Why Do Restaurants Have Low Lighting: Aspects You Must Know

When walking into a restaurant with low lighting, it feels amazing, cozy, and warm. However, it raises the question of why do restaurants have low lightning, what are they trying to accomplish. The reason for that is actually extremely important what comes to the restaurant’s overlook.

You probably have been in both well light restaurant and low lighted ones, and it really depends on how they have made it work but most people adore low lighting far better.

Restaurants use low lighting in order to create an intimate and relaxed ambiance. Therefore customers will eat more and linger longer in the establishment that will increase orders which means more money. Also, customers will feel more attractive and attracted to their dates which will make restaurants with low lighting the perfect choice for events and special occasions.

In order to fully understand the benefits of low lighting, we need to go deeper into the individual aspects so we can see why low lighting is better in certain types of restaurants compared to brightly lighted restaurants that will go after a whole another purpose. Let’s see why do restaurants have low lighting and in the process, we will go through the differences that it holds when compared to brightly lighted restaurants.

Dining ambiance

Creating the right mood in a restaurant is extremely important. You can find low lighting mostly in restaurants that are the usual date night places with high-quality food. Having the right kind of low lighting will have great results on the mood that the customer experiences during their stay which will lead to many different choices such as menu decisions, dining time, and their whole experience.

The best kind of low lighting is dim candles or lanterns on the table, or shaded wall-lamps far enough so the light doesn’t affect the customers in the wrong way. I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t noticed the differences because you never really think about it before you really think about it. Let’s take a few examples.

When a restaurant haves a low light coming from below or the side, it will create an intimate and mysterious atmosphere compared to a lamp even with dim light, when placed straight over the customer’s heads will cast a ”shadow” upon their faces which will make the customers look more tired, and ultimately feeling that way. Lamps from the roof will also work perfectly if not placed straight above the customers.

See how the lighting creates an intimate and relaxed feeling when the lamps aren’t straight over the customers.

Now, when a restaurant uses bright lighting it will have a completely different effect on the ambiance and feeling within the restaurant. Bright lamps are always used by fast-food restaurants and certain types of cafes, where the idea is to feed the customers and send them on their way. When the goal is high customer turnover, bright lights are the answer.

This restaurant is made for high customer turnover. See the bright lights and narrow spaces between the seats that aren’t’ so comfortable.

The lighting certainly affects feelings and the atmosphere, but that’s not all why restaurants use low lighting, let’s see what are the other reasons.

Order choices

Believe it or not, the restaurant’s lighting does affect greatly the order choices the customers make. A study made by Food & Wine has shown that persons who eat in dimly lighted restaurants eat approximately 39% more calories than in bright lighted restaurants.

These results accrue because we humans feel less alerted and more comfortable in low light, resulting in more calorie-dense food choices and we don’t think so much about what we put into our bodies than in bright light.

Despite the fact that you are more likely to choose ‘un-healthy” foods in dim light, you will enjoy your time a lot more. Restaurants use low light because customers are more likely to order calorie-dense foods, desserts, second glasses of wine, which means more money for the restaurant.

When compared all of this to a restaurant with bright lights, it is a totally different case. Customers in brighter environments are 16% – 24% more likely to order healthier foods. This is because when we are exposed to more light, we are on high alert and tend to think more ahead which will lead us to order healthy meals with a higher probability.

Dining Time

The restaurant’s low lighting has an effect on the dining time as well. Think about it, when you are seated at a table with the perfect, flattering lighting and comfortable chairs, you just want to stay there forever. Unlike when you are seated in a narrow and uncomfortable chair with a bright light straight in front of you, the thought of eating on the go will certainly pass your mind…

But why do restaurants want the customers to stay and dine longer? The answer is quite obvious because the longer they stay, the higher chances there are for them to order more food, desserts, digestifs, or second glasses of wine. Therefore the longer a customer stays in the restaurant, the more money will be spent.

In which restaurant would you rather stay longer?

What is the best lighting for a restaurant

Now that we have determined the factors why does a restaurant has low lighting, it is time to understand which kind of low lights are there, and which of them is the best. I have listed the 3 main types below.

Accent lighting

Accent lighting is a beautiful lighting style that isn’t only intended to generate light but to highlight certain areas of the restaurant. Accent lighting is usually used to highlight statues, paintings, mirrors, bar areas, restrooms, and other architecturally important pieces of the restaurant’s design. This type of lighting is really practical as beautiful.

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting is really what it sounds like, for creating ambient. Ambient lamps are usually located in walls but there are hanging ones as well. These are really important for getting that absolutely look within the restaurant filled with warmth and comfort.

Task lighting

The purpose of task lighting is to make life in the restaurant easier for both customers and employees. Task lamps are placed in places such as over the tables, buffets, hallways, and other places that need to be seen well. This will help customers to read menus and eat easier and the employees can see better to the tables. Task lights should always remain soft and gentle for the eyes.

The 3 lighting types are the most commonly used which will generate a great atmosphere, however, there are many more types of lighting you can include in your restaurant. I have listed some great options below.

  • Natural lighting
  • Candle lighting
  • Lantern lighting
  • Outdoor lighting
  • Fan lighting
  • Illumination lighting


Low lighting will work wonders in specific styled restaurants, but it’s good to remember that low lighting certainly isn’t the best choice for every restaurant such as fast-food restaurants.

There are so much different aspects that will determine customer behavior, motivation of the employees, and everything between so it’s hard to keep on track sometimes. At least now you know the importance of the right lighting in your restaurant and now you can take action to make your business flourish even more than before.

Omar Abdalla

I’m the owner of JRS. While I love writing about food, I also enjoy peaceful and relaxed cookouts at home.

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