February 6th, 2012 by Boisdale
My principal enjoyments in life are my family and friends, wine, food, Cuban cigars and music. There are times when I have them altogether, but not necessarily all at the same time. I do not smoke between courses and when feeding friends at home I don’t play music in the background. Those who can play the piano are persuaded to do so after dinner. I could also play guitar but for some reason no one seems to ever ask me to.
But what of music in restaurants? And more specifically, my restaurants? Boisdale of Belgravia opened in 1989 on a shoestring and while I worked as a waiter for the first decade or so, what really kept me going was the music. Over the years, we served wonderful food, customers became friends but above all the music was what I loved. I spent hours putting together home compilations of interesting classic jazz and blues. Then in 1999 we expanded our premises and started staging live jazz, blues and soul every night of the week. In 2002 we opened Boisdale of Bishopsgate with a piano bar and in 2011 we opened Boisdale of Canary Wharf with Jools Holland as our patron of music for a live music venue comparable in size to Ronnie Scott’s.
So today you can’t dine in any of our restaurants without hearing music. And it’s not piped in the background. It’s there, loud and live and as much a part of the fabric of our brand as the red walls.
People often debate what the most important thing about a restaurant is and far too often I hear that it’s the food. Wrong. For me ambiance is the king of kings. And while your mood can be altered by a combination of colour, artwork, design and lighting, what creates the magic is great music – and live if possible. What could be more wonderful for an evening out than to be with friends in a warm conducive environment, eating and drinking well and then having the excitement of live music performed that will be good but could be transforming. At least once a week half of our customers just spontaneously get up and dance. We don’t have a dance floor. The atmosphere is electric. This would not happen with music piped through speakers.
Switch off the music and you turn off the opportunity for a great and memorable time. Today background music in restaurants and bars seems ubiquitous, which must mean that it is what the vast majority of the public wants. Live music though is relatively scarce due to the red tape that has evolved around it; and believe me I know about it.
But piped music is better than no music, so I say switch it on, turn it up and enjoy life!