St Louis Outdoor Lighting Expert with over 10 years experience

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

Call Today 314 332-2030

Ballwin, MO

Outdoor Lighting for Your Restaurant: How to Do It Right

It’s easy to make outdoor restaurant lighting an afterthought. But, in reality, lighting is one of the most important aspects of any business – especially a restaurant. Good lighting can help to create a warm and inviting atmosphere, while bad lighting can make your customers feel uncomfortable and even unsafe. That’s why it’s so important to get your lighting right, no matter what type of restaurant you own. 

Why outdoor restaurant lighting matters

What your customers see at first glance creates an impression that stays with them. The interior dining area may be beautifully designed and perfectly lit, but if the outside of the restaurant looks dingy and shadowy, that’s the first impression your guests will have. You want the outdoor lighting to be a continuation of what’s inside, and make customers feel welcomed before they even open the door. 

Plus, the right outdoor restaurant lighting can make the difference between a successful outdoor dining experience and a complete disaster. See more ideas for outdoor restaurant lighting.

What outdoor lighting is suitable for restaurants?

There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing outdoor restaurant lighting. First, the outdoor restaurant lighting should be bright enough to light up the entire outdoor dining area. Second, the outdoor restaurant lighting should be focused on the outdoor dining area so that diners are not blinded by bright lights. Finally, the outdoor restaurant lighting should be able to withstand wind and weather because, well, it’s outside and that’s where weather happens. Invest in high-quality outdoor lighting fixtures, installed professionally.

What kind of lighting is best for a restaurant?

You have a few different types of lighting to consider:

  1. Task lighting is important for being able to see your food. 
  2. Ambient lighting creates an overall mood for your outdoor restaurant. 
  3. Accent lighting helps to highlight certain areas or objects. 

Are LEDs better for outdoor restaurant lighting?

You also need to consider the type of lightbulb you are using. CFL and LED bulbs are more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs. However, CFL bulbs contain mercury and must be disposed of properly. LED bulbs last longer than other types of bulbs and do not contain mercury. Plus, since LED bulbs stay cool and produce minimum or no UV light, they’re not as attractive to insects as other lights. 

Three types of outdoor lighting fixtures for your restaurant

Okay, so you’ll want to remember the main points from above: 

  1. Outdoor lighting for restaurants should be adequately bright, angled correctly (so you don’t blind diners), and durable. Read more about outdoor lighting fixtures.
  2. Outdoor lighting for restaurants should include task lighting, ambient lighting, and accent lighting. 
  3. LED bulbs are, by far, the best lighting system for outdoor lighting. 

The easiest way, by far, to make sure the outdoor lighting for your restaurant hits all three of these points is to hire a professional outdoor lighting company who will create a customized design and properly install high-quality fixtures. If your restaurant is in the St. Louis area, we’d love to work with you! If not, do a quick search for a professional outdoor lighting company in your area. 

Market lights for your restaurant

String lights are a popular choice for outdoor restaurant lighting. One style, which has larger Edison-style bulbs, is known as bistro lights or market lights. They’re a great choice for outdoor dining areas, large or small. In addition to their visual appeal, string lights also provide ambient light, making it easier to see and navigate your outdoor dining area.

While smaller string lights might be wound around a supporting post or beams, market lights are always hung above. This is where the installation can get challenging: some restaurants have an outdoor dining space that’s not close to existing structures or trees. When that’s the case, we create and install custom support poles for the market lights. 

String lights can also be used to highlight specific areas of the restaurant, such as the bar or stage, or they can be strung along the perimeter to create a border of light.

Outdoor chandeliers for your restaurant

You may not think of outdoor restaurant lighting as being particularly elegant, but using chandeliers or other hanging lights can really add a touch of class to your outdoor space. They’re also available in a variety of styles, so it is easy to find one that complements the existing décor. You can choose an outdoor chandelier that’s polished, whimsical, or rustic.

Chandeliers create an instant focal point, and their downward-facing light casts a warm and inviting glow. Hung high over the center of an outdoor dining area, they’ll provide ambient light. When you use smaller chandeliers or outdoor lantern fixtures over individual tables, they’ll provide task lighting.

Spotlights for outdoor restaurant lighting

Spotlights are incredibly versatile, and can be used to illuminate an entire area or focus on specific areas such as the bar or dining area. Smaller spotlights with a soft beam can be used as task lighting, as well, when installed with a downward beam and angled properly. 

Spotlights also work as accent lighting. While string lights and chandeliers or other hanging fixtures are primarily used for ambient lighting in outdoor dining areas, spotlights do a lot more. They’ll create uplighting for the whole exterior of the restaurant. They highlight the signage and landscaping. And they highlight trees and exterior features to create visual interest for guests. 

If you’re not sure where or how to get started with outdoor lighting for your St. Louis restaurant, get in touch. We’ll come out for a free consultation and talk you through all the options so you can choose the best outdoor lighting for your restaurant. 


  • Jessie Holloway Thanks so much for the tips on how to choose the right lighting for an outdoor restaurant area. My cousin's husband owns a restaurant and he's in the middle of adding an outdoor seating area. We've been looking into finding a landscaper to help him plan for lights.
    • Administrator Hi Jessie! Thank you for sharing. Feel free to give us a call at 314 332-2030 or schedule an appointment if you need assistance. We are happy to help!
Comments are closed.