That’s Entertainment

Providing the right audio or video programming for your customers can go a long way. With the staggering number of entertainment choices available today, it’s easy to find one tailored to your operation and your budget.

There’s music in the air
For small restaurants, plugging in an iPod system or CD player might seem like a simple and convenient way to play music. By doing that, however, you run the risk of tangling with the major music licensing organizations (ASCAP, BMI and SESAC), which protect copyrights. To avoid getting involved with licensing, it makes sense to go with a music programming service. These days, almost all major services are based around digital delivery. Sirius, the company behind satellite radio in your home and car, is also the main business player. The company offers a selection of 70 channels of commercial-free music for around $30 a month; purchase of a basic equipment package (starting at $99) is required. MUSICbox from PCM Technologies is a PC-based delivery system that lets subscribers create their own playlists on demand, selecting from a variety of music categories. The playlists are then streamed to your PC from the Internet. For example, you could program 30 minutes of Motown followed by 30 minutes of Rolling Stones. A subscription runs about $60 per month, after a startup fee.

The most sophisticated preprogrammed music services, such as DMX and Muzak, deliver music by satellite but can also provide it on CD or by Internet. Analysts can make specific programming recommendations based on a restaurant’s ambience and clientele. The individualized nature of these services tends to make them more costly; fees cover payment to music licensing organizations.

What’s on TV?
When choosing television entertainment for your restaurant, it all comes down to one question: satellite or cable? Since there’s a lot of overlap in the channels they offer, it pays to shop around to see who will give you the best deal. But there are some basic points to remember.

•Know the channels or services to which you want to subscribe. If the deal you’re considering offers too high a ratio of usable-to-unusable channels, you may need to look into a different package. DirecTV offers a basic “Commercial Choice” package of more than 120 channels for $50 per month. However, that doesn’t include ESPN—a necessity for a sports-minded clientele.

•Read the fine print on the offer. Is there an extra charge for the sports package you want? Will additional receivers cost you more? Are there access fees? Are high-definition channels included? Those extras can raise your monthly bill.

•See if a bundle makes sense. Ask if your cable provider will bundle additional services, such as digital music, Internet or phone, at a discount. Time Warner Cable in Los Angeles, for example, offers a TV and music package for $55 per month.

•Find out if you’re locked into a contract. Some providers will waive the installation or setup fee if you sign a two- or three-year contract. Comcast has an installation fee of $250 on a one-year contract, but that drops to $125 on a two-year deal and is waived on a three-year contract.