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From light grazing to heavy grubbing, from pate to tacos, each dining experience is as distinctly different and unique as the menu. As such, the same care that goes into curating a menu that speaks to these experiences should be applied to feeding your customer’s musical appetites. Every restaurant has nuanced needs when it comes to music. No matter the genre, the budget or the footprint, there are key elements that each restaurateur must consider to get the most out of their eatery’s music solution. We’ve rounded up the top 5 tips for serving up a salivating playlist.

While some restaurants opt for streaming apps like Spotify or Pandora, both platforms violate federal copyright laws and leave business owners vulnerable to penalties and fines. Up to $150,000 for each song, to be exact. To stream that Spanish guitar in your tapas bar you’ll need to secure the rights to the music. Think of it as paying artists for providing your buzzing restaurant with background tunes. The good news? Most restaurant music providers will obtain the rights on your behalf.

As obvious as it may seem, the music drifting overhead should both satiate diners’ musical appetites and feel cohesive with the rest of the dining experience. Serving up filet mignon at a sophisticated steakhouse? Better pair it with something equally refined, like traditional or contemporary jazz or perhaps more sophisticated singer/songwriter offerings. Running a Mexican fusion restaurant? Lay off the pop music and opt for more exotic offerings with Latin flair, but avoid the expected. There are amazing alternative Latin experiences not centered around Mariachis. There should be synergy between your music and the culinary experience, much like how the appropriate deft touch of seasonings compliment premium ingredients when thoughtfully combined.

There’s nothing worse than the same three songs looping on repeat. It’s like a soup of the day that never changes. If diners wanted leftovers, they would’ve stayed home. Instead, keep things as fresh as your locally sourced endive greens and opt for a music provider that offers a vast selection of programs and genres. Ensure that the options are updated regularly on your behalf, and without you having to think of it. It’s rather like refreshing your menu every so often to serve up more unexpected seasonal offerings. It also demonstrates a deeper connectivity to the overall experience. Your wait staff will appreciate you more!

The last thing you want in a restaurant is dead quiet. The awkward silences that plague most first dates are bad enough. The culprit? Poor connectivity and even more poorly thought-out solutions. Many new to the scene providers offer streaming music solutions devoid of a media device, which means that the reliability of a device-less solution is entirely dependent on a.) your internet connection, or b.) the strength of the provider’s feed. To avoid those dreaded skips and blips mid-dinner service, make sure that you go with a reliable provider that offers multiple device options, streaming or otherwise, best suited for your particular needs for music playback.

Just like décor, menus and plating, the music played in your dining room is a direct reflection of your restaurant. Catering to a family-friendly crowd? Cueing up tracks with inappropriate lyrics is a surefire way to alienate customers and tarnish the dining experience (Not to mention, lead to unsavory Yelp reviews.) Offensive content should never be a concern for eatery owners. Hitting the “non-explicit” button next to a song doesn’t guarantee it won’t be offensive. We have learned that the language does not have to be blatant, nuance and context matter. Buttons don’t filter nuance. This is just one more reason why it’s paramount to employ a professional music provider that proactively filters content—including actually listening to the lyrics of each song—that could potentially turn away parents or the early bird crowd. 

So, there you have it—the top 5 tips for effective music in your restaurant. Nail them all and while you may not be closer to that Michelin star, you’ll certainly be closer to creating a memorable experience and at least a few more bookings on OpenTable.

Danny Turner is Mood Media’s global senior vice president of Creative Programming. He has spent more than 25 years in national and international music programming and branding. Before  joining Mood Media, he spent a decade as one of the founding programming executives at XM Satellite Radio. Danny was instrumental in creating programs for such partners as Starbucks, MTV, VH1, BET, United Airlines, Air Canada, Oprah and E!, as well as developing special programming and brand relationships with iconic talents such as Bob Dylan, Wynton Marsalis, Quincy Jones, Tom Petty, Willie Nelson and BB King. He has managed programming teams and efforts across North America and Europe. A lousy guitarist who aspires to one day be mediocre, his musical tastes are rooted in early R&B, bad-ass Rock, Blues, Classic Country, Reggae and Ska. Danny restores vintage audio gear and if the category is Brady Bunch trivia and you need some help, call him.

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