the primary restaurant lighting soursce and allows those who occupy it to move around freely and see well. A recessed or overhead decorative lighting system will guarantee good ambient light and will make the ceiling the primary source of light.


LIFE E BRAILLE decorative lighting for restaurant

 Life and Braille

Task Lighting

Task lighting is another type of decorative lighting to focus on. It often presents itself in the form of pendant lamps or table lamps. It allows customers to do their "work" by illuminating tables or paths within the rooms.

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is a type of decorative lighting that creates a high density of light in spaces and draws attention to focal and specific points. In this case, the light sources are used to illuminate works of art, furnishings or sculptures that characterise the restaurant or even signs, menus and corridors. Accent lighting usually illuminates spaces more than ambient lighting.

Based on this classification, the type of lighting you choose may fall into a certain category according to the position it occupies in the setting and the time of day.

To make things clear let's say you want to place the lamps outdoors; during the day they would be classified asaccent lighting and in the evening as ambient lighting.

Using these three types of lighting in a complementary way, you will create a synergy of lights and shadows able to outline the profile and personality of the room you are planning in a unique way.

What is the best way to configure the image of a business and create an atmosphere in each space by playing with the lighting points?

Here are 10 basic steps to follow to transform a simple solution into a real aesthetic element capable of giving functionality and a personal touch to the room.

Brighten up your restaurant step by step and create the right atmosphere

The first impression is what matters most, and the decorative lighting solution you choose for a restaurant says a lot about its atmosphere and the idea of the restaurant you want to express.

For this reason, it is essential to make lighting the fulcrum in your restaurant lighting design project.

Let's see how to select the right restaurant lighting with these easy steps.

1. Put lighting at the centre of your project

We aren’t saying this to benefit us, trust us. Having a general picture of the lighting-technical project will undoubtedly contribute to highlighting tables and the atmosphere, often illuminated by hanging lamps. To guarantee that each table has lighting it is necessary to position the electrical sockets strategically and functionally at the tables (if there are no battery-powered table lamps such as Bacco).


BACCO decorative lighting for restaurant


2. Use multiple lighting solutions

Apply lighting on multiple levels.

The first type of lighting you should install at best is ambient lighting, the primary source of light. When applied on different surfaces, ambient lighting makes the ceilings look higher and the rooms more spacious.

Then the task lighting installation comes into play, to be applied in specific locations (such as the cash register or counter, etc.). Finally, the installation of accent lighting takes over to focus attention on design details and furnishings that characterise the restaurant as much as possible.

3. Guide people with light

“Orienting yourself at a glance in a room is fundamental,” say the most expert lighting designers.

The customer, in a matter of seconds, must be able to locate his/her table and sit down. You can play with the contrasts of brightness created by combining the use of accent lighting and ambient lighting to guide guests. In this way, the eye will focus on the focal areas highlighted.

4. Choosing decorative lighting for a restaurant based on the spaces and your idea of style

The concept, available space and type of clientele you want to attract are the three factors that should influence your choice of lighting the most. Every detail of the decorative lighting you choose must conform to the spaces in your restaurant and to what you want to highlight. It is a virtuous circle.


NANDO decorative lighting for restaurant


5. Create atmosphere by playing with degrees of brightness

Light is the fundamental basis on which to create the atmosphere of a room. According to the most experienced and specialised lighting designers in catering, warm lighting gives guests a greater sensation of relaxation, especially if installed in environments with a cold and aseptic appearance.

The term "warm lights" refers to lamps that do not exceed 3000 Kelvin. For example, using a bar connected to a dimmer, you can adjust the brightness by setting programs based on the time of day or year.

6. Use colours in moderation

Many times the bar corner is lit differently than the restaurant, usually tending to create a bubble of relaxation and privacy within the room. Bright back bars installed on the bar area, besides give light, often entertain the eye by changing colour.

Adding a touch of colour to the bar is obviously not a common choice for all designers seeing that it is a purely stylistic choice. Only one precaution: yes to colour but don’t overdo it.

7. Light up the dishes

Don’t forget about the colour rendering index. It is important that the restaurant lights realistically reveal the colour of the food on the plate. The highest colour rendering index is 100, and the minimum required for restaurant lighting is 80, but it would be better to opt for lights with an IRC equal to 90.

Choosing the wrong colour rendering index means precluding the full achievement of the visual experience, which inevitably affects the customer’s evaluation.

