Consultant Lori Hon judges restaurants with her ears. “I can’t tell you how many times I’m in a restaurant with blaring horns, screeching guitars or gunfire from hip-hop tracks that are distracting and not pleasant to dine to whatsoever,” she says.
As the owner of New York City’s Gray V, she designs soundtracks for restaurants, hotels and retail shops. It’s a skill she’s been honing since 2002, when, as a partner in a Boulder, Colorado, sushi restaurant, she realized, “We had people to talk to about our water, booze, fish and silverware, yet no one to talk to about something as subjective and personal as music.” Existing music services didn’t satisfy. “No matter how much music we had, it seemed like it was never enough to keep things fresh and interesting.”
So Hon sold her stake in the restaurant to launch Gray V. “If we had a dollar for everyone that asked for Buddha Bar- and Hotel Côstes-style music during the first five years, we’d be all set,” she says.