IPods have revolutionized the way we listen to music at restaurants. But, the power to play literally thousands of hand-picked songs also comes with great responsibility. Here are a few handy DOs an DON'Ts for the house iPod:
Do: Listen to your playlists before putting them on the house stereo. This is especially important if you use sites like Pandora, or the Genius feature on iTunes, because sometimes the recommendations are slightly off. For example, you may love The Police, but you probably wouldn't want your customers to hear songs from Sting's latest album, which is actually a thinly-veiled Christmas song-poem.
Don't: Hire somebody to make your iPod playlist. It sounds like a made-up job that Drew Barrymore would have in a rom-com, but some people actually get paid to do this. They are criminals. Just ask your friends or employees about what's good these days.
Do: Put at least a few different styles of music on your playlist. Even if you're a BBQ joint, trying to recall an old 50s Texas road stop, your customers might not want to hear song after song of Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and Tex Williams. Throw them a Wilco cut every now and again, or a Shins track — everybody likes them. But remember: variety is the spice of life, and if you drive a customer crazy with your incredible niche musical tastes, they won't be coming back, and might even tell Yelp all about it.
Don't: Play anything that might be considered "ironic." Hospitality is all about sincerity, and also: with the din of the dining room, it's sometimes impossible to pay enough attention to a bad song to realize why it's actually a good song. (This is especially true of say, that Alanis Morissette cover of "My Humps.")
Do: Take recommendations from your staff. That's always a good idea.
Don't: Play music that was made by your staff. That's never a good idea.
Do: Create new playlists frequently. Your customers might not care if they hear the same Pet Shop Boys song every time they dine at your restaurant, but your staff is acutely aware of how many times it pops up on the stereo, over and over again, day after day. Do you want a mutiny on your hands?
Don't: Bite off more than you can chew. It's awesome to go to a restaurant where the soundtrack is an eclectic mix of old-time favorites, hot new cuts, cool b-sides and album track gems. But, not every restaurant can have the arch musical cred of the Spotted Pig, the Momofukus, or the Franks, and that's okay. Be conservative: find music that you like, that you think your customers might also like, that won't drive the staff bananas. And if all else fails, just get satellite radio.