Don’t Over Season the Season: Dispensing a Palatable Serving of Holiday Tunes

Ahh the holidays …

There are lists upon lists. Malls are a veritable decathlon of registers and gift wrap. We’ve all been there, caught up in the frenetic flurry. Perhaps it’s time we capitalize on the mistletoe-induced madness and reconsider the restaurant experience. Truth be told, restaurants are the perfect place to quell the heightened anxiety and provide diners with a relaxing respite during the rush. 


So how can restaurateurs curate a seasonal sanctuary for hurried droves of shoppers? Music is incredibly important to the dining experience, especially during the holidays. Yes, restaurants have a revered "experience" to protect. The key is finding the right holiday recipe and serving up songs with mindful moderation.


The Recipe

My advice? Think of holiday music styles as you would restaurant styles. If you’ve decided that holiday music has a place in your dining experience, determine not only how much music, but also look more specifically at genres and styles within the holiday music ecosystem.


For example, an eatery that caters to a large, diverse crowd with strong family business early in the evening might find that diners are more receptive of a pronounced seasonal experience. Think: a Pop-oriented, higher frequency strategy. If the restaurant caters to a refined, upscale crowd with urban sophistication, I’d go with light jazz or vocal accents over more mainstream Pop selections.



Holiday music genres run the gamut and can make a huge difference. While holiday music can be seen as a genre in itself, it’s actually reflective of the style of music from which it draws. Here’s just a few of the many holiday music genres out there: Instrumental Holiday, Latin Holiday, Classic Jazz Holiday, Classical Holiday, Pop Holiday, Christian Holiday and Country Holiday. If you’re ever unsure of what to cue up, just remember, your restaurant’s holiday music must be in concert with your year-round intended experience.


Finding the Right Mix

I think we can all agree that 100 percent of anything can be overwhelming. The same goes for holiday tunes. Mixing in smaller percentages of music over time tends to work better when it comes to retaining your brand personality, tone of voice and the intended experience. I’ve found that the more pronounced, defined or confident a brand is in their personality, the less inclined they are to go with 100 percent holiday music.

Bake Time

So you’ve figured out what genre of music to play and whatpercentage of tunes to sprinkle into your mix, but how about when to cue up seasonal tunes? Holiday mania affords restaurants the unique opportunity to provide shoppers a retreat from overexposure, especially at malls. And while retail stores often opt to start holiday music early, I’d recommend a more metered approach for restaurants. Think of it as a musical advent calendar, with each day bringing a hint more seasonal magic. Slowly increasing the percentage of holiday music over time, especially with regular customers, can prevent an unintentionally jarring experience. Again, your brand identity and intended experience will act as your guide. If you start with the brand or the intended experience first, you’ll be better informed to make the right call.


The truth is, no diner wants to hear 100 percent holiday music 100 percent of the time. Malls are hectic enough during the holidays and shoppers should be able to to kick back at their favorite establishment without hearing the seemingly never-ending ‘12 Days of Christmas’ overhead. As we embark into a season that can sometimes feel over-saturated with all things holiday, it’s important that restaurateurs dispel a measured approach to avoid over-seasoning the season.


Think of holiday tunes like adding salt. Great when sprinkled with intention, yet too much can ruin a perfectly good meal.