Served with a Side of Sound:
How Music is a Restaurant's Secret Sauce
Walk into a restaurant and what’s the first thing you notice? Is it the décor? The ambiance? The aromas wafting from the kitchen? The clientele? Or maybe it’s that dirty cup you’re focused on, or an unsightly critter crawling up the wall?
If you’re like most diners, all of these thoughts are running through your brain at lightning speed. In an instant (much faster than it takes to type this sentence) the 3lb computer inside your head constructs a detailed mosaic of the unfolding scene. Not only that, but it’s also drawing conclusions about the restaurant experience you’re likely to have.
This is our brain’s special gift. More than a recorder of in-the-moment data, our brains are brilliant synthesizers and extrapolators of information. Every minute we construct our own reality and project outcomes based on previous experiences. Very often we don’t even realize the full extent of the stimuli our biological computers are processing. This is especially true when it comes to live entertainment music and dining out.
The good news is that increasingly restaurant managers are becoming attuned to how they can best use live entertainment as a way to drive business. In fact, recent studies find that the right music can increase food and drink sales by as much as 40 percent! It’s also very much a determining factor in how long patrons stay and the general opinion of their overall experience.
'Money Hungry': Plates of Pleasure, Playlists of Fun
So with that powerful statistic still ringing in your ears, here are five ways restaurants across the 305 can hit the right notes with their guests.
- Think Quality over Quantity – It’s a rule your mother may have told you about schoolwork. But its soundly advice that works in the restaurant industry too. When selecting a live entertainment artist don’t focus so much on the number of tracks they can play, or even necessarily the diversity of their talent. Choose live entertainment artists that are really top notch. Do your homework and consult experts. Take the time to do your own listening. Chances are you’re fully capable of identifying a quality performance versus and a quantitative performance.
- Pay to “Play” –This is a tip with a double meaning. As the restaurant owner sometimes you have to spend a little money to make money. That means that in order to ensure the quality referenced in the previous tip, restaurateurs need to invest in truly talents live entertainment artists. You wouldn’t cut corners buying poor-quality meat. So why would you skimp here? Restaurant patrons, meanwhile, will be more than willing to shell out a little extra cash – provided they feel they’ve been served an elevated experience; something to remember and share with friends.
- Know Your Audience –Selecting the right music is also about knowing who your regulars are, the types of newbie’s that walk through your door, and also the food you serve and its cultural roots. That doesn’t mean an Indian restaurant must only play notes from a Sitar. But it does suggest that loud classic rock or a Latin Bachata might feel out of place. Not only must restaurateurs be cognizant of the type of music played, they must also be aware of its timeliness. Believe it or not, 30-year-old background music that hasn’t been updated since the closing months of the Reagan administration probably sounds like it. Make sure your live entertainment artists or DJs are playing contemporary tunes.
- Low and Slow is Better than Fast and Furious (Sometimes) –Matching your restaurant’s mood is a must. If you’re catering to a quieter period of the day, say after lunch, but before happy hour, slow the music down and lower the volume. Studies suggest that drink and dessert orders will increase, even if main courses do not. It also helps if you decrease the portions you serve. That’s because in situations where patrons were enjoying the music and the mood studies suggestthey tended to eat less – and throw out more. Save money by switching to lighter fare like sliders and tapas and you can re-budge to hire even better live entertainment! On the other hand, raising the tempo has been shown to increase the number of drinks purchased at the bar.
- Make Sound Your New Seasoning – Leave it to the Brits to figure this one out. According to work done by the Crossmodal Laboratory at Oxford Universityhigh-frequency sounds enhance sweetness in food while low-frequency sounds bring out bitterness. This is quite useful information for restaurants looking to incorporate electronic music. That’s because the genre is known to produce popular tracks that feature both extremes. So the next time you want to enhance your dessert menu, or increase consumption of hoppy beer, consider adding electronic music to your playlist.
Music Makes the Mood
Taken in full measure, music for restaurants creates an atmosphere and ambiance that all “in” places aspire to achieve. It’s about fostering genuinely emotional experiences that establish brand awareness – and loyalty.
Examples of restaurants already doing it right abound. In Detroit’s Corktown and Madison Heights neighborhoods, for instance, there’s Japanese noodle bar Ima, which means “now.” Named the area’s 2019 restaurant of the year by the Detroit Free Press, Imadishes out success by creating a minimalist environment, playing electronic music to add to the hipster feel. Chef-owner Michael Ransom calls his food an “escape.” “It’s that break in the middle of your day or night that really does allow time to stand still,” he says.
This is a fitting description considering that electronic music also has elements of timelessness and escapism. And it’s certainly a description not lost on the part-time electronic music DJ.
In Manhattan, there are hundreds of restaurants adding music to their main courses. But Jacob’s Pickleson Manhattan’s Upper West Side stands out. Known for its Southern comfort food, the sounds of David Bowie, The Alabama Shakes, and The Lumineers figure prominently and help foster a sense of family and shared cultural experiences. For Southerners visiting the Big Apple they should feel right at home.
And Miami, already a mecca for dining out and music, combines the two elements with seamless success at establishments like ProhibitionRestaurant and Speakeasy. Walk through its doors, knock back an Old Fashion, and the music and the mood will instantly transport you back in time.
At Dry N Wet, the leaders in event planning and entertainment solutions, we understand the importance that quality music plays for your restaurant brand. With more than 20 years’ combined experience, whether it’s the soundtrack for Soul food, electronic music that gives your entrees a boost, or it’s that sexy Salsa sound that makes your soups sizzle and your soufflés superior, we have your needs covered.
For restaurant owners looking to cultivate their signature sound remember that when patrons walk in, it isn’t only the décor or the clientele, or the aromas they’re honing in on. Chances are that in that moment as their taste buds perk up and their mouths water, an entire sensory experience – including sound – is about to play out inside their heads.
It should be music to your ears.