Light impacts not only our ability to function, but also allows us to create specific experiences

The purpose of this blog is to look at how the overall lighting impacts a guest’s comfort level from the beginning of the meal to its completion. Through this study, will will demonstrate how Colorbeam Lighting design services and complete line of lighting products can help architects, designers, and restaurant owners create memorable experiences, retain customers, and attract a new client base for restaurant establishments.  

Restaurants are a key revenue building space, and the way in which architects and designers create these spaces for their clients will impact people’s daily lives as well as the lives of the guests who frequent them. In the hospitality sector, lighting design plays a significant role, specifically within the high-end dining establishments. Hence, all factors must be considered when designing the lighting of a restaurant. 




New Generation of Clients: Customer Experience  

Today's restaurant customers, especially Millennials, have higher standards than ever, even for quick service restaurants. As a report from the National Restaurant Association explained, "the typical restaurant guest today is not the same as the typical restaurant guest 20 years ago.” Today’s restaurants are more than just an establishment for dining. The new strategy revolves around creating an experience for the customers that is unique and memorable. Fiore and Niehm’s journal article, “Experience Economy Strategies: Adding Value to Small Rural Businesses,” defines this phenomenon as the experience economy.” They believe, The U.S. has entered an experience economy in which a customer no longer solely wants a product or a good, but also an overall experience accompanying the service that is provided. This allows business owners to differentiate their offerings from their competitors, which increases performance and profitability. 

According to Gross and Pullman's article, “Welcome to Your Experience: Where You Can Check Out Anytime You’d Like, But You Can Never Leave,” an experience occurs when a customer has any sensation or knowledge acquisition resulting from some level of interaction with different elements of a context created by a service provider. Successful experiences are those that the customer finds unique, memorable and sustainable over time, would want to repeat and build upon, and enthusiastically promotes via word of mouth [1]

Enhance Customer Satisfaction Through Lighting 

To enhance the customer satisfaction at a restaurant, studies have proven that lighting makes a significant contribution to a guest’s experience. Over the recent years, restaurant owners have come to realize that lighting design impacts their guests. However, they must rely on professionals to determine how to design spaces to create a specific experience for their guests through lighting. With that in mind, having a comprehensive lighting design that allows the clientele to be comfortable and at ease within a space should be a key focus for restaurant owners.

Within a restaurant, a guest wants to be engaged in the space and have his/her attention captured. This idea has become even more important with the onset of themed dining establishments. “Customers may seek a dining experience totally different from home, and the atmosphere may do more to attract them than the food itself” [2].          This experience can be enhanced through lighting.V1-12W-3

Fine dining customers expect a quality experience. Proper lighting plays a key role in creating that wow factor, but it is often overlooked. Within a restaurant, good lighting is essential in order for a guest to view the food in its best possible light. In the journal Nation’s Restaurant News, Frable discusses this idea further. He states that the color temperature of the lighting relates directly to the accurate color of the food [3]. In the journal Restaurants and Institutions, McNully states, “the craft of lighting a dining room is part theater and part magic show. The way a foodservice operation is lit leaves a significant impression on diners. When it works, they don’t consciously think about it. When it doesn’t work, customers won’t return and may not even understand why” [4].


Lighting is a Crucial Element Within Restaurant Design


Another reason why lighting is such a crucial element within restaurant design is because incorrect lighting can prevent the effectiveness of all other elements. Baraban discusses this further in “Successful Restaurant Design" by stating that the mood of a space is created by its illumination. She states, that the lighting design can make a “space feel expansive or intimate, subdued or exciting, friendly or hostile, quiet or full of electrifying energy” [5]. In addition, Dort writes in his book, “Restaurants that Work: Case Studies of the Best in the Industry,” people are phototropic and are drawn to the light in a space more than any other feature, and we form our impressions of a restaurant based on our emotional and metaphorical responses to the color, brightness, and shape of the light in the room.” By adding high drama and exuberance to a space, the quality of light can stimulate senses, or it can create a soothing, relaxed, and comfortable feel [6]

