Music For the (Diners') Senses
It can affect you when you’re buying clothes, driving your car or eating in a restaurant.
We’re talking music.
And the music you play in your restaurant can have a huge impact on your diners—how they feel, what they order and how much they pay and tip.
In fact, when you play the right music you can see your top line revenue increase by between five and 20 percent.
Bradley Newberger knows this better than most people. The 25-year-old entrepreneur launched Ambiance Radio last fall. It’s a company that uses proprietary software and cutting-edge technology to provide customized music feeds for restaurants.
Ambiance Radio tailors its program to each restaurant, taking into account demographics, psychographics and traffic volumes, day-by-day, hour-by-hour.
“Music completely matters because it is part of the ambiance and goes into one of the senses,” Newberger explains.
“If a restaurant looks grungy and run down, it affects your perception. If it has a bad smell it affects your perception. What most people don’t realize is the effect music can have. So music has to be right for the room and if it’s not right, it can drive people away.”
The wrong music is jarring in a restaurant, Newberger says. This is particularly noticeable in an ethnic restaurant playing music that doesn’t reflect the restaurant’s origins.
However, the right music is barely noticed. It’s there, it’s enjoyed, but it fits seamlessly into the restaurant because it blends in with subtlety.
“The right music has a subliminal effect,” Newberger explains. “Music is processed in different areas in the brain. The effect is greater when the effect is subliminal.” In fast-food restaurants, for example, music can make customers unaware of how long they wait on line, he explains.
In casual and fine dining, the right music can make customers feel at ease, encouraging them to stay longer and order another drink, or a dessert with coffee.
Finding the right music is the challenge, and that’s where Ambiance Radio comes in. Through an interview with the general manager or owner, Newberger and his team gather information about characteristics such as customer demographics, ambiance, the restaurant’s energy—“everything that makes the DNA footprint of that restaurant come alive,” Newberger explains.
This information is fed into a computer and it creates a music feed from hundreds of thousands of songs. This music will vary from hour to hour, day to day to create the right mood for the restaurant. The songs will never play in the same order twice.
This music can be used to meet different needs of the restaurant, too. In the early evening, the music selection can encourage diners to move through so the restaurant can turn tables; as the evening progresses, it can encourage consumers to linger over dinner and order dessert and after-dinner drinks.
“We play different music through the day because your business objectives change by the hour,” Newberger says.
Another important factor for restaurants is how music affects the morale and attitudes of its servers.
“If music is on a loop the staff hears the same music over and over, so [restaurants] need to vary the styles and the genres so it doesn’t get boring,” Newberger says.
“The same music can create a negative mood and that will have an effect when the server is interacting with the guest. With diverse music, they will be happier on a day-to-day basis, which translates into happier guests which translates into higher top line results.”
Quaker Steak & Lube is one of the restaurants that's using Ambiance Radio.
“Visually, the ambiance of our restaurants are very appealing, so we’re using Ambiance Radio to discreetly shape our customers’ overall dining experience, which we hope will translate into them spending a bit more money," says COO Jim McGrath.
"Music has the power to put people in a more relaxed, calmer frame of mind if played in the right way and the technology Ambiance Radio brings to the table is doing this.
"We especially like that the customized music feeds are different depending on what time of day they’re being played—we have different customer bases for lunch and dinner compared to late-night dining, and the music now suits guests for all time periods."
By Amanda Baltazar