5 Themes That Make up the Future of Restaurant Music

Picture of Chrissy Ockerbloom

Music has been around forever, in some shape or form. It has carried us through difficult moments in history, been a way to voice political opinions, brought us to our feet and brought us to tears. Music is powerful. At Rockbot we realized that the restaurant industry seemed to have lost touch with the importance of music and how it can strongly influence the environment created for customers. For many, their restaurant music is an afterthought, a necessary part of the experience, yet unnecessary when it comes to defining your brand identity. However, