Before DJing and working for myself, I waited tables. I waited many tables in all kinds of restaurants, from Mom-and-Pop pizza joints to steakhouses to fine-dining, break-out-the-bread-crumber type establishments. When determining the type of music that would best set the soundtrack to any guest’s experience, it is important to take into account three considerations: target demographic, physical environment, and branding.

#1: What is the target demographic for your guest? Note that I use the word “guest” in place of “client.” “Guest” creates more rapport, as you would treat that person just as you would someone in your own home. It also broadens the demographic. For example, is the restaurant a wine bar, focusing on an older, more affluent guest? Is it a fast-paced diner, accommodating large parties and families? Is it a hot new Asian-Pacific place that attracts the modern millennial? The tastes of a modern millennial and that of an older affluent person are often quite different, so choosing music that could appease both parties would be ideal. However, doing so can also pose the biggest challenge. For instance, with one of our upscale steakhouse clients, their demographic is mostly older businessmen 45-65 years-of-age. As a result, their audio identity appeals to this demographic to some degree, while still remaining relevant to a younger crowd by including upbeat Happy Hour/Late Night Menu playlists.

#2: The next factor to consider is the physical environment of the restaurant and how that might influence the musical ambiance. Ample natural lighting and a diner-style environment can call for more upbeat and fast-paced music. On the other hand, a dark, intimate, dinner-oriented place might call for music with a more loungey feel. If the environment has plush seating, the music might be more romantic. If the building is more modern and sleek but still has a dark, candlelit feel, perhaps something more electronic and chill will create the right vibe.

The natural acoustics of your dining room also matter. For example, you would not want to play something extremely percussive in a warehouse, open-rafter type restaurant, as the echo and overall sound would be noisy and distracting.

#3: Lastly, your restaurant music must reflect your brand. When we understand the brand and the feel the guest is looking for, we are able to translate these values into a tangible soundscape. For example, you would not want to play a bunch of Cumbia in an Italian restaurant, as that style would intrinsically sound “off” to the guests’ ears. Nor would you play Black Metal at a family-friendly establishment, especially if the grandparents were visiting – could you imagine? It’s about looking at the bigger picture and creating a specific sound that embodies the brand mission. Doing so often means forgetting your personal preferences in order to build and grow a playlist that can really connect with your guests.

As you can see, Music Design carefully considers the target demographic, physical environment, and branding before even beginning to select music for the restaurant. Once these are guidelines are established, song selection becomes much easier – empowering us to build fully-branded programs for our clients. The end result empowers our clients to create stronger emotional connections with their guests – and a dining experience that guests will want to repeat.

– Submitted by Vanessa Burden, Music Design