St Louis Outdoor Lighting Expert with over 10 years experience

M-F: 8:00am - 5:00pm

Call Today 314 332-2030

Ballwin, MO

21 Outdoor Lighting Ideas for Restaurants

Outdoor dining is more popular than ever. Level up those patios, porches, and gardens with these outdoor restaurant lighting ideas for every type of dining venue to attract guests and keep them coming back. 

While outdoor dining has always been a popular option in good weather, the need for social distancing has made it more than popular. It’s necessary for restaurants to provide adequate outdoor dining spaces to meet demand and keep up with the competition. As a restaurant owner or manager, you need to know how to create a satisfactory guest experience in those outdoor spaces. Quick service and comfortable seating are only part of the formula. Outdoor lighting is another essential ingredient. In this article, we’ll go over outdoor restaurant lighting ideas for different dining experiences, from fine dining to a casual bar scene. 

Basics of outdoor restaurant lighting

Outdoor lighting, or exterior lighting, is important for all outdoor spaces in a restaurant–not just in outdoor dining spaces. High-quality exterior lighting helps create visibility and safety around entryways, walkways, waiting areas, and parking areas. Outdoor lighting also provides a sense of welcome for guests, helps direct guest traffic, and the kind of atmosphere you want for restaurant guests. 

Here’s are a few important things to consider: 

  • some types of outdoor lighting can be DIY, many ideas and fixtures need professional installation.
  • the quality of the fixtures really matters in how long the fixtures last, how easy they are to maintain, and the type of ambiance they create. 
  • low-voltage LED lighting is the commercial standard for exterior restaurant lights. 
  • choose bulbs and/or fixtures that are adjustable so you can control the mood of the space for different times and events.

Now let’s take a look at some specific outdoor restaurant lighting ideas, arranged by type of dining experience or venue.

Outdoor lighting ideas for fine dining

For fine dining, focus on creating an outdoor space that feels seamless with fixtures and decor that carry the restaurant’s interior feel into the outdoor dining experience. 

  1. Lanterns beside the table, rather than on the table, provide a glow without being intrusive or taking up table space. Set the support poles to table-height or choose a lantern that provides a downward beam and raise a little above table height. 
  2. For smaller outdoor dining areas with tables set near walls or supports, use wall-mounted sconces for cozy table lighting. You can choose a style that matches the look and feel of the space, from solid brass traditional fixtures to sleek, stainless steel minimal designs. A wall sconce at each table creates an intimate feel while providing enough visibility for guests.
  3. Install pathway fixtures to delineate the walkways between interior and exterior, and to lead guests subtly on the path you want them to take through the exterior areas.  
  4. Highlight nearby landscaping features and garden sculptures with spotlights installed and angled perfectly to create visual interest.
  5. An outdoor chandelier brings class and whimsy to outdoor dining areas. On a veranda, porch, or pergola, you can fine-tune the experience of outdoor fine dining with a proportional, dazzling outdoor chandelier.

Outdoor lighting ideas for casual restaurants

Casual restaurants cover a wide spectrum, from down-home buffets to hip breweries to eclectic spots with their own unique vibe. Whatever the mood, good outdoor lighting makes your guest feel welcome and helps everyone have a better time.

  1. Wrap string lights around support poles for all outdoor structures or tents. It’s festive, fun, and budget-friendly. 
  2. Hang string lights under awnings — both awnings that provide shelter for outdoor dining areas and awnings on the front windows or entryway to the restaurant. The lights catch the eye and welcome guests. 
  3. Bistro lights are the grown-up, well-traveled cousin to string lights. They add a warm, cozy feel to any outdoor restaurant space. Guests seek out outdoor dining spaces with bistro-style lights. Hang them under the roof of outdoor structures.
  4. For outdoor dining that’s not under some type of structure, install bistro lights over the corners. Sometimes nearby trees or buildings will serve as the mounting point for the lights. When these aren’t available, we use custom cut and mounted poles so we can hang the lights exactly where needed. 

Outdoor bar lighting ideas

Outdoor bar space can be formal or casual, and the lighting should match. One frequent issue with outdoor bars is directing traffic flow. The later the night and the larger the crowd, the more difficult it is for people to navigate the outdoor space. You can use lighting to help direct crowd movement to and from the bar, as well as tuning the atmosphere right where you want it for each point in the evening. 

  1. Install brighter spotlights, directed downward, over the part of the bar where you want guests to place their orders or pick up drinks. 
  2. Use walkway lights or string lights to create perimeters and help guests form lines. 
  3. Have color-changing, programmable bistro lights installed for an easy way to instantly update the bar decor for the current holiday. Think green for St Paddy’s day, red or pink for Valentine’s, purple for Mardi Gras, etc. There’s no hassle, and you can adjust or program lighting with a smartphone app.
  4. Make smaller tables and cozy corners feel special and intimate with bistro lights and table lamps.
  5. Build a more energized area with larger community tables and brighter lighting; just make sure the angles are correct so guests have visibility without feeling blinded.
  6. Of course, increase safety and security with bright security lights in parking lots and near sidewalks and entryways.

Outdoor cafe lighting ideas

Outdoor cafe dining is all about the bistro feel, which fortunately is quite easy to achieve with–you guessed it–bistro lights. These string lights have larger, Edison-style bulbs and can feel casual or more formal depending on the decor around them. They work equally well in a quiet, tea-room garden or on a bar patio with a live band nearby. 

  1. Start with bistro lights in the corners of the outdoor space, as this is usually where you’ll already have supporting structures nearby. 
  2.  Add bistro lights in a zig-zag pattern over the entire outdoor area to make your guest experience absolutely outstanding. The key to covering a larger area is to have custom mounting poles installed at the right points and to hang the lights with the right amount of tension.
  3. Use uplighting in the corner of outdoor areas to reduce a shadowy, sinister feel. This is especially helpful for larger outdoor spaces, or spaces which have a lot of structures (gardens with shrubs and trees, for example).
  4. Light up entryways for easy visibility and movement. Install fixtures on each side of the door and above, if possible. An entry that’s slightly more lit than the rest of the wall space makes it easy for guests to know which direction to walk at a glance.
  5. Use fixtures that extend the theme of the cafe from indoors to outdoors. 
  6. Install pathway lights along sidewalks, to form perimeters, and to direct guests to different areas such as a swing, bench, private dining area, games for kids, or other facilities. 

If you’re in the market for outdoor restaurant lighting in St. Louis, get in touch. We love helping our clients come up with the perfect outdoor lighting design for their venue, whether it’s a big bustling patio or the cozy outdoor corner of a little cafe. We’ll talk through your options and demo ideas so you can see exactly what works best in your restaurant space. Schedule an appointment today!

Comments are closed.