Jun
14

How to Create Outdoor Ambiance for Al Fresco Restaurant Dining

The Dining Experience

The al fresco dining experience isn’t just about the food and service, it’s about the ambiance—the overall feeling you get when dining and looking into the eyes of the people you’re sharing the moment with, the artfully plated food you’re about to feast on, and the unique atmosphere created by original architectural features. These factors are largely determined by outdoor lighting.

A patron shouldn’t have to squint to read the menu, to see their food, or their epicurean companions. They should also be able to easily identify and enjoy the unique features and originality of the outdoor seating area. A patron’s mood can be made or broken based on this aspect of the dining experience. It’s your job to make it pleasant and memorable with expert landscape lighting.

Cue the Curb Appeal

A big part of a successful restaurant is branding and marketing, right? This includes curb appeal, brand recognition through signage, and the ability to stand out from every other establishment along the way to yours.

How can restaurants attract new clients and loyal patrons? With first and lasting impressions. This means catching a new diner’s eye with professional landscape lighting, giving them a taste of what to expect while dining at the restaurant—perhaps highlighting the hip, trendy deck chairs and tables or maybe your sophisticated sculpture garden. Good outdoor lighting also means well-lit signage where someone can read and remember your establishment’s name while driving by.  

Conversely, dim lights could mean a restaurant doesn’t have much personality, a following, or might not even be open. Don’t make that mistake!

Safety

Even before the dining experience begins, landscape lighting plays a role in how patrons view and interact with the restaurant. From the moment they step out of their car, they navigate the parking lot and sidewalk or a pathway, perhaps a staircase, before entering the restaurant lobby or patio area.

All of these areas need to be lit properly to create a sense of direction and level of safety. This can be achieved with area lights or path lights. Another more advanced approach is down lighting or moon lighting. Moonlighting employs tree lights that project downward to provide soft natural lighting over large areas, which mimics the light of the moon. Moonlighting serves as an excellent transition effect connecting different lighting scenes together and eliminates black holes from the project, and again, providing safety and cohesion.

Show Off the Cuisine

Chefs offer a great deal of time and skill to make their dishes look and taste incredible. However, these creations can’t be appreciated fully when lit in poor outdoor lighting.

Now let’s add social media marketing to the mix. Today, Facebook and Instagram feeds are overwhelmed by foodie photos sharing gorgeously plated dishes and dining experience. If you don’t have good lighting, the restaurant misses the unique and desired opportunity for organic marketing content developed by its own customers.

Highlight Architectural Features

Any landscape lighting pro will tell you that good outdoor restaurant lighting that accentuates the features that make the establishment stand out—the coy fish pond by the patio, the metal sculpture made by a local artist, the herb and edible flower garden used to make speciality salads, cocktails, and desserts.

These lovely features have a real wow factor to them, but can be easily forgotten at night. To ensure safety and to create an exceptional al fresco dining experience, they should be shown off at night with landscape lighting.

Use LED Lighting

LED lighting of today is not the LED lighting of the past. Today, LEDs produce warmer tones that are pleasant and complimentary to not only the food, but the people eating it.

From an economical standpoint, LED lighting is also good for an eatery’s budget. While LED lamps are more expensive up front, they reduce energy costs significantly and have a much longer lifespan than incandescent bulbs. (We’re talking outlasting incandescents by years!)

Landscape Lighting is in the Details

While all of the tips mentioned above are a great starting place to achieve outdoor ambiance orignal to your establishment, we would be remiss if we did not advise seeking the help of a professional landscape lighting expert to install your customized outdoor lighting system.

Every project is different. The way you light a gastropub or southern-style barbecue joint is not the same as you would a classic Italian bistro or French cafe. A professional carefully measures and tests the perfect beam spread, lumen output, and considers how to best light for specific tasks such as beauty and usability. There’s a lot more that goes into beautiful landscape lighting than meets the eye.

But, one thing a successful restaurant offers is a safe and welcoming environment that also makes the food and the patrons look good and feel great. And that is accomplished with professional landscape lighting.