8. Pay attention to customer comfort

Comfort and functionality complement each other. Customers must be in the best condition to read the menu and clearly see what they are eating, without the lights reflecting or being bothersome. You could opt for lamps with fabric or frosted glass diffusers or directly place the light sources out of the field of view away from potential reflective surfaces.

Black Out - decorative lighting for restaurants

Black Out

9. Keep trends in mind

Trends are born and die uninterruptedly but some are destined to remain for a long time and even some never completely vanish.

Today's lighting designers who specialise in catering talk about returning to the origins, taking into account that lamps without lampshades are back in fashion, with visible suspension strings. While in the bar areas, we find LED lights; a suspension lighting solution aimed more at saving energy.

10. Ensure that design and functionality are complementary

We can summarise this last step in a few words, affirming that you need to know how to choose an idea of decorative lighting for a restaurant that knows how to customise the space and at the same time is functional for both the customer and the staff.

Considering the setting, the range of lighting solution choices also expands according to the lighting levels specific to the inside of the restaurant.

We will now analyse these aspects.

GANGSTER decorative lighting for restaurant


The degrees of brightness best suited to the moments of the day

In order to select the right type of decorative lighting for a restaurant in a targeted manner, you must first define the type of atmosphere you want to create.

Experimenting with light gradations will help you define this aspect.

If the goal is to create intimacy, then opt for soft lighting and a low level of lighting by installing a dimmer.

On the contrary, do you want to keep your customers awake and attentive? Then you’ll like intense and stimulating lights. This type of decorative lighting is more suitable for businesses such as ice cream parlours, cafes or restaurants for families, where the service is more fluid.

The number of potential lighting solutions also increases when we consider the times when the restaurant will remain open to the public. The most attentive restaurants should consider the different lamp models available today for different times of the day.

If you are designing the lighting of a restaurant or a bar mainly open during the day, you will certainly not use the same decorative lighting system as a refined and romantic restaurant that is only open in the evening. On the contrary, if the restaurant remains open all day, it would be more appropriate to choose suitable lighting solutions for each time slot of the day.


For restaurants that also have breakfast, where you can also read the newspaper while sipping an espresso at the beginning of the day, one of the pleasures of life, doing it with the right lighting is important. Customers need a degree of intense brightness (but not exaggerated) to wake up and start the day. For this reason, it is ideal to take advantage of natural light.

Ali e Babà e Alibabig per illuminare un ristorante

Alì e Babà e Alibabig


Moderate lighting will be more than good at lunchtime. Higher levels of lighting, on the contrary, are suitable for "touch-and-go" places such as fast food and bars, where the customer has a short lunch break. If the goal is to offer a fast and efficient catering service, you should use intense light sources; bright lights encourage customers to make a quick stop. Therefore, the dishes will come out more quickly, and the service of the meals will speed up.


Whether you are talking about an informal or refined venue, a relaxing atmosphere will be perfect for dinner. After a busy day, customers simply want to sit at the table and enjoy their dinner in total relaxation. So, create a bright environment, but sparingly. Use low lights (without exaggerating) to give the right dose of lightness and tranquillity. The peaceful atmosphere will persuade guests to stay longer.

Want to find out how our lamps were positioned in some lighting projects? Download the catalogue below!

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Other decorative lighting solutions for restaurants

There are other inexpensive types of lighting that we will analyse, looking at features and functionality separately:

Natural lighting

Before choosing which type of lamp or recessed lighting to install, you should evaluate the potential of natural light in the restaurant.

Making the most of natural light is free and profitable. By taking advantage of tall windows and skylights or even wide doors with glass panels, you will guarantee the penetration of the sun's rays, filling the rooms naturally.

Place the tables in the dining room next to the windows, but be careful not to place them near the doors and risk exposing guests to cold drafts or the confusion of pedestrian traffic.

Also, consider that customers sitting with their foreheads facing east and west will have the sun in their eyes, so be sure to install systems to counteract the brightness of the sun. The gradations of light will also change with the seasons and tinge the interior differently.

These errors are not uncommon; they even appear in the best restaurants.

Smart lighting

Beyond choosing and installing the lamp model, there are a series of devices that can manage brightness gradations .

Each type of solution includes various features such as automatic shutdown, daylight sensors, level control, control regulators, control signals, event programming, presence and absence sensors and time lock.

