Three ways to light a staff restaurant

There is no need for high levels of uniform illumination when eating a meal. Short of using high-pressure sodium as a light source, colour rendering won’t be an issue.

Even glare is unlikely to be a problem because staff won’t be sitting in the same position for long.

However, there are some guidelines. As a rule, the brighter the illumination, the shorter the time people will stay. Although individuals only spend a short time there, many restaurants are open for long hours, so consider dimming the lights during the evening and night. If there are fewer staff in the evening, consider zoning so areas can be switched off.

The lighting ought to be relaxing. Many staff restaurants have a separate area with lower illumination and more decorative fittings.

Don’t forget good illumination for the cleaners, perhaps as part of a separate switching regime.

Design considerations

Our restaurant is about 15 x 16m with a 3m-high ceiling and there is no daylight.

We have split the space into two. On the right is a vending machine and dining tables. There is a notional 300 lx in this area. On the left is a breakout area, lit to 150 lx or less. It would be a good idea to control the switching and dimming of these areas separately. Obviously, there is plenty of spill light down the central route to the servery, which leads back to the kitchens.

Although we have shown three options, you can easily imagine how you could mix and match the layouts in the two areas of the restaurant.

This has the lowest energy consumption at 4.5W/m2. The dining area on the right uses the slim Coriflex LED system. This is often used in continuous runs, but because of its efficiency, I had to use individual units to avoid overlighting. This arrangement also puts a fair amount of light on the wall, which is useful for reading noticeboards and posters.

The breakout area has 26W compact fluorescent pendants. These produce pools of light over the tables and because of the much lower illumination level, this area is much more relaxing.


Luminaires Nine Oktalite Milano 360 white fabric pendant and seven Coriflex H1 LED system
Optical  Fabric shade and aluminium reflectors
Arrangement As shown 
Average illuminance at table level 150 and 300 lx
Electrical load 4.5W/m2
Typical cost Budget
Pros Lowest load and purchase price
Cons May be too simple an appearance

Here we have used a small recessed LED downlight, the Inperla Ligra, over the dining area. A range of decorative accessories can be added for colour and sparkle (the rendering software shows these as a solid cylinder – we have used a wide angle downlight to soften the illumination). We have used the same pendants as before but with red fabric shades. To achieve the same effect, we have had to use 42W compact fluorescent lamps instead of 26W, a 60 per cent increase in power. It’s a simple example of how interior decor can affect lighting.


Luminaires Nine Oktalite Milano 360 red fabric pendant and 17 Inperla Ligra LED downlight
Optical Fabric shade and aluminium reflectors
Arrangement As shown
Average illuminance at table level 150 and 300 lx
Electrical load 6W/m2
Typical cost Medium price
Pros Much warmer appearance in breakout area
Cons The dining area could be considered overlit

This makes much more of a statement with the Polaron 22W circular fluorescent on the walls and narrow Inperla Ligra in the breakout area. Similarly, the Model 7403 surface mount unit with an opal dome diffuser draws your attention to the dining area. This is a bold scheme – although for some staff restaurants it might be a little too bold.


Luminaires 10 Polaron WD1, 10 Inperla Ligra LED downlight and 12 7403 2900
Optical Opal acrylic diffusers and aluminium reflectors
Arrangement As shown
Average illuminance at table level 150 and 300 lx
Electrical load 6.1W/m2
Typical cost Premium
Pros Striking appearance
Cons Less colour than the second option and may be a little ‘busy’