The recipe for a successful restaurant includes a number of key ingredients. Obviously, the food and drinks are at the top of the list. Hiring the right people is important, too. As with every brick-and-mortar business, location plays a big role, as well.
However, you need more than a great menu, helpful staff, and the right address to run a successful establishment. For a number of very important reasons, you also must have a commercial sound system for your restaurant. Though it might not require as much skill as mastering a good souffle or mixing the perfect martini, you need to understand the three essential components restaurant sound systems must have in order for it to be effective.
WHAT ARE THE THREE Cs?
There are three essential elements you will want to consider when designing a commercial sound system for your restaurant. They are the “three Cs”:
Get each of these right and your establishment’s audio system will consistently contribute to the customer experience you want to provide patrons, while enhancing your business, brand, and working environment for your staff.
Let’s look at each in detail.
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When most people think of commercial audio systems, “content” is what usually comes to mind. It refers to the actual music restaurants play over these systems.
However, what many owners don’t think about is the incredible potential content has for creating the ideal customer experience. In fact, choosing the right content can literally increase your restaurant’s revenues. Researcher of one study, “Effects of Brand-Fit Music on Consumer Behavior”, found that, “Revenues are 9.1 percent higher when brand-fit music is played instead of no-brand-fit music…music affects customers’ emotions…[even though they] often are unaware of the in-store music.” The music you choose to play actually has a psychological effect on consumption, as well: “…slow tempo music in a restaurant results in customers staying longer and consuming more beverages, while loud music is associated with increased soft drink and alcohol consumption.” While this speaks to the benefits of choosing the right content for your commercial sound system, it also touches on the risks of making the wrong decisions. The owner of a fast-casual restaurant and the owner of a gourmet restaurant probably have very different goals in mind for the type of customer experience they want to provide. If one were to choose music that would be a better fit for the other, their bottom-line is going to show it.
CHOOSING A STREAMING SYSTEM FOR YOUR RESTAURANT'S COMMERCIAL AUDIO SYSTEM
Another factor you need to consider when outfitting a commercial sound system for your restaurant is a streaming service. Despite what a lot of people think, you can’t simply connect your phone to a system and play your favorite songs. As we’ve already touched on, the music you play in your restaurant needs to be an intentional choice to ensure it complements your unique brand and goals. Handing over this responsibility to whomever happens to be working at the time is like giving them control of your entire menu. There are also legal matters to consider. Playing music in a commercial environment without paying to do so (e.g. through a streaming service) is illegal. As Rolling Stone explains: “When music is played in a store, restaurant or other public venue (a.k.a. constituting a “public performance”), it needs to be licensed under copyright laws separate from the laws governing personal use of music-streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music.” It’s estimated that small businesses cost the music industry $2.65 billion every year because of this illegal practice.
So, it should come as no surprise that music labels have been fighting back. Between 2011 and 2016, BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.), a music-licensing company, filed lawsuits against 25 different restaurants, bars and nightclubs in Tampa Bay, alone. One restaurant was ordered to pay $30,000 because a band they hired played cover songs. Unable to absorb that kind of cost, the establishment was forced to close.
It’s not just Tampa Bay, either. BMI regularly sends “music researchers” into cities to conduct these types of investigations. One year, they sued over 160 establishments because of copyright infringement.
Don’t risk the same fate. Playing just one unlicensed song could end up costing you your business.
It’s also never been easier to stream music legally over a commercial sound system for your restaurant. Just some of the many popular options include:
Each of these services will give you millions of licensed songs from which to choose, so no matter what music is perfect for your restaurant, you’ll enjoy plenty of options.
Once you’ve decided on the music that best fits your brand, the next component a sound system for your restaurant requires is the actual equipment to deliver it. This means understanding where the equipment must be positioned, too. Otherwise, you could go to all the trouble of finding the right music and paying for a streaming service but never actually enjoy the aforementioned boost to your bottom line.
The first factor to consider is whether or not you want to play different music in different parts of your restaurant. These different sections are known as “zones.” One zone may be your bar. Another zone may represent your dining area. Your bathrooms would each be different zones, too. Depending on the experience you want to give customers, you may need different types of equipment for each zone and even stream different music.
The second factor is the commercial audio equipment required to serve each of these zones. While every restaurant is different, commercial establishments require commercial equipment. The same kinds of devices you would use in your home simply won’t hold up against the demands of a business that operates for hours on end every day of the week. Commercial audio equipment is designed to resist the kind of overheating that would otherwise occur. These devices are also able to cancel out external frequencies that consumer audio equipment can sometimes pick up on.
Despite the incredible potential your content has, it’s up to your coverage to ensure it’s met. Pick commercial-grade devices and have an expert install them based on your restaurant’s different zones.
Of course, your coverage has to be properly controlled, as well. This brings us to the final C of a commercial sound system for your restaurant. Once you know what kind of equipment you need, you must choose a central location – that will be easy to access but also out of the way – from which to control it all. However, you also need to designate who will be in charge of control. While you want this equipment to be accessible, you may not want to make it accessible to everyone. This means positioning it somewhere customers won’t see it and perhaps even locking it up, giving keys only to staff who must be able to access it. That will keep anyone from deciding they’d rather listen to their own – unlicensed – music, or from selecting a playlist that does not reflect your restaurants brand image. Even something as small as deciding to turn the volume up or down could have a major impact on the customer experience you offer patrons.
Being careful about access will also deter any attempts at impromptu repairs. A commercial audio system for your restaurant could quit working as intended for any number of reasons. Often, a simple fix is all that’s required, provided it’s conducted by a qualified individual. If one of your employees is not qualified but does feel up to the task, they could easily cause much greater damage to it. So, a well-controlled commercial audio system isn’t just about keeping the equipment secure but also detailing who can access it and what they are allowed to do.
DESIGNING THE PERFECT SOUND SYSTEM FOR YOUR RESTAURANT
Although every commercial sound system for a restaurant must include the three Cs covered above, your specific needs will be unique. Just as you probably put a lot of thought into everything from the menu to the silverware at your restaurant, take your time considering what kind of audio assets pair best with the customer experience you want to provide. Make the right decisions and you’ll give patrons one more reason to constantly come back for more.