Different systems and their features allow you to customise light levels based on the hours of operation, amount of daylight and other factors that save time and money.

You could set, for example, the increase in light gradation half an hour before closing the bar. The change in brightness will make it clear to customers that the time has come to take the last sip of their cocktails and leave the restaurant.

You can also opt for a system that turns off automatically when the restaurant is empty. Today it is also possible to control the lighting system easily and intuitively from a smartphone, tablet or the control panel installed in the restaurant.

The surprising aspect of some solutions is that they can also check other systems such as stereos, televisions, thermostats and security systems. The name “smart lighting” comes from these peculiar features.

Ginger by Karman - Decorative lighting for restaurants


Type of restaurant and decorative lighting style

Style is the soul of a restaurant and must be combined effectively with the type of restaurant that you want to offer. The aesthetic care of the restaurant starts more and more often from the correct choice of lamps.

Choosing decorative lighting is not easy or obvious, because the lamps you prefer for the restaurant you are designing not only must be functional but must also represent the type of restaurant, creating a certain mood from the start.

What type of catering do you offer?

A pub for groups of friends, a family restaurant or an elegant bistro with a few tables? There are different types of colours and shades for each lamp that will be able to specifically adapt to the type of room and clientele you are addressing.

If the restaurant is informal and offers quick dishes, such as a pizzeria, bar, fast food restaurant or gourmet restaurant, it creates a dynamic atmosphere ensuring more accentuated ambient lighting in the room and on the tables, so that customers can read and quickly choose from the menu and consume their meal in a few minutes.

If, on the other hand, you offer a sophisticated type of gastronomy, you will prefer warmer lights, in order to create a more intimate setting for your sober and elegant restaurant, where the customer will stop for more than an hour. Play with accent lighting and ambient lighting to create a peaceful atmosphere, perhaps choosing a lamp like the Gangster. Vintage style with clean lines in white and copper. A lamp that adapts to any environment and allows light to reach the surface in a direct but delicate way, without bothering the eye.

GANGSTER E SAHARA decorative lighting for restaurant

 Gangster e Sahara

Let's talk about a restaurant overlooking the sea or maybe a chalet on the banks of a lake in the mountains, but perhaps you don’t know how to integrate lighting into the picturesque landscape that surrounds your room.

In this case, as well as giving brightness to the inside, you should also focus on the outside of your restaurant, enhancing the location, which makes your restaurant unique. Create paths to accompany your guests into the restaurant, allowing them to admire the view, perhaps with floor lamps positioned at the edge of a small pier or on a terrace just off the water.

A Cell floor lamp in its outdoor version could be an excellent solution.

In addition, to recall a modern style even within the room, you could use the same model in the suspension version. This type of lamp reinterprets the design of the Chinese lantern in a modern way, spreading light in a fluid and persuasive manner throughout its environment.

If we are talking about a pub or wine shop, you should highlight your products with accent lighting. The customer's eye will immediately be attracted to the light sources that illuminate bottles and drinks and will be persuaded to consume. You could opt for suspension lamps placed directly over the bar or grouped to illuminate long tables and specific lighting points.

In this case, the Mek and/or Nando models could work for you. These are industrial style pendant lamps that decorate the space simply and essentially, giving directional light and dividing areas.

Does the room have halls for ceremonies?

Think of a decorative lighting solution capable of illuminating large spaces and that is suitable for any height and type of ceiling.

Create a suggestive atmosphere and let yourself be inspired by the Notredame gothic style: a ceiling lamp with geometric shapes that radiate around the luminous core at the centre of the lamp.


NOTREDAME decorative lighting for restaurant


Alternatively, you could focus on a contemporary style, halfway between tradition and innovation, and choose a composition of total white Deja-vu lamps or a Snoob chandelier, of imposing size, but with graceful lines.

DOMENICA decorative lighting for restaurant


Even lamps like Domenica could be ideal for a ceremony. Available both as pendant lamps and sconces, they consist of a plaster shade and a white or gold metal mesh. The particular structure of this lamp produces soft lighting, creating a refined and elegant atmosphere.

Instead, if you are looking for a solution that gives light and colour to the spaces, then Ceraunavolta might interest you. Its tints of sea green and the different shapes of the blown glass catch the eye of the observer, creating a romantic, almost fairytale atmosphere.

