When most restaurateurs start or manage their restaurant, they don’t really think about music all that much. They think about what food and drinks they should serve, the décor of the place, and the kind of service they want to offer. They don’t really think about whether 1980s new wave or 1990s alternative rock is more appropriate for their place.
So what kind of music should a restaurant play? Should they even play music at all?
The Case for No Music
Many of the best restaurants, as well as lots of fast food joints, don’t really play any music at all. For the cheaper places, it’s just an added expense that doesn’t really have a solid return. It’s just another problem having to figure out what music to play.
But even many of the fine dining places don’t play music too. Their reasoning is that they believe that their food is great as it is. There’s no need for any music that may distract the diners from the fantastic culinary experience.
The music can also be a distraction for people who are trying to converse with each other. It can alter the mood of a restaurant and go against the décor. Even people who are sitting in silence may find the music distracting, especially when it has lyrics. The music inflicts the emotions and thoughts of the music artist upon the restaurant patrons.
The Case for Music
Still, some restaurants—even the expensive ones—do play some music. The fine dining places often stick to classical music for the snob appeal at least. There’s somehow something about violins and classical piano concertos that seem to match a restaurant where everyone is dressed to the nines. Also, people who aren’t particularly chatty can at least focus on the music instead of the awkward silence.
For other restaurants, it’s also about attracting and pleasing the guests. Many casual restaurants play music that they know their regulars like. It’s more like a tavern or bar atmosphere, except there’s no live music. Festive music can also be great during weekends, when diners are celebrating the end of a workweek.
There are even some places that actually use music to create faster turnover for greater profits. They play up-tempo music at a somewhat high volume. This kind of music pressures diners subconsciously. It encourages them to eat more quickly, and it also somewhat suppresses the appetite.
Guidelines for Music
So if you want to play music in your restaurant, what exactly should you play? Here are some guidelines you should consider before you make your playlist:
- Try matching the music with the personality of the restaurant. That means classical music when it comes to fine dining and more pop music when it’s casual fare.
- You can also set the mood with the music. If your place is mostly for romantic couples, then romantic music wouldn’t be out of place. If it’s a place where people can relax while they eat, then you need soothing music.
- Age also matters. If your clientele is mostly teens, then the popular music of the day should be fine. You just have to know what’s currently “cool”. For older diners, “classic” tunes from before the turn of the millennium may be better. Figure out what the popular music was when your older patrons were in their teens and twenties. If they were born during the 1970s, then 1990s music will be more to their liking.
- You can also match the music with the cuisine. Some Japanese and Korean restaurants play J-pop and K-pop music as a way of enhancing the exotic experience.
- You should also play music that’s appropriate for the time or the day. For example, some diners play a more upbeat type of music during the lunch hour, so that employees won’t feel sleepy when they get back to work. For dinner, something more relaxing may be more appropriate so people can unwind after a stressful day at work.
- Some restaurant managers even use music surveys as a way to get to know their patrons and regulars. Since the customers are consulted about the music, they may feel like part of the restaurant family and also feel more loyalty to the place.
- Other places use jukeboxes. You just need to make sure that the genre of the music suits your place. Then your diners can go and choose the specific songs they want to hear.
You don’t even need to think too hard about which songs to include. You can just Google the best songs for a particular genre you want to play.
So should you play music? If you’re focusing on the food, then perhaps you may want to keep the distraction to a minimum and have no music. But for casual restaurant where people come to relax, some soft music in the background may bring in more customers to your place.