Friday, 29 November 2013

Restaurant Lighting....

.... and its effect on our dining experience?


James Balston
Designing a themed lighting system for any restaurant must surely be an art form and if it proves a success, then clearly it is representative of the designers vision.
 For me personally, the lighting in a restaurant is one of the key ingredients, even before the food, that plays its part in creating the ambience and setting the mood within its venue. Whether it artistically illuminates a hand crafted piece of wall art or glares starkly over our 'burgers and chips' (love Byron at the moment), the lighting in a restaurant plays an important part in our dining experience!  For example, use of colour has been shown to affect appetite. Warm colors generally are supposed to enhance appetite while cool colors suppress it. Using different coloured lighting is supposed to influence our emotions and moods which plays an important part in our responses to food and ultimately, effects how we feel in a venue, the choices we make and how we then enjoy our meal, or not ! Blue is supposed to be calming and certain shades of yellow, as seen in the picture above, are believed to evoke a sense of space and openness which helps us to relax and unwind.  Using bright and colourful lighting in fast food outlets creates a sense of energy and movement, attracting its flow of customers to a more transient culinary experience. In stark contrast, using a dim, soft and richer lighting helps to create a calming atmosphere for a more intimate and romantic evening dining experience. 

Courtesy of James Balston

Incorporating more luxurious and decorative lighting into the design layout of the dining area above has helped  to set the mood and theme of this oriental restaurant. 

As a Photographer I am fascinated by light and how everything changes throughout the day as the light changes. How this effects our wellbeing , perception and mood is interesting. As light is either absorbed or reflected constantly so does colour and in a restaurant this can add interest to the food as it can change its colour. Remember the old fashioned burger bars with such harsh lighting the food would appear almost iridescent! This however did not put me off eating my knickerbocker glory despite the cherries which looked positively radio active!

Getting the lighting right or wrong, those first steps into the restaurant which could either win you over or have you heading back out the door in a flash! Only this year in a restaurant in sunny Marbella,  I could barely see the floor below me, let alone the table!  'They don't want me to see the food', was flashing through my mind as I fled back out into the street! 




The bright colourful fluorescent lights shining out from duke boxes and slot machines in bars and pubs are an attraction to customers and add to the ambience of the venue. 



On a shoot recently, I visited the Brasserie Hudson Quay, a European style destination restaurant in Middlesbrough where part of the style and ambience has been set by the clever use of lighting in its design. Fluorescent blue bar panels, soft overhead table lighting just above eye level are complimentary to the face and using lots  of candles softly illuminating ornate vintage candle holders all adds to the ambience. For me personally, it's all in the lighting!

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