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Do Themed Restaurants Need Themed Music?

Posted by John on September 21st, 2016

I went into a New Orleans themed Cajun restaurant and they were playing Classic Hits from the 70s and 80s. I visited an Asian food restaurant and they were playing mainstream pop music from the past few years. I’ve been at a Mexican food restaurant where mainstream contemporary pop music is playing. When you go to a restaurant, do you expect the music to match the cuisine/food theme thereby emphasizing the type of experience? Or is matching music and cuisine not important?

cajun restaurantIt seems that any Cajun restaurant that’s specializing in the Louisiana cuisine should have music to match the mood and food. Not Eagles and Elton John with my gumbo but Neville Brothers, The Meters, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and lots of zydeco and blues. A music match makes the customer’s experience more authentic and makes the restaurant more enjoyable and memorable.

Does that mean the music has to match the ethnicity of the restaurant’s food? Does sushi mean playing Japanese music? That would be good, but it’s more about the kind of music that doesn’t match – incompatibility. I don’t expect pop or country, blues or reggae in a sushi restaurant. If it’s a contemporary atmosphere, which may sushi restaurants are, some cool chill or electronic music will blend in better than Taylor Swift or The Beatles. The music shouldn’t sound the opposite of the style of food or the pace of the restaurant.

Rock & Blues goes well with barbecue. Oldies are a must for retro diners and fun comfort food restaurants. There are many varieties of Latin music and just as there are many varieties of Latin and Mexican restaurants. And then there’s Italian! There seem to be no musical rules for Italian restaurants. Many default to Sinatra and others go big band, old school Italian, and modern Italian. Still other Italian restaurants go beyond the thematic boundaries and play contemporary hits. Much of the match depends on atmosphere and pace, not only the food category.

Beyond just menu and food items, the more the appearance, mood, ambiance, atmosphere and look of a restaurant matches a theme, the more the music should match, too. If the restaurant has a strong theme and direction, back it up with a matching music style. Don’t play a music style that conflicts, contradicts or strays from the theme. Give the soundtrack of the restaurant the careful consideration given everything else the customer encounters.

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