Use of decorative lighting in restaurant areas

In choosing the right decorative lighting for a restaurant, we don’t want to take anything for granted. Beyond the style, it is necessary to consider functionality and the correct use of the systems.

Every restaurant needs a certain type of decorative lighting, as well as every area inside it.

There are various lighting solutions associated with the main rooms of a restaurant, which together must be functional and share the idea of the general style of the restaurant.

The Bar

The workstations must be illuminated in a practical way and allow the staff to work comfortably. You could choose recessed lights positioned above the bar or the counter; they will ensure optimal lighting for the staff and will provide a greater sense of energy to the environment.

Corridors and paths

To illuminate the corridors and paths of the restaurant, you could install a track lighting system. This type of solution has higher light gradations and ensures homogeneous lighting.

Dining area

The areas dedicated to guests are the most important and deserve an optimal degree of light. Positioning suspension lamps like Life or Braille above the tables would be ideal to guarantee that the customers can read the menus.

The production, the different materials and way they light up a room are truly unique. On the one hand, we have Life, with its destroyed fabric lampshade, able to fill the atmosphere with peace and tranquillity and create an ever-changing play on light, and, on the other hand, a glass lamp with reliefs on the surface, a sphere of soft and fluffy light, that pervades spaces with delicacy: Braille.

Suspension lamps like Sahara are also suitable for lighting rooms dedicated to guests. These are ceramic lamps, available in two colours: pure white and shiny green. These lamps, combined to create a composition or placed separately, emit warm light and illuminate spaces effectively.

SAHARA (2) decorative lighting for restaurant



Customers must perceive a sense of hospitality from the moment they enter a restaurant. Create a focal point in the room by hanging a chandelier on the ceiling of the entrance; right from the start, the guest will perceive a light and elegant atmosphere.


Wall lamps can be used both as accent lighting and as light sources inside washrooms.


Outdoor decorative lighting is also important, even fundamental today, as it attracts customers and advertises the restaurant as an extension of the internal culinary experience. If the natural light is low, you can emphasise the architectural features of the restaurant and the areas used by guests to attract visitors' eyes.

You could illuminate the rooms facing the street and opt for bright strings, lamps in the middle of the outdoor tables, lanterns on trellises and skylights to create paths that guide the customer inside the restaurant.

One thing to keep in mind when designing outdoor lighting is safety. Putting up enter and exit signs, indicating the presence of a parking lot or a sidewalk, will prevent accidents. In addition, setting up illuminating spotlights, many of which are equipped with motion sensors, around the perimeter of the room will help reduce vandalism.

Kimono and Ululì - Ululà by Karman - Lamps for restaurants

Kimono e Ululì - Ululà

The ideal decorative lighting solution in a restaurant combines style and functionality

Lighting plays a central role in the design and creation of a restaurant’s mood. It can connect the observer and the space from an emotional point of view and, for this reason, deserves the right assessments.

In fact, when we talk about choosing the right lighting solution, we need to take many factors into account and follow the right steps. There are more and less inexpensive solutions to decorate your restaurant, and you will know which one to choose once the type of restaurant has been identified.

From here you will begin to understand what the right mood is for your restaurant. In addition, you will have to evaluate more lighting ideas suitable for your restaurant’s service hours and the internal and external environments. The latter must appear in total harmony with the general atmosphere of the room, serving as an extension of the culinary experience.

Combining the different lighting levels into a broader lighting design will help you create an effective but simultaneously impactful, welcoming atmosphere and will guide the guest into a unique sensory experience.

By filling the rooms with different and stimulating sensations, you will make the customer’s visual experience immediately satisfying. Using different shades of light to optimally illuminate the spaces and pamper guests will create a comfortable atmosphere that will make them feel at ease.

For this reason, you should design a decorative lighting system that is functional and practical, and that can adapt to the type of restaurant and is able to express your idea of style.

Want to find out how our lamps were positioned in some lighting projects for restaurants? Download the catalogue below!

CTA_EN Mini catalogo progetti RESTAURANT

For more information, support and assistance in correctly selecting the right lamp models for your restaurant, do not hesitate to contact us at this link. We are at your complete disposal.

Camilla Rossi


Camilla Rossi



Karman, an Italian company, was founded in 2005 in Fossombrone. The company's world moves itself with simplicity towards an original and personal decorative use of lighting in both private surroundings and public spaces.