A restaurant’s soundtrack and make or break the dining experience. And it’s more than just the volume (although blaring techno while trying to converse with your fellow diners can totally ruin a meal). The music sets the mood, changes the mood, and further immerses you in your dining experience. It can even affect the taste and smell of your food and make diners stay longer and spend more.

As part of our “vibe” ranking, here is what the top ranked restaurants had to say about their soundtrack:

 

On Creating a Unique Soundtrack

“The playlist that we've compiled highlights the diverse cultural history of Brazil, touching on musical movements within the country as well as the places from which those movements draw influence.”
—Ziyad Asrar, Beverage Director, La Sirena Clandestina (#11 in vibe in Chicago)

“When it comes to curating playlists, you want to make sure everyone listening has a good time and feels the vibe. Our playlists create a lively environment every day.”
—Bruce Finkelman, Managing Partner, Dusek’s Board & Beer (#13 in vibe in Chicago)

“Our soundtrack is set up to create a sexy and festive vibe with music spanning many genres.”
—Veronica Beckman, Co-Owner, Tanta (#12 in vibe in Chicago)

“We want to create a great atmosphere for our guests. We like the music to create good energy and vibe but not take over the experience. Our current playlist is extremely eclectic and not too heavy handed in any one genre, rather blending genres to create a similar feeling and sound.”
—Erin Phillips, Boka Restaurant Group Operations and Education Director, Momotaro (#5 in vibe in Chicago)

“We try to put the guest experience first and foremost in our minds—rather than our own subjective musical preferences—because the last thing the music should do is challenge or alienate guests. We strive to avoid those annoying earworms that can really kill a dining experience, and instead aspire to create an atmosphere that is familiar sounding, yet just obscure enough that it provokes curious pleasure.”
—Craig Lane, Bartender, Bar Agricole (#9 in vibe in San Francisco)

 

On Specific Genre Choices

“Moving from Brazilian psychedelia, Tropicalia, pop, samba and jazz of the 60s, 70s and early 80s to similar music that was being made in Africa and the US in those eras creates a pretty stimulating environment for everyone in the restaurant.”
—Ziyad Asrar, Beverage Director, La Sirena Clandestina (#11 in vibe in Chicago)

“We have a soundtrack with music spanning many genres, including Latin house, salsa, jazz, deep house, and afro-Peruvian. The playlists were all curated by some of the best Chicago DJ's who are experts in these genres. They start the playlist with more down-tempo grooves that set the mood for a relaxing atmosphere then the songs slowly pick up in tempo as the night progresses. That up-tempo of more festive songs allow our customers to have more fun and stay and drink a bit more.”
—Veronica Beckman, Co-Owner, Tanta (#12 in vibe in Chicago)

“Music in our restaurants is very important to us. We like to mix it up: electro-funk, up- tempo, down-tempo, rock and roll, and electro trip hop. It makes for good ambient atmosphere. It adds to the experience but doesn't overwhelm it. Some songs with few vocals allow for good conversation and energy. We have some songs people can recognize but we try to steer away from anything too pop or mainstream.”
—Erin Phillips, Boka Restaurant Group Operations and Education Director, Momotaro (#5 in vibe in Chicago)

“We try to play complete albums as much as possible and string them together in such a way that the tempo of the music will mirror the flow of reservations in the dining room as well as the volume of bar business.”
—Craig Lane, Bartender, Bar Agricole, Trou Normand (# in vibe in San Francisco)  

“We tend to rely heavily on uptempo Jazz, Latin, and Caribbean music as well as Soul and R&B in order to create an unobtrusive and enjoyable dining experience. We have a couple simple, yet firm rules: no indie-rock before 10pm and no charted Motown. Heavy treble guitar sounds don't reverberate well in our cavernous industrial space especially when there are also a lot of voices in the room. Soul and R&B tend to have more bottom end, which plays better off the hard surfaces of the space. By deliberately eschewing charted hits, it forces us to dig a little deeper to find those hidden gems that can be just as enjoyable. The Eccentric Soul compilations by the Numero Group are especially good at delivering on that familiar, yet obscure aesthetic. Similarly, record labels like Ace & Kent Records in the UK, Bear Family in Germany, and Norton Records in NYC, reliably put out these killer comps with great sound quality.”
—Craig Lane, Bartender, Bar Agricole (#9 in vibe in San Francisco)  


On Influencing Consumer Behavior

“It’s all music associated with a good time!”
—Bruce Finkelman, Managing Partner, Dusek’s Board & Beer (#13 in vibe in Chicago)

“I find customers energy and excitement levels are elevated when we play slightly unfamiliar, danceable, interesting music. People can either tune it out , enjoy the experience, or really pay attention and potentially discover something they may continue to listen to later. The goal is to maximize the experience they have while drinking and dining.”
—Ziyad Asrar, Beverage Director, La Sirena Clandestina (#11 in vibe in Chicago)

“The songs slowly pick up in tempo as the night progresses, and that up-tempo of more festive songs allows our customers to have more fun and stay and drink a bit more.”
—Veronica Beckman, Co-Owner, Tanta (#12 in vibe in Chicago)

“I try to embed subtle cues, or shifts, into the playlist each night, which I hope will influence guest behavior in subliminal ways. Nowadays I make sure that the music shifts every hour. It might go from a crooner like James Carr to a more upbeat Jamaican Ska, or we'll shift from The Kinks or The Stones into The Mighty Hannibal. At midnight, when we have last call, we cue up a more dramatic shift from something like a Rare Funk 45s compilation to Dick Curless singing Gospel Country, which usually gives stragglers the hint it’s time to go home.”
—Craig Lane, Bartender, Bar Agricole (#9 in vibe in San Francisco)

 

The Ultimate Mini Playlist

Five restaurants give a taste of their soundtrack. Check it out!