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Outdoor Restaurant Lighting

Mar 2, 2008
Many upscale and five star restaurants offer diners an outdoor area in which to relax and enjoy a meal. Generally speaking, these areas are open patios that are highly decorative and, in many, instances surrounded by lush greenery and fine decorations. In order to strike the right balance between functional lighting and ambient lighting, the hospitality lighting consultant must have a keen eye for design, landscaping, and exterior architecture. Everything from the height of the patio ceiling, the material build and proximity of adjacent walls, and decorations influence the type of fixtures and levels of light for outdoor areas of the restaurant.

Because these outdoor lighting fixtures are continually exposed to the elements, it is strongly recommended that restaurant's never use retail grade materials in their outdoor garden designs. Even dry climates with relatively balmy weather nevertheless expose equipment to a certain amount of humidity and temperature variances that can affect performance and or customer safety.

It is much better to contract a licensed, professional outdoor lighting contractor who has accessed to commercial grade materials from leading lighting manufacturers. These materials may cost more on the front end, but in the long run will pay for themselves because they feature longer lamp life, more rugged durability when exposed to the elements, and

Landscape Lighting Fixtures

Virtually any fixture used in an indoor restaurant lighting design can be exported to the outside, provided its manufacture supports exposure to the open air or wet locations. Outdoor lighting systems frequently utilize wall sconces, patio lights, rope lights, step lights, outdoor tree lights and path lights around the perimeter of the restaurant. These lighting fixtures are very often low voltage devices, some even using LED lamps which make them even more energy conscious than ever and more durable to accidental impact and normal wear and tear. Decorative architectural lighting designs such as these can create a perimeter of light that separates dining space from the surrounding landscape. Keeping illumination to a low, ambient level eliminates glare that can interfere with a clear view of an urban landscape or scenic resort locale.

Table Areas

The lighting around outdoor tables depends greatly on the types of tables restaurants place on the patio. Some scenarios are designed specifically for couples; others, for large groups of people. Resort lighting and other high end lighting designs are good examples of muti-use outdoor spaces where light plays a key room in mood and ambiance.

For two-person outdoor tables, LED tea lights are becoming very popular restaurant lighting fixtures. They resemble ornate candles and can be adjusted to different lighting levels. They are perfect for romantic moments.

For larger tables for families and groups out to dinner, pendant lights and chandeliers can hang suspended from the patio ceiling to provide down light over the table. These lights tend to create a "wash" of light that descends gently to the table, giving everyone plenty of light to see. Some restaurants will then position LED decorations on the tables for added color. Lighted ice buckets can grab the attention of potential guests as wine is served or to announce a birthday or anniversary.

In some cases, where tables remain static, well-placed custom architectural lighting fixtures can dramatically illuminate tables with attractive dots of light. This does not work in a fluid setting, but it is well worth discussing with a lighting consultant if your patio features a static table layout.

Vegetation and Decoration

It is also necessary to pay close attention to decorative fixtures, sculptures, and vegetation. A great many patios are built on, or even around, large trees. Well-placed outdoor tree lights and outdoor path lights configured with lighting controls can be used to set many moods and create different layers of light for outdoor restaurant areas in conjunction to a variety of events and special occasions.

This often requires working with a vendor that has some experience in landscape and garden lighting as well as outdoor lighting maintenance. In order to be environmentally friendly and still achieve a superior aesthetic, it is necessary to use special fixtures that will not harm the trees, and to use low voltage transformers and garden lights around surrounding indigenous vegetation that are specifically made to withstand rainy days and winter conditions in many areas.

Paying close attention to fountains, trees, sculptures, and hedges creates a well-rounded indoor lighting installation that unites outdoor dining with Nature itself. This creates a further sense of getaway for guests who are looking not only to escape the mediocrities of daily life, but the stress of traffic, office buildings, and drab concrete business districts that offer little sense of comfort or repose.

Multi-Specialization Is the Key for Outdoor Restaurant Lighting

Working with an organization like ILD can ensure that outdoor restaurant lights are not only manufactured and installed with the highest level of commercial grade quality, but also configured in a way that truly compliments every unique element of the dining area. It is these types of outdoor landscape lighting services that set multi-specialist vendors apart from the competition.

Cross-training in architectural, fine art lighting, decorative design, and landscaping enable our professionals to spot key points in and around the facility where we can install any choice of literally thousands of fixtures to create anchor points in the lighting array that both layers and controls the light with the most sophisticated control and power regulation systems.

The more disciplines a lighting firm is able to master, the more it can take a consultative, custom-planning approach to be taken that takes every element of a restaurant's outdoor dining facility into account when planning the lighting design or lighting control system.
About the Author
Illuminations Lighting and Design is a lighting design/consulting vendor of commercial and residential high-end indoor and outdoor lighting systems. For more information on ILD's five specialized service offerings, visit http://www.illuminationslighting.com/outdoor_restaurant_lighting.htm and http://www.illuminationslighting.com
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