Music can be crucial is creating the right atmosphere in a restaurant. Photo: Alex Haney

Is music food for the sole?

The other day, I was interviewing a chef who runs a restaurant with his mum in Collon in Co. Louth.

I was reminded of the time I visited an Italian-style restaurant in the city a few years back. They tried very hard to evoke the Frank Sinatra era but had Adele (her first album – the entire album) on repeat. I was thinking back then that a CD from the Rat Pack (for the younger generation, please Google the original Rat Pack) would have completed the atmosphere perfectly.

So, how important is the background music in a restaurant and what type of music would suit? When I host a dinner party (and that reminds me that I haven’t done one in years), I try to add matching music but since I have a theme most of the time, it is easy to find good music.

In the past, I had Spanish, Turkish, Italian etc nights and matched the music – and I think it always added a nice touch to the evening. Background music should be exactly that – in the background.

I am not keen on music that makes it impossible to have a conversation – and there are a lot of these places around – basically where you can’t hear yourself think.

Obviously, the venue itself plays a huge role as well – I don’t expect low key music in a pub where pizza is served but in a restaurant, it would be nice to have just a bit of ‘aromatic’ music around.

Having no music at all can also be bad as the air can feel dead and cold making it more difficult to enjoy the evening.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing a great chef (not name dropping here!) and he said that he designed his restaurant to be noisy so that guests leave straight after the meal and won’t linger.

This was achieved by not bringing high ceilings down and not playing music. This way, the sound the diner’s conversation created travelled and created a blanket of noise that didn’t allow diners to relax so that they would leave straight after the meal and make room for the next guests.

As much as I understand this from a business standpoint, as a diner I wouldn’t like to visit a place like this too often.

So what music fits perfectly? I think easy jazz is relaxing, also so-called lounge music is great as it doesn’t really interfere with anything – if it is played at the right volume.

Have you ever listened to music in a lift? I bet you did but did it ever stop you from chatting away? That’s what background music should be.