Five factors to consider for background music
Playing songs that reflect your restaurant’s style can go a long way when it comes to sales: music that matches an eatery’s brand can lead to an increase of 9.1 percent in sales, according to a study by Soundtrack Your Brand. Tunes affect after-dinner treats profits even more, with a 15.6 percent rise in dessert sales when brand-aligned music is played.
“Sound is one of your customer’s senses that, if you can connect to it in a positive fashion, will evoke a positive and memorable experience,” says Tim Pickett, CEO of Chicago-based Encompass Audio Visual. Diners may not directly notice a great playlist, but the vibes will play a role in their overall impression of your pizzeria. Extreme cases of poor audio, such as music that isn’t evenly distributed throughout a place, may get comments. If you hear feedback that includes phrases like “I sat by a speaker and it was hard to communicate,” a change may be in order.
Finding the right balance between volume, tune selection and audio quality are the main ingredients to making music play its part in your pizzeria’s profits. Consider the following criteria when creating a playlist that will lead your customers to reach for another slice of pie:
1. Align the selection with your image. The music played communicates key information about the restaurant,” says Vassilis Dalakas, Ph.D., professor of marketing and chair of the department of marketing at California State University San Marcos. To avoid confusion, background sounds should fit well with the target market and a pizza place’s overall image.
This means the right song selection will reflect your unique offerings. “What would be appropriate or even great music choice for one case may be a poor choice for another,” Dr. Dalakas says. Loud, upbeat music could work for a casual, high energy atmosphere. Soft, slow music might be a good fit for a quiet restaurant with tablecloths and dim lights. If a pizzeria has an Italian name, Italian flag colors, and pictures of Italy on the wall, “it does not make much sense to be playing Rick Astley and other ‘80s pop songs,” Dr. Dalakas says. Opt for Italian songs to fit the décor.
2. Match tunes with the time of day. If your lunch crowd consists of workers in a hurry, while the evening brings families looking to sit down and relax, you might customize the music selection to fit the guests. “Two main factors that influence our actions are music tempo and volume,” says Victor Bailey, a musician with experience consulting eateries on their music choices. “If you play slow tempo, you’re more likely to get your customers to order more from your menu. If you increase the tempo, customers are more likely to leave quicker, which might be a good strategy during peak times.” A fast tempo might work well for busy lunch customers, while soft jazz could be appropriate for the evenings and weekends.
Background music played at a quiet volume can encourage lingering and create a calm atmosphere. “A higher volume means higher heart rate, which translates to us doing things faster, including eating,” Bailey says.
For businesspeople carrying out meetings over a meal, “play background music that encourages consumers to remain in a good mood and the feeling of abundance,” says Lexi Montgomery, founder and lead strategist at The Darling Company, a neuromarketing agency. “When deals are regularly closed at your establishment, your customers will subconsciously associate your pizzeria with what they value most.”
3. Focus on quality within your budget. If you have several small speakers in a large room, the sound might not carry throughout the place. To improve quality, add more small speakers to distribute the audio evenly. “The more speakers you have aimed at your clients, the more direct sound they get which means higher intelligibility and better quality,” Pickett says. The volume can be lower, since there isn’t a need to cover as much footage with a single unit. “That also means the customer next to a speaker is not getting ‘blasted out,’” Pickett says.
For help setting up a new sound system, “have two or three AV contractors with good references come in,” Pickett says. Tell them your budget and ask for the best system for your price range.
4. Be mindful of copyright issues. If you have a personal music subscription or streaming service, that won’t be enough to legally play music in your restaurant. A proper music license is needed to avoid legal issues and potential fees. Fortunately, just three licenses will cover the majority of music needs:
- ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers)
- BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.)
- SESAC (Society of European Stage Authors and Composers)
“These three companies represent millions of artists and musical works,” Bailey says. “Make sure that your licensed playlist has at least 300 songs so customers don’t hear the same song twice.”
5. Bring about change slowly. If you’re concerned your current playlist doesn’t match your ideal customer, it may be worthwhile to evaluate your target audience. “Collect data on existing customers both in terms of visits to the restaurant and social media followers,” Dr. Dalakas says. Identify potential patterns and look at social media followers’ posts to get a sense of their taste of music.
Menu changes might lead to song adjustments as well. If you begin showcasing new recipes, compare them to your playlist. “An authentic Italian recipe would be complemented by authentic Italian music,” Lexington says.
To tweak your selection, consider asking customers for feedback. Have staff deliver a comment card at the end of a visit, where diners can rate the current music and offer suggestions for change. Or make a contest to identify crowd favorites. This could involve small signs at tables, or posts on social media asking, “Do you like our selection of songs? Do you have a favorite we’re not playing that you’d love to hear?” Then offer the chance to enter for a prize, such as a free dinner for two, to those who participate.
Rachel Hartman is a freelance writer who covers small business, finance and lifestyle topics.