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Restaurant, Lounge, and Bar Lighting in Hotels

Welcome back to this week’s hotel lighting guide that covers Hotel Dining Lighting for the hotel industry. Don’t worry if you missed last week’s post on Pool Lighting and Spa Lighting, we’ll include the important points down below for your convenience. This lighting series covers everything that hotel owners, management, and maintenance staff need to know about maximizing hotel lighting. If you want to make sure your guests get the most out of their stay and get the most out of your bottom line then this hotel series is for you. Be sure to subscribe to this series to get notified when a new post goes live.

Last week’s main points

For good pool lighting and spa lighting, keep the following in mind:

Pool Lighting

  • The brighter the better, 10,000 Lumens and higher
  • The warmer the better, aim for 5000 Kelvin and above
  • Look for corrosion-resistant fixtures that are IP65 rated and higher
  • Shatterproof lenses that are NSF rated or polycarbonate 
  • Spa Lighting

  • Aim for a warm welcoming environment by using 2700 Kelvin to 3500 Kelvin
  • Take advantage of uplight and downlight for ambiance
  • Be mindful of downlight and their project on massage tables
  • Use dimmable lighting for both aesthetics and functionality
  • We’re packing this series full of information and it still only touches the outer aspects that Lumen Masters like us consider while doing a lighting retrofit. So be sure to give this post an extra read-through if something is not making sense. Better yet, visit our website at or give us a call at 701-205-4953 to speak with a Lumen Master.

    Restaurant lighting 

    Hotel dining has many faces in the hospitality industry because there are so many different types of hotels around the country. The lighting in a boutique, chain, convention center, and resort or casino hotel will vary greatly from what is being used in motels or one of the many Inns around the country. Restaurant lighting should reflect the needs of the space, some properties are going to require general lighting whereas others require a more romantic light. Lighting in the dining area requires that we pay attention to the atmosphere and position the lights accordingly, this process is called zoning. Zoning is the practice of creating an area within the area, in this case, it’s creating comfortable places within the hotel. Lighting in the restaurant and dining areas should follow the overall character of the property. After two decades in lighting, we have supplied light bulbs and fixtures to every type of hotel. Each hotel type is unique and they will use different lights. The one thing they all have in common is that quality matters. The light bulbs need to last, they need to compliment the space and the Kelvin temperature or color of light needs to be consistent. You can redesign a room to get the mood and response you want from your guests by changing nothing but the lighting. Bad bulbs and burned-out light bulbs tell your guests that you just don’t care that much about your property. 

    If you own one of the chain, resort, boutique, bed and breakfast, casino, gastro, or Inn hotels around the country and have a restaurant or dining area attached to the property then the lighting concepts will vary but the ambiance and lighting should reflect the experience and location of your property. The same concept will apply to conference/convention center hotels and your motels that accommodate travelers as a place to stop during long trips. The diversity in culture, climate, and activities are just a few of the things that make traveling across the USA amazing. From Northern Minnesota to Maine, to Marco Island, and west towards Texas, Arizona, and Salt Lake City the properties will be unique. The one thing they all have in common is that they have light bulbs and light bulbs burn out and they need to be replaced. 

    It’s no secret that the bad bulbs and major brands in lighting are manufacturing all, yes all light bulbs to burn out much faster than they should. Planned obsolescence is when brands manufacture their goods so they require replacing. It’s much harder for them to figure out how to make an LED last 10,000 hours compared to one that lasts 100,000 hours. Did you know that Phillips, GE, and Sylvania once had an agreement where if they manufactured incandescent bulbs that lasted longer than 3000 hours they could find each other. Stop buying bad bulbs and most lighting problems in your properties would be fixed. 

    Much like our lobby lighting requires task lighting, some front-of-house restaurant areas within your hotel require the same. Seating areas like tables, booths, and bartops are going to require intimate lighting. Nostalgic lighting is gorgeous and turns an ordinary socket into something remarkable. If your brand standards allow for it, then we recommend adapting nostalgic LEDs as this look is attracting, entertaining, and comforting your guests. A quick tour around your local neighborhood and you’ll be sure to spot Nostalgic light bulbs in cafes, restaurants, and other meeting areas that are in tune with their target audience. There are thousands of different fixtures and hundreds of different nostalgic bulb styles so we recommend speaking with a Lumen Master before purchasing something new or trying to find replacement bulbs. Buying bad bulbs will cost you way more money than spending a few minutes speaking with an expert so you are buying the correct light, the correct color of light, the longest-lasting, and the most energy-efficient light bulbs. 

