Hitting All the Right Notes

Live music, paired with a meal, can be a winning combination


I love live music. As a restaurateur, I love hearing music during my meal. At Sicilia Dolce about a month ago, an older gent was walking from table to table serenading guests with old Italian melodies—bellissimo! It created a lasting impression!

As a musician, I decided to try offering music at my restaurant, Feldman’s Deli. Since I know many good musicians, it wasn’t hard for me to get folks to play here. The performances have caught on. We now have live music every Friday and Saturday night, featuring folk, jazz, country and blues. We’ve even had a classical duet.

We opted not to have music every night to accommodate customers who prefer a quieter environment. It seems our business has benefited, since our revenue has grown, and we now have a reputation for high-quality music and great food. Musicians love to gig here (we are booked out for three-plus months) since we book them for short gigs (7-8:30 p.m.), it’s a restaurant (they get fed here–which is a big plus), and their families can experience their music without hanging in bars.

The right kind of live music just adds to the pleasure of dining out. It creates a welcoming environment that increases the diner’s sensory experience. It makes it more enjoyable to go out and eat, as opposed to staying in (but I’m sure many folks have music playing at home when eating).

That’s not to say it always works. Our deli is not a concert venue, nor is music our main focus. If the music is too loud, it cuts off conversations. Not everyone is going to like every artist. We cater to families, so we can’t have any music that might be considered risqué or offensive. But since Salt Lake City is beaming with talent, it’s not hard to find the right kind of music.

We don’t charge guests for the show, but we do unashamedly ask them to support local live musicians by tipping generously. Some guests don’t tip, but most like the music and show their appreciation. We offer musicians a flat fee plus a guarantee after tips are counted. We promote them and expect them to promote their shows. For groups that draw a crowd, they do really well. For those that don’t, they get the guarantee. This arrangement spreads the risk between the deli and the musician. That way we can select any musician we really like and introduce our customers to well-known local musicians as well as up-and-comers. We try to be fair—no one is getting rich, but they get decent pay, are fed well and have an appreciative audience.

For me, for the first time in my career, I get to combine my passion for our business with my love for music. In fact, I can be seen playing my music on occasional Friday nights. I’m not using the music to directly make money, but it has developed our business in several ways. Our brand has evolved from Salt Lake’s only Jewish deli with great traditional food to a Jewish deli that’s one of the city’s most unique music venues.

And we might be the only Jewish deli in the whole country to offer live music! Take that, Adam Sandler!

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