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Restaurant lighting tips for success

Posted by Sandra Brookes on 13 Oct 2020

Case study: Avra Lounge, Four Seasons Astir,  Greece

In celebration of our nomination for the Avra Lounge in the Restaurant and Bar Design Awards (which will be held this week online), we felt that it would be an excellent opportunity to share our successful tips on lighting design for a luxury restaurant using the Avra Lounge as a case study.

For a restaurant space, the appropriate lighting design is essential to enhance the dining experience. Creating an exceptional atmosphere for diners is key to get them to stay and to entice them to come back again and again, creating a continuous and successful business.  Research has shown that the right lighting atmosphere can have an emotional effect on diners, influencing their feeling of satisfaction whilst affecting their whole dining experience by heightening the senses.

  • Dare To Impress: The Grand Entrance
  • Everlasting Memories: Decorative Feature Lighting
  • Spark Romance: Ambient Lighting
  • Entice Guests: Accent Lighting

We will elaborate on the elements below.


Dare To Impress: The Grand Entrance

The grand entrance usually helps to advertise what is happening inside. It creates interest in onlookers by giving them a small taste of what is happening within the building. The grand entrance provides the first impression before entering the space and the lighting is vital to persuade the guests to decide to enter the restaurant.  The journey from the entrance towards the guest table will reveal the different ambiences designed for the space created with lighting. Usually starting with a brighter scene when entering and addressing the Maitre'd, through to evolving into a warmer and almost candle-lit lighting for the interior. 

The Avra Lounge presents a luxurious arrival experience starting at the porte-cochere of the Nafsika  Four Seasons Astir Hotel where a valet service receives the guests. On entering the Reception area, The Avra Lounge can be discovered as it slowly takes centre stage in a visual journey that feasts the eyes. The Avra Lounge is located within an impressive double space, below the reception area, extending views towards its glitzy interior and double-height windows showcasing the incredible views outside. The interiors provide a distinctive look within the Hotel double space environment with its intense colours and bold patterns highlighted by soft lighting with a residential feel.

The guest then moves towards entering the restaurant through the staircase of light and the slatted marble corridor. The minimal design of the staircase leads the guest to the Avra Lounge entrance downstairs.

A key signature feature before entering the Avra Lounge is its marble slatted corridors. These beautifully selected marble slats take centre stage from entering the Hotel. They are front and backlit with a careful balance, becoming an elegantly lit canvas leading to the Maitre'd desk.

Everlasting Memories: Decorative Feature Lighting

It is important to create a unique identity for the space to entice guests inside the door. Lighting directs the guest's eye towards the feature elements created as part of the experience. So it's not uncommon to see the most amazing feature pendants within signature restaurants as part of the narrative of the space. These incredible pieces are usually the crown jewels of the area and become key to the restaurant's identity. They typically take the limelight and become centre stage through creating visual impact through lighting.

The Avra Bar presents five bespoke feature pendants which evoke an overturned forest and provide an unforgettable first impression on entering the space. They contribute twofold by providing a golden glow within numerous ribbed glass globes as well as through discreet accent lighting hidden within the pendant providing accent to tables and the décor below. The jewel-like pendants in the Avra Lounge are the most prominent feature as you enter the reception area creating visual impact. Oversized bespoke decorative luminaires with integral spotlights help to retain a clean soffit and introduces drama. A lighting control system was used to allow the lit canvas to be set seamlessly using adjustable scene settings.

Spark Romance: Ambient Lighting


Nothing will be more magical and romantic than a candle-lit dinner date. The candle-like ambience and its inherent magic have defined the atmosphere of many successful restaurants to this day. It has always been the desire to emulate this quality of light even with the new technology challenges that LED sources bring. The elements providing the desired magical atmosphere are the right combination of brightness and colour temperature.  

The control system governs the brightness of a light source. The control system is key to helping the lighting designer realise the initial vision by allowing the lit canvas to be set seamlessly. Similar to an artist, the lighting designer uses different combinations of light levels to create the desired ambience throughout the day linking it to the latitude of the place via an automated astronomical clock. It is the automated process that will set the right scene to the right time of the day.

It is important from the outset to agree on the overall colour temperature for the space with the client and interior designers. We usually use a very warm palette for the lighting temperature of the room ranging from 2400K to 2200K for the linear and 2700K for the downlighters.

In the Avra lounge, we worked mainly with a really warm almost candle-lit ambience which hovered around the 2200K. The space lies within the public areas of the Hotel, which were designed at a cooler 2700K. Together and with that distinction, the restaurant appeared warm and cosy with a recognisable golden candle-lit glow.



Entice Guests: Accent Lighting

To entice guests to eat in a restaurant is simple: the food needs to be excellent and for it to be appealing, it needs to be presented in an attractive manner. Accent lighting to tables and counters is key not only to being able to read the menu, cooking at the show kitchens but very important for food presentation. Improving the presentation of a dish adds value to the dining experience playing heavily on the cliché that we 'eat with our eyes'. The presentation is enhanced when the colour of the food is vivid. This is when we start talking about CRI in lighting sources. CRI stands for colour rendering index and is a quantitative measure of the ability of a light source to reveal the colours of various objects faithfully in comparison with a natural light source. The higher the CRI, the more vibrant and truthful the colour is as seen under daylight.

The vividness of food will affect people's appetite and general appeal of the food presented. The colour rendering of the specified light source illuminating the food influences the judgment over the food directly making it more or less appealing. Red is a significant colour which reflects the freshness of food. The warm, reddish colour will give the impression the good is fresh or good tasting. Light sources with high CRI are key for ensuring that the food looks appealing.

In the Avra Lounge, we used narrow beam spotlight integral to the feature pendant aimed to the centre of the tables so that the true protagonists: food and drink were in the spotlight. We only used light sources of CRI 90 or higher. We made sure that the areas anywhere the food was displayed would have brighter accent lighting in relation to the overall ambient levels, so the food gets viewed in their best presentation possible.

At the end of the day an unforgettable dining experience is made by the combination of many elements, well-considered lighting is vital for setting the appropriate mood for the occasion.

If we dare to impress with lighting within a luxury restaurant, it should leave an everlasting memory where our guests should be dazzled by the magical & romantic mood achieved through seamless lighting within the space. The guest will feast with their eyes with the excellent food on offer by being enticed further by the influence of high-quality lighting!

Bon appétit!