    Seating areas should blend key lighting elements together such as task lighting and accent lighting. A common approach to achieve this combo is using pendant lighting above booths and tables. The prevalent use of this fixture is because of its adjustability in mounting height that can easily be used for booth lighting as it can be used for high-top lighting. This is a piece of zoning for you to create an area within the area where lighting is providing space. Another benefit is that pendant lighting fixtures come in every style imaginable, so you’re sure to find one that matches your brand standards. These factors combined help to provide your guest with enough task lighting to allow them to enjoy their meal, read the menus and the morning paper, have a comfortable conversation, or have the ability to unwind, reflect and relax. 

    The pendant light fixtures are also great at providing the kind of accent lighting that promotes intimacy within the group. Though this benefit is mainly attributed to the light bulb used, its lumens, kelvin temperature, and CRI, some can be attributed to the style of the fixtures. Speaking of bulb talk, it’s best to go with brand standards when it comes to choosing your bulbs so be sure to check your hotel’s standards. If your lighting standards allow for some self-expression then we recommend going with warm and intimate LEDs that are at or below 800 lumens and a CRI that is greater than 80. These are very generic recommendations because proper lighting is based on the application and the property. 

    So we have a general idea about lighting our seating areas that include booths, tables, and hightops but what about our general lighting? We’ll want to observe your hotel’s brand standards. O.k. They’ve been observed and they recommend using dimmable recessed luminaires for ceiling lighting. We like going with a dimmable BR30 so the light levels can be adjusted according to your guest’s liking or the time of day. Many top restaurants like to place luminaires directly over tables, doing so provides needed light while creating an intimate atmosphere. Apart from creating the intimate space, doing so also subtly guides your guests to available seating areas, like guiding our hotel guests in our Exterior Lighting for Hotel’s post.

    If we’re not going to be using pendant or decorative lighting or your hotel’s brand standards do not allow for it then we recommend going with a recessed lighting fixture with a wide beam angle. These lighting fixtures still create an intimate atmosphere, are easy to use with dimmers, and will provide some variety in the ceiling fixtures your hotel restaurant uses. The drawback to using these for this type of lighting is they will still have a larger beam radius than our pendant lights mentioned above. This may not be a problem if you’re able to allow more space between seating arrangements. Though, if your space is cramped for space then you’ll likely notice some overlap in the beam angles from one table to the next. It’s for this reason that we like to reserve these fixtures mainly for general and ambiance lighting purposes. 

    We can’t say this enough – dimmable lighting is your friend! Modern lighting solutions along with compatible switches can greatly reduce your lighting costs. These solutions can make achieving the right light much easier than in previous years, allowing for customization that can delight your guests and your business. If you’re considering a new lighting project or undergoing a retrofit then not taking advantage of these options today can mean you’ll be paying for them later. This is the lighting trend that we’ve noticed gradually happening over the years and not following trends can mean your hotel will receive fewer bookings with each passing quarter. Do the smart thing, stay current with lighting trends, and give your hotel the resources it needs to be successful.

    A Special Note on Sky Dining

    Though not too common here in Fargo North Dakota, you will see rooftop bars and sky dining in hotels across the United States. These areas are beautiful yet the lighting in these areas has a new variable to consider – 360-degrees sky views. The big selling point for sky-view restaurants is just that, it’s “sky-view” that overlooks the surrounding area, often a busy metropolitan cityscape, and people want to see the lights. While we still want to encourage the same intimacy mentioned above, we need to be mindful of our views and most of all our lighting reflections. Much like a bathroom mirror reflects light, our windows can become troublemakers when it comes to light reflection, diminishing the viewing quality that our guests desire. To avoid this issue and to keep your guests happy, check your light angles to avoid any unwanted light from being reflected back at your guests. Keep in mind, the most important aspect of sky-dining is the amazing cityscape and country views this dining experience provides. Every action should be taken to improve your guest’s experience in this regard. 

    Lounge & Bar Lighting

    Bar lighting follows the same guidelines as restaurant lighting but with a deeper focus on relaxation and intimacy. Your guests come to your hotel lounge & bar to relax after a long day, enjoy an evening with friends, and maybe make some new ones. The light levels in these places depend greatly on the time of day, the theme of the lounge and or bar, and the audience your place attracts. This last factor can be huge in how you cater your service offering and whether or not your target audience accepts or rejects your offering. If you’re offering high-end drinks as the classic shaken, not stirred martini but your environment attracts a different clientele then there’s going to be an obvious mismatch here. 

