Live entertainment

Hiring entertainers to enliven the dining experience is a classic practice. Musicians, comedians, acrobats, and more have spread cheer among the dining classes for ages, and the tradition is very much alive in restaurant entertainment.

Live music

Live music can certainly brighten an atmosphere, draw a crowd, and contribute to a good time. However, it needs to be handled carefully, as poorly managed restaurant entertainment can easily drive away customers depending on what kind of venue you operate.

A venue with plenty of room, like a sports bar, is well-suited to live music and would likely do well with a weekly cover band or similar acts like solo artists or duos. Even if you don’t have a stage, you can move tables to accommodate a band or use an outdoor space. Just keep in mind that a band can take up more room than you might imagine, especially with gear like microphones, speakers, and cables goldenqq

A chic, upscale venue could opt for a DJ for ambiance, especially during evenings and weekends. For example, BarChi Sushi in Austin featured a late happy hour for years. On Saturdays and Sundays, starting around 10pm, DJs were spinning restaurant-friendly tunes—upbeat and funky but not overly distracting.

The restaurant-friendly aspect is key here. Diners expect to be able to talk to those at their table, so both the volume and the song choice need to be relatively unobtrusive. This is a key consideration for restaurant entertainment and a big difference from bar entertainment, where a live act can be customers’ central focus.

Upscale brunch or dinner can be well-complemented by instrumental music, like a pianist or a classical quartet.

Restaurant managers need to keep a close eye on budgets and income when hiring live acts. In general, if you find your profits are smaller when there’s a live act, it might be time to shelve the idea. Musicians need to be paid, of course, but the restaurant needs to make sure the investment is worth their while.

So, while live music might seem like a no-brainer, it really isn’t. Restaurants need to carefully curate the music played and suit it to their venue, or they risk frustrating customers who are looking for a pleasant meal goldenqq.


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