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s a hyper-curated playlist the new house-made charcuterie? Whether a restaurant's playing Lady Gaga or Langhorne Slim says as much about the place as its Mason jar drinking glasses or farm-to-table pickle plate. And in an era when even Facebook tracks one's music choices, restaurants are paying more attention than ever to what goes with the hickory-roasted carrots — not just the za'tar-laced crème fraîche but, say, also Lambchop (the band, not the meat).
When a customer walks into a restaurant — even before Jack White's "Sixteen Saltines" becomes the soundtrack for the sunchoke soup — the music sets the tone for the dining experience, says Bill Chait, the restaurateur behind L.A.'s Short Order, Picca, Sotto, Rivera and Playa, among others. Up until the first appetizer arrives at the table, "it's all visual and aural," he says. "People consider the music a demonstration of whether this place is for them."
Restaurants are mining their employees' iPods, consulting with DJs and increasingly turning to companies that create tailor-made playlists and position themselves as "music sommeliers" or, to coin audio-branding-speak, creators of a restaurant's "sonic identity."