    In either case, there’s always one right move and that’s to use dimmable lights in your lighting design. Doing so will allow you to adjust light levels throughout the day, typically you’ll go with a brighter light level during daylight hours. At night you’ll dim the inside environment to allow for a seamless transition from the light levels outside to match the lighting inside. If it’s 2 pm but cloudy and raining outside then adjust your light levels accordingly. Guests wouldn’t expect to come into a brightly lit area but they also wouldn’t expect to come into a dim, romantic setting at 2 pm either. In any case, use your best judgment when adjusting your lighting to match the desired taste of your guests and your experience. 

    Keep in mind that every restaurant is unique and so is every lounge and bar, each will require the owner to be in touch with these environments to determine the right lighting. What works for one venue may not work for your venue. Let your environment, guests, and advice from the lumen masters determine your lighting. If your guests are having a good time then your lighting is set correctly, if you notice guests are not enjoying their time, then give your lighting and ambiance a second thought. Lighting makes a difference. 

    Restaurant lighting – Back of House

    Back of House lighting is shockingly different when compared to your front-of-house lighting needs. Typically, and we don’t recommend doing this, you’ll find these areas looking more like a set on a horror film than a functional workspace. The offices and kitchens are usually the worst, with the hallways being a close second. Usually, when it comes to the back-of-house lighting needs, priorities are on the kitchen area, cold storage areas, and frequented areas by staff. It’s not hard to rationalize this either, after all, priorities should be placed on the areas that make your business money – the staff, kitchen, and other functional areas.

    The question is not so much what areas to focus on when it comes to back-of-house lighting but what lighting fixtures and bulbs to be using in these areas. For the kitchen, we recommend using a 5000-kelvin bulb and higher to allow for the best lighting. Going this route will ensure that your staff in this area can work efficiently, be more productive and provide clean light. Common lighting fixtures used in professional kitchens are fluorescent tubes and LED linear tubes. To go with the best option, that will cut down your long-term costs, we recommend using bypass LED linear tubes. The most important factor is making sure your bulbs are National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) rated or in other words, food-safe rated. 

    When it comes to cold storage options, we recommend looking for low-temperature occupancy sensors that are designed to function in these areas. These will help save on costs and be efficient enough to handle regular traffic from staff. As far as fixtures and bulbs are concerned, we need an NSF-rated bulb that is commonly going to be a LED. Going with an LED bulb in this area is best because it produces less heat than legacy light bulbs, thus reducing the energy cost of keeping your cold storage cold. 

    Common Cold Storage Fixtures and Bulbs Include:

  • LED Vapor Tight Fixtures
  • LED UFO Light Fixtures
  • LED Corn Fixtures
  • Hallway lighting and office lighting usually take a back seat when it comes to the lighting priorities of hotel management and maintenance technicians. We get it, when it comes to managing a tight budget, priorities have to be made along the way. Yet, you might be making cuts in areas that can be hurting your business. If you’re not using LED bulbs to light these areas then you’re overspending on lighting costs by using inefficient lighting techniques in areas of the hotel where the bulbs are always burning. This cost increases too if motion-activated light sensors are not being used, a few left-on bulbs can add up over the course of a year. Lastly, there’s a good chance the Kelvin temperature being used in these areas is below the 5000 Kelvin temperature that is recommended to improve focus and productivity. This area may be the last one on the priority list, but making an effort to improve the lighting in these areas can pay dividends to your mood and productivity levels.

    Wrap Up

    This wraps up our Dining segment for our hotel lighting guide. As usual, we covered a lot of ground in this segment but you can count on us to do a quick recap below.

  • Lighting in restaurants, lounges, and bars should complement the atmosphere
  • Light levels should be adjusted throughout the day to provide seamless transitions
  • Beware of lighting reflections that are often to occur on windows and reflective surfaces
  • Staff lighting should be bright functional lighting that maintains safety and efficiency
  • Neglecting some back of house areas can be contributing to your high energy bill
  • There’s a good amount of information that we covered in this section so be sure to take some notes, review particular areas, and know that you can visit or call us at (701) 205-4953 to work with a Lumen Master. We at GoodBulb have over two decades of industry experience in helping hotel owners and managers shape their visual perceptions and save on energy costs.

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