Sound is key for restaurants and diners! “Studies have shown that different sounds and genres of music impact diners’ perception of food and drink, influencing everything from the crunch of potato chips to the flavor of wine.” Click below to read more from the Chicago Tribune …
What makes a restaurant more than a place to grab a meal, but a place you’ll really remember? For a growing number of dining establishments, it’s not just the food, the decor or the dashing wait staff. Increasingly, it’s the music.
At Bohemian House, a River North restaurant that serves European fare, customers dine while listening to a steady soundtrack of indie artists that have “a good beat” but don’t distract from conversation, said co-owner Dan Powell. “Don’t Move” by Phantogram, “We’ll Be Fine” by Lincoln Jesser and “Let’s Go Surfing” by The Drums are among the tunes on the Bohemian House playlist.
“We wanted to make sure that we created a space that not only looked beautiful but sounded beautiful,” said Powell, who added that the restaurant’s music selection has been a key part of the spot’s development since it opened in 2014.
Powell is one of a growing cadre of chefs and restaurant owners who are paying more attention to their establishments’ audial ambience, treating it as an extension of their brands.
Music has multiple purposes in a restaurant, notes Danny Turner, global senior vice president of programming and production at Mood Media, the main music provider for big U.S. retail and restaurant chains. It muffles kitchen or staff noise and drowns out the conversation of the customers sitting next to you. It fills those awkward pauses in the conversation. And it appeals to a customer’s emotions, leading to higher overall satisfaction.
Studies have shown that different sounds and genres of music impact diners’ perception of food and drink, influencing everything from the crunch of potato chips to the flavor of wine.
“I think the smartest restaurants recognize that every meal is a multisensory experience,” said Joel Beckerman, author of the book, “The Sonic Boom: How Sound Transforms the Way We Think, Feel, and Buy.” “But I think the vast majority don’t think enough about it.”
Sound “has a tremendous impact that most people aren’t even aware of,” said Beckerman, a composer of scores of iconic brand sounds for everything from IMAX theaters to the Super Bowl. “We respond emotionally to sound faster than any other sense, even touch.”
Good music can even boost revenue, said Ola Sars, CEO and co-founder of Soundtrack Your Brand, a Swedish Spotify-backed streaming service that launched in the U.S. this month and provides music to McDonald’s worldwide. If customers enjoy the music, they tend to stay longer, which leads to more eating and drinking — and higher checks.
But determining what music strikes a chord with a restaurant’s clientele is something that each establishment must determine.
At Big Star, a Mexican restaurant in Wicker Park, the music is country, rock and loud.
“Like really loud,” said Laurent Lebec, Big Star’s beverage director and the curator of its mix. “You’re just bashing to music.”
Lebec, a musician and former member of the band Pelican, calls being at Big Star, which exclusively plays records, “like being in a musical fishbowl.”
“Sound was always part of the design,” he said. “Everything is dialed up to be beautiful chaos. It’s raucous but welcoming and warm.”
Chris Haisma, a partner at Footman Hospitality, said the restaurant company “really dove into music” at its newest Chicago spots, The Betty and Sparrow.
They use curated playlists — one for day and the other for night — running on a MacBook and supplemented with records brought in by the staff, depending on the mood of the restaurant on a particular night.
The playlists are designed by Chicago-based Uncanned Music, a music curating company. Haisma said 40 percent of the songs on each playlist are swapped out every month.
Uncanned designs playlists for restaurants based on their unique design and feel.
“We think of it as artfully as we can — as equal to food and beverage,” said Scott McNiece, who started Uncanned Music after curating playlists as a side gig while working for famed restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff.
“I think the need is fairly innate — there’s not a single restaurant that hasn’t had to address it, even if they don’t think about it,” McNiece said.
“We pride ourselves at being pretty boutique and developing relationships,” he said. “We try to walk into every new job with a clean slate.”
Beyond selecting the unique playlist for a particular restaurant, Uncanned also adjusts the song mix often to keep it fresh, and adjusts the songs themselves so the volume is consistent — a key difference between new and old music.
“It’s kind of like working with a designer,” Footman Hospitality’s Haisma said. “I always say the host stand is the guest’s first and last impression. The music is the same way.”