Recent studies discovered that nearly 43% of all restaurant customers say they take into account not just the food, but all aspects of a dining experience when determining if a restaurant is a good value. According to Restaurant and Institutions’s New American Diner survey by providing a unique experience for their guests, restaurants will be able to charge a premium for what they offer. Rae, an adjunct professor of marketing at Georgetown University’s McDonald School of Business, states that “customers will gladly pay more for an experience that is not only functionally but also emotionally rewarding." Additionally, by appealing to their customers on an emotional level, owners will be able to facilitate customer loyalty and thus encourage repeat business [7]


Michel, a professor of architecture and urban design at the University of Kansas states that “light in all its varieties manifests the shapes, locations, colors, textures, and reflections of surfaces in the physical world that are sent as messages to the brain...each new daily experience is synthesized in the ongoing learning process that conditions people’s awareness of their surroundings, from clarity to clutter and from visual comfort to visual disturbance” [8]. Since both natural and artificial lighting will determine the visual impact of a whole building, depending on which material is used for finishes, individual sources of light can be reflected, which will increase the intensity without a need for additional light sources.

According to Schirmbeck's book Restaurants, Architecture and Ambience, lighting fixtures can also be used to create separate areas without the use of architectural elements. Such fixtures can create fluid boarders and an adequate sense of being undisturbed. However, the shape and the style of the fixture is vital. Using a fixture that does not match the style of the restaurant can cause disunity and destroy the effect the designer was trying to create. Though styled light fixtures can be more expensive than basic ones, it is strategic for the theme of the restaurant to be complete throughout. This is especially important for high-end or theatrical restaurants [9].





Based on the findings presented in this blog, lighting design plays a significant role within a high-end dining establishment and all factors must be considered when designing a restaurant. In order for a complete and comprehensive dining experience to occur it is vital for a restaurant owner to fully consider the lighting design presented by the architect, designer, or specifier. It is clear that the architecture of a space will be more fully enhanced by using different lighting elements and techniques. When a guest is visiting a restaurant, his/her goal whether he/she is conscious of it or not, is to experience excitement, pleasure, and a sense of personal well-being throughout his/her dining experience. A restaurant should be able to provide those feelings with physical and culinary services. Therefore, it is evident that restaurant owners and managers are able to influence their guest’s attitudes by taking the lighting design factors into consideration.

Without these key factors being included in the space, the customer will not be fully engaged within that environment and may decide not to visit that establishment in the future.1-5520733401543

A close examination of the stunning work completed by architects and designers throughout history shows the value that quality lighting design plays within an environment. Thus, it is profitable to invest time and money in the lighting design of an establishment to satisfy the needs and emotions of the clientele and ensure their return. 

Find our how Colorbeam Lighting design services and complete line of indoor and outdoor lighting products can help restaurant owners create memorable experiences, retain customers,  and attract a new client base. 

Contact Colorbeam Lighting Today


[1] Pullman, Madeleine E. And Gross, Michael A. Welcome to Your Experience: Where You Can Check Out Anytime You’d Like, But You Can Never Leave,” Journal of Business and Management. 3 (2003): 215-232. Print.

[2] Arora, Raj and Singer, Joe. “Cognitive and Affective Service Marketing Strategies for Fine Dining Restaurant Mangers,” Journal of Small Business Strategy. 17 (2006): 51-61. Print.

[3] Frable Jr., Foster, "Choose quality, not quantity, for foodservice lighting," Nation's Restaurant News, Vol. 29 (10/30/95): Issue 43, p.90

[4] McNully, Brendan, Illuminating Ideas, Restaurants & Institutions. 8 (2004): 94-95. Print

[5] Baraban, Regina S. and Durocher, Joseph F, Ph.D. Successful Restaurant Design. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, (1992). Print.

[6] Martin, E Dorf, Restaurants that Work: Case Studies of the Best in the Industry, New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, (1992). Print. 

[7] Gale, Derek, Are you Experienced? Restaurants & Institutions. 4 (2007): 53-56. Print.

[8] Michel, Lou, Light: The Shape of Space Designing with Space and Light. U.S.: Van Nostrand Reinhold, (1996). Print.

[9] Schirmbeck, Egon, Restaurants, Architecture and Ambience. Stuttgart: Architectural Book Publishing Company, (1983). Print.

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