For many people, going to a restaurant is no longer just about food. Consumers expect an experience, which requires that restaurant owners put just as much thought into their establishment’s decor and vibe as they do into the menu. Music can be a huge help in creating the right ambiance, but putting together the perfect playlist can be a daunting, and time-consuming, task. Some savvy restaurant owners have chosen to turn to a crop of businesses that curate playlists perfectly tailored to a restaurant’s brand. Prescriptive Music, the nation’s fastest-growing music-sensory branding firm, creates soundtracks for restaurants as well as spas and retailers. I interviewed founder and Chief Operating Officer Allen Klevens about how music branding helps eateries appeal to customers and how his company serves up the perfect sound.
What is music branding, and how can it help restaurants give customers a better dining experience?
Music branding is creating carefully planned, customized ‘music vibe’ programs that help restaurants differentiate themselves, elevate the customer experience and ultimately drive sales. As more restaurants are seeking to evoke all five of their customers’ senses, the right music is critical to provide a complete, elevated dining experience.
What is a common mistake restaurant owners make when choosing the soundtrack for their own restaurant?
The most common mistake is an owner’s music preferences coming before what makes the most sense for their guests. Owners or chef-owners are pros at designing the menu, but they should allow professionals to handle their music selections to maximum impact with their guests.
A restaurant’s decor and vibe are obviously big influences when picking a soundtrack, but how do menu items help inspire the music?
Menu items are often tied into the theme, which strongly ties into the music selections. For example, we work with a restaurant in New York City called Katra Lounge. The menu is Moroccan Mediterrean. They wanted their music to reflect the Moroccon vibe but still be modern. We chose music such as Samira Saeed’s “Aal Eah” and Rhany’s “un Mot De Toi.” For a seafood restaurant called FISHBAR in Manhattan Beach, Calif., we play laid-back beach pop like Jack Johnson mixed with reggae favorites like Bob Marley.
How do you create an eatery’s perfect playlist, and where do find just the right music?
We start by first understanding the restaurant’s intended vibe and their clientele then strategically choose music that best creates that vibe and resonates emotionally with the guests. We are tapped into an array of licensed artists under studio labels as well as up-and-coming indie bands that send us their music directly. Some of our clients want indie artists that you can’t hear almost anywhere else.
What is the best way for restaurants to deliver their soundtracks to customers? Do you recommend any special sound equipment?
The most important point is to not try to use a home audio system in a commercial setting. You must make the investment in a professional, commercial speaker system. You don’t want to value engineer the speakers and amplifiers because no matter how good the playlist is, you can’t effectively share the music without quality equipment. You know it’s old or improper equipment if the music sounds like it’s coming through a tin can. Also, our customers like to work with us because we set up an online portal on their computers. They can monitor and change any songs during the service.