There are four layers of light typically used in hospitality lighting namely, General (also called ambient) lighting, Task lighting, Accent lighting and Decorative lighting. Combining and balancing these lighting types, give visual interest to the space and create a more attractive, exciting and inviting environment.

Lighting for areas where people eat is ‘Primarily mood lighting’. But it also needs to ensure that guests can find their way around and conduct conversations at the table while facing in any direction.

The kind of artificial lighting required for a restaurant depends primarily on the style of the establishment. The range of conceivable lighting moods is endless – from glaring brightness to intimate candlelight.

The important thing is that the atmosphere should suit the architectural surroundings, ensuring that food is clearly presented and looks attractive, and that visual conditions at the table are right for conversation. The level of brightness selected determines the degree of intimacy for diners. And all these priorities need to be addressed by lighting compatibility with the catering concept of the house.

This is a good point to look at light colour. The light colour of a lamp is the colour appearance of its light, expressed as a colour temperature in degrees Kelvin (K). It is one of the crucial factors defining the visual ambience of a room. Light colours are divided into three groups: Warm white (below 3300 K), Neutral white (3300 K – 5300 K) and Daylight white (over 5300 K). To ensure that the impression a room makes is not impaired, care must be taken – not only on initial installation but also when lamps are replaced – to use the light colour stipulated in the lighting design.

Restaurant lighting should be low key for all service areas except buffets; the emphasis should be on the arrangement of tables. At the same time, it should be assumed that the ‘Observer Principle’ applies, i.e., if people prefer all active areas to be cast in a brighter light than them.

In a restaurant context, this means the surface of the table should be more brightly lit than the surroundings, though guests should still be able to make one another out clearly.

The lighting designer also needs to pay attention to the colour rendering properties of the lamps used in the luminaires. This is because good colour rendering is essential for ensuring that the freshness and delicacy of food is immediately apparent. Colour rendering is standardised like light colour.

It is expressed as a colour rendering index Ra, based on the rendering of test colours commonly found in the environment. Ra = 100 is the best possible value; the lower the index, the poorer is the colour rendering properties. In restaurants and kitchens, a minimum of Ra 80 is required and Ra 90 is better.

The design of bistro and bar lighting should be based on precise analysis of the groups, the establishment wishes to attract. Depending on the intended design statement, any of the whole range of lamps and luminaire types available could be an option. Where the intention is to appeal mainly to a younger market, a wide variety of visual effects will be needed to attract large numbers of customers.

For the more conservative guest, the traditional hotel bar dispenses with special effects and offers a relaxing atmosphere. The guests themselves, whether seated or standing, are bathed in only minimal light and great care is taken to avoid glare. Behind the bar, lighting needs to permit visual appraisal of drinks and food by staff. Punctual light sources lend a dramatic sparkle to gleaming objects.

Today, with people traveling way more than they used to, the demand for theme based restaurants has increased multi folds. With people exactly knowing their expectation from a space, it is important to connect the target audience with the minutest detail being taken care of. One such space, ‘Highland Single Malt Whiskey’ was done by SPK Valo last October. Highland’s is an up market single malt whiskey place, which exclusively offers only the single malt.

The posh single malt bar demanded a lighting scheme that would perfectly compliment the Irish feel of dark wood and leather interiors, keeping the ambience intimate, reflecting high-end exclusivity. My (being Principal Designer of SPK Valo) intention was to provide pools of light that were functionally required and accentuate focal points in the space that commanded attention.

The islands of seating are illuminated using 10 degree halogens that offer precise detailing of the pristine cutlery and glasses, while giving enough light to read the menu. The bar is accentuated in horizontal bands as the shelves are lined with concealed LED strips that make the bottles glow from within.

Further, strip lighting hidden in the cove of the counter gently reveals its contours. While the ceiling houses a small number of recessed downlights to augment the ambient illumination, considerately placed decorative suspensions made of deer antlers and 40W halogens add to the old world charm of the space. Careful mixes of LED and halogen fittings are used to determine a warm and intimate atmosphere, highlighting artwork and display cases.

Kunal Shah
Lighting Designer
SPK VALO, Hyderabad

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