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Quick and Dirty Guide to Outdoor Restaurant Lighting for the Summer Season

outdoor restaurant lighting

For most people, spring seems to emerge slowly. For many restaurant managers and owners, however, spring shows up out of nowhere. One day you’re figuring out specials to attract guests despite the cold gray days. The next day, you’re panicking because the temperature has spiked and the sun is out… and you realize that the outdoor furniture is dirty and the patio looks shoddy. This quick and dirty guide will help you choose the best outdoor restaurant lighting options to get things into shape. Great outdoor ambiance depends on great outdoor lighting; here’s what you need to know to give guests a great outdoor dining experience all season long. 

Outdoor restaurant lighting for the summer season includes safety and directional lighting in use at all times, security lighting for use after-hours, and ambient lighting to create an atmosphere guests love. 

Safety and directional outdoor restaurant lighting

These fixtures are the most basic and necessary part of outdoor restaurant lighting. They show guests and staff where to go (directional) and provide enough light to get there (safety). Even in daylight, these lights can be important in shady areas, under awnings, and around entryways. Of course, in the evening they become even more necessary. But necessary doesn’t mean boring, and while these lights are purposeful, they also contribute to the overall feel of the restaurant. Here’s how to make the most of them: 

  • Use high-quality fixtures; cheap doesn’t last and won’t look as good.
  • Choose fixtures which match the decor of the restaurant in style and finish.
  • Always choose LED bulbs, which are more energy-efficient and give more options. 
  • Work with professionals to install fixtures; you’ll need to consider how many fixtures, spacing, angles, spread of light, intensity of beam, and color temperature. In the St. Louis area? We’re here to help

Security lighting for restaurants

Security lights aren’t as sexy as a string of bistro lights or a sleek, modern pendant light–but they’re very important. They are useful to staff when it’s time to clean: turn them all on at high intensity and it’s easy to see very little nook and corner. And, of course, they serve a key purpose of discouraging vandalism, loitering, trespassing, and other security issues. Security lights are no guarantee, but having high-grade, very bright, motion-sensor lights at every corner and entrance is a great way to enhance security.

Ambient outdoor restaurant lighting

What we’ve all been waiting for, the good stuff: the lights you can use to create great ambiance in outdoor dining spaces. Let’s take a look at the big players in exterior lighting ambiance: 

  • Ceiling-mounted fixtures: outdoor chandeliers can be whimsical or elegant. Sleek pendant lights feel modern and upscale. Rustic lanterns add to a comforting, homey feel. How do you want your guests to perceive the space? Ceiling-mounted fixtures catch the eye and establish the overall atmosphere, while complementing the rest of the decor. 
  • Wall-mounted fixtures: depending on how your outdoor space is arranged, wall-mounted fixtures may play a small or large part. If you have tables lined up against a wall, you can install a wall-mounted fixture for each table. This individual light can be adjusted to create a brighter, fun feel or dimmed to give a romantic glow. 
  • Bistro lights and twinkle lights: both bistro lights and twinkle lights are a type of string lighting. Bistro lights use larger, Edison-style bulbs and instantly create an elegant and welcoming ambiance that’s reminiscent of a Paris café. What could be more appealing? 
  • Landscape lighting: add visual appeal with strategic spotlights that show off the best features of the nearby landscaping. Whether it’s a water feature, gorgeous trees, or well-designed seasonal plantings, putting a spotlight on nearby beauty can help guests to enjoy their experience even more. 

Where do I start with outdoor restaurant lighting?

Start by taking stock of the exterior lighting that’s already in place. What’s working? What feels good? What adds the ambiance you want for the outdoor dining area? Then, notice what’s missing. Are there shadowy corners, dingy areas, poorly lit walkways, or ho-hum sections? That’s where you can make big improvements to the ambiance with upgraded outdoor restaurant lighting. We love helping our clients design the best outdoor lighting system for their goals and style. Get in touch today to make it a great summer season for your restaurant. 

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