Industry News | November 18, 2011 | QSR Exclusive Brief

Music to Your Ears

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Quick-service restaurants can put way their elevator music and turn off the local rock ’n roll station, now that emerging companies are offering atmosphere-enhancing tunes.

Ambiance Radio and Custom Channels are two companies that provide digital music services that blend the various elements of a quick-serve brand, including its decor, menu, and environment, to create mood-setting playlists. The result is a customized music experience that creates a harmonious mood in the restaurant.

“We use the music to increase satisfaction, impact revenues, and really have the music work for the business and for the room instead of thinking it is purely an afterthought,” says Bradley Newberger, founder of Ambiance Radio. “We are all about the right music.”

Some operators mistakenly treat the music in their restaurants as just another utility, like the electricity and water, says John Bradley, cofounder and copresident of Custom Channels.   

“Music is just as important as the visual and comfort aspects in a restaurant,” Bradley says. “It’s about the environment, the atmosphere, the mood, the theme of the restaurant, and the design of the restaurant.”

Music played by Ambiance Radio is based on restaurant-specific parameters such clientele, amount of traffic, and time of day. Custom Channels, meanwhile, helps a quick-service restaurant create its own music channel that is played on a small device that hooks up to the existing sound system.

Paul Ballard, CEO of WOW Cafe & Wingery and client of Ambiance Radio, says he appreciates how the service automatically changes volume by daypart. “If we are playing a lively song and then transition to a slow song, that affects the mood of the dining experience,” he says.

A consistent tempo of music helps drive the pace of the quick-serve restaurant, which results in a more productive staff and a happier clientele, the founders say. And ultimately, music can positively affect the bottom line.

“I spend so much time on the food and the employees, and I am getting better on the decor, but an important part of the brand is music,” says Nick Vojnovic, president of Little Greek, a four-unit fast casual.

“If you can create a music program that at least gets your core customers more amped up, then they are going to come in more often because they have a better experience.”

The main challenge? Many quick-service restaurant chains have signed multiyear contracts with more traditional music services, Newberger says.

By Brendan O'Brien