Lighting and sound: designing a money-maker in the hospitality industry

One of the most exciting parts of developing a new concept is the design. For left brain people, or strong A-type personalities, good design entails logical space planning, structure, reasonable layouts, details, etc. For the right brain, creative types, it means creating a new environment, colors, patterns, textures. Regardless of what excites you about designing the next best bar, best restaurant, or best nightclub in San Diego, or wherever you may be, it all comes down to creating the best experience for your guests.

When starting a new project, it’s easy to want all the best materials. However, if you’re a small business, you may have champagne taste on a beer budget. Even if you have the ability to spare no expense, it’s still wise to spend intelligently, not frivolously. The better choices you make, the more likely it is that you’ll pay your investors back (or yourself) and start making money faster!

As one of the leading hospitality management, consulting, and development agencies in San Diego, we have encountered the goods, the bads, and the uglies when it comes to venue design. Regardless of whether we are opening a new nightclub, managing an existing bar, or consulting on a restaurant project, we are true believers in creating a space where people want to be. And one of the most important steps in creating ambiance is lighting and sound.

Sound and lighting design is crucial to the success of any hospitality venue, especially nightclubs and bars. Lighting and sound adds ambiance, inspires a mood, shapes a room, and energizes a crowd. Choosing your lighting and sound designers can be as important as your architect and interior designer. As with all elements of design, you must understand your budget and needs before enlisting any outside contractors and designers.

Questions to ask in order to determine the type of system that best fits your venue:

  • Who is controlling the audio content? Is it the venue (a DJ, the management team, etc.), or the guests (jukebox, Touchtunes box, etc.)
  • How prominent is the sound and lighting? Is it front and center with an “in your face” vibe (dance club or live music venue) or is it in the background (bar, lounge, or restaurant)?
  • What is the size and shape of your space and what are your options on speaker and light placement?
  • How do the interior design elements interact with the speaker and lights?

One thing to note: it’s important that your interior designer works closely with your sound and lighting designers!

DJ Booth

Throughout the years, the needs and wants of our nightclub clientele have changed. There was a time when the DJ booth was placed in the corner, near the dancefloor, but out of the way. The DJs were usually local, and the music, not the person, was the focus. With the rise of world-renowned DJs, the DJ booth has become more of a prominent fixture, and placing the DJ in front of the crowd has become more important. So consider if it’s best for your venue to have a permanent DJ booth, or a mobile one.

The style of music can further dictate the placement of the DJ. For example, when we would have an EDM DJ headlining one of our larger nightclubs, the booth was placed closer to the dance floor and the crowd. On these nights, the DJ would interact with the crowd, boosting the energy level and vibe. This also enabled us to place VIP tables closer to the acts, allowing us to charge higher minimums for those tables and improving our revenue! On open format nights, the DJ booth could be placed farther away from the crowd, opening up the space for more dancing.

Lighting/Sound Controllers

Proper use of lighting and sound can greatly enhance customer experience or it can negatively impact the night. If the lights are too bright or the volume is too high, it can throw off your entire vibe. Lutron or other controllers can keep your venue’s vibe consistent and save money in the long run.

Video Projection Screens, LED Screens, and TVs

The purpose of your venue will best dictate how video is used in your space. For example, a sports bar will have multiple TVs showing many different games, while an upscale bar or ultra-lounge might not have any. There are many choices for video in a nightclub setting, and most of your decisions will be driven by your budget.

Words we live by: GIGO – Garbage In, Garage Out

Your sound system is only as good as the type of sound files the DJ is using. Likewise, your sound and lighting systems are only as good as the people using them (DJ, Sound, Lighting Techs). Make sure you have the right people manning your systems!


Find out more about RMD Group’s bars, restaurants, and nightclubs.

Find out how you can improve your existing venue, or to turn your bar, restaurant, or nightclub dream into a reality with RMD Consulting.


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