What music should be streaming at your bar or restaurant?

music in the restaurantMusic plays an important role in a customer’s experience. Therefore, it requires careful consideration. Figuring out what your bar’s or restaurant’s brand should sound like is a big decision.  Music choice can affect a person’s attitude (both staff and customers), sets the tone for the entire brand perception, and there’s even research that ties the type of music played at a restaurant on the size of tip customers leave.  Here are some pointers to help you find the right music fit for you and your customers.

1. Who’s Choice?Brand managers, staff on shift, or customers?  Most restaurants control the music as decided upon by the owners or brand managers. This proves to offer a consistent brand sound without anyone on shift needing to make a decision or change the settings.  But it is dictatorial compared to the other options.  Some locations offer their staff the opportunity to decide which station plays on which nights as a way to boost employee morale and show staff appreciation.  This may work well for retention and job satisfaction, but sometimes staff debate over which channel gets chosen which can negate the positive boost you were striving for. Not to mention the customer isn’t considered when the waitstaff and cooks are making the call.  Yet, other bars or casual cafes have digital jukeboxes or tabletop audio controls that put the musical power into the customers’ hands. Often viewed as an added form of entertainment for your patrons, this becomes a fun element in the customer experience.  However, not every customer will love every other customer’s song choice, and depending on the amount of songs in the library, customers may (knowingly or unknowingly) repeat songs that could annoy the staff.  Another approach would be to consider if you want to have ear bud ports readily accessible at the tables for customers to listen to their own personalized playlist.  Deciding who will manage the song choices will be your first step.

2. Genre
Finding the best music sound to match your brand can be very challenging, but most brand managers will be able to know it when they hear it. If you have a “theme,” music choice will simply match that theme. For example, country bars will play country music and a salsa nightclub will play salsa music. For most restaurants, it’s just not that clear. Knowing your target audience and their preferences is important, but so is knowing what perception you want people to have of your brand and what type of experience you want to create for customers based on all five senses.  Choose from mellow melodies (think coffeehouse vibe), classic American pop standards (great for multi-generational audiences), or more upbeat tunes (to draw a younger, fun crowd) based on your restaurant’s overall environment. A craft brewery might lean a little folksy and unplugged, whereas a city-center restaurant that attracts young professionals may sway more urban with some R&B or top 40 hits. You have to find what sounds like your menu, your decor, and your restaurant’s personality.

3. Volume
Heart thumping, head bopping, or hardly noticeable?  If you want to get your bar guests up on the dance floor, crank that music up!  Want to give your lunch guests the chance to hum along?  Then keep it at a moderate – but not overbearing – volume.  Just want some noise to fade off in the background?  Then turn the dial very low to cover up those periods of dead silence.  Another consideration is whether or not you want to make the volume variable in your different locations.  Many chains set a volume level that is consistent in every store, but when a customer complains that the music is too loud, you won’t be able to turn it down for them.  How much control do you want the waitstaff to have over the volume?  That’s another choice you’ll need to make.

4. Dayparts
If you are a bar and grille turned nightclub after nine, then your musical strategy will change.  You might be play today’s pop during mealtime then switch to hip hop and rap after dark.  Or, you may find that your breakfast crowd is older than the young families you often serve during dinner, so switching from American standards in the morning to more contemporary tunes during the supper rush may increase your customer satisfaction scores.  Knowing when to play what is an essential part of your overall music strategy.

5. Service
After you decide what music you want to play, you need to figure out the how. Pandora, Spotify, Mood Media, Sirius, and a variety of other digital music libraries offer businesses, like yours, special licensing to use in bars, restaurants, or retail locations.  You’ll need to pay for the appropriate licensing in order to be legally allowed to stream that music to your customers.  Finding the right music partner that fits your budget and your playlist needs is only half the battle. Then, you’ll need to find a way to wire (or go wireless) to speakers in the right locations throughout your establishment to create the best acoustic experience for people sitting at your bar, at your every restaurant table, on your patio, or dancing on your dance floor.

6. Live Entertainment
Music can be more than just some background noise; it can be an essential part of your brand. If you want to promote your bar or restaurant as the place to go for cool music, then booking some live entertainment can up the ante.  Find local or regional artists that match your brand’s musical style, or offer open mic nights to increase traffic to your venue.  Create a regular calendar of events, or just book live bands for special occasions.  Would you like a romantic troubadoor strolling through your dining room every Saturday evening with violin in hand?  Or an acoustic band playing on your patio every weekend this summer?  Would your guests swoon over a pianist or harpist playing near the entrance?  Make the entertainment work best for you.

So tell us, what’s playing on your restaurant’s speakers?

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