Hospitality/Leisure, How to Light, Outdoor

How to Light: Three ways to light a restaurant garden

One of the pleasures of living in the UK is that we have seasons, and spring and summer offer the opportunity to eat and drink outside.

Traditionally, pubs and restaurants had chairs and tables outdoors. It is now quite common for stately homes and National Trust properties to have them. Strangely, many garden centres have cafes indoors.

The first priority in any public space is safety. You don’t want people falling down stairs or tripping over paving. You will need some illumination on the paths and steps. Good vertical illumination is essential – it’s hard to be sociable if you can’t see people’s faces.

I’m hoping you don’t have to use vandal-resistant luminaires, but weather resistance is a must. That may sound obvious, but plenty of ‘indoor grade’ luminaires are used outside. As a rule, any luminaire recessed in the ground should be rated IP68 because, unless there is good drainage, puddles can form and your uplight can get submerged.

Fixing uplights in paving can be a problem. Using a soft mastic or sealant means the uplight can be removed easily for rewiring or if it fails. An epoxy resin sealant is much more secure but can mean that you have to break the stone or paving to remove the uplight.

Computer renderings of outdoor installations have a tendency to look more harsh and contrasty than in reality because there are no inter-reflections from the ‘ceiling’ and ‘walls’ to soften the shadows. In cities and towns, there is always some light from the sky to add to the night-time scene. I’ll leave the skyglow to your imagination.



An easy way to achieve good vertical illumination and an even spread of light is to use columns. The crucial thing is to make sure they aren’t too tall. These columns are 3.5m high and the bollards are 1m. A standard 6m streetlighting column would look out of place.

An interesting aspect of this design is that both Kingfisher Lighting’s Quadrio luminaires are made from the same size square section aluminium extrusion so the appearance is consistent. The light source is a vertical compact fluorescent lamp behind an opal polycarbonate diffuser.

The big advantage of this type of lighting is the all-round uniform illumination. No matter where you were, you could easily read the menu.

This option provides a comfortable, relaxing, well-lit space.


Tech spec

  • Luminaires Quadrio column and bollard
  • Optical control Opal polycarbonate
  • Arrangement As shown
  • Electrical load 540W
  • Pros Plenty of light everywhere
  • Cons Highest electrical load



This is much more intimate. The brick alcoves have a more cosy feel and the central area seems more private. There are soft pools of light from Kingfisher Lighting’s Krio LED strips under the benches. Although cool light sources are often used outdoors, this might benefit from something warmer, say 3000K. These units can also have colour change, but that decision is for you and your client. Candles on the occupied tables would be an attractive touch.

Stone ‘landing light’ paver units graze light across the pathways. These provide visual guidance rather than even illumination across the whole width and length of the path. Place them at the edge of the path for safety.

There are wall-mounted narrow beam units in the alcoves that simply highlight the table and chairs.

The uplighting of the trees blends in much more with this style of lighting and the whole space is seen as pools of light rather than a uniformly lit area.


Tech spec

  • Luminaires Up/down wall-light plus Stone in-ground lateral beam units and Krio strips
  • Optical control Various
  • Arrangement As shown
  • Electrical load 430W, of which half is the seating
  • Pros Vibrant
  • Cons May be too contrasty for some



This, again, has a more dynamic feel than the first option. Most of the illumination is supplied by downlights on the pergola supports. A narrow beam would be more dramatic but the wide angle used here is much more functional and ensures there is light on the tabletops.

If there were foliage on the pergolas, you could use the up/down version of this unit. It also comes in a range of colours including brown so its appearance could be fairly discreet.

The alcoves are illuminated using Kingfisher Lighting’s Inground 55 paver units. Light reflects off the walls and works best with pale materials such as yellow brick, concrete or limestone. Depending on the ambient light levels, you might want to add some tabletop lighting.


Tech spec

  • Luminaires Downlights and Inground 55 uplights
  • Optical control Reflector
  • Arrangement As shown
  • Electrical load 288W
  • Pros Lowest energy consumption
  • Cons You may need extra light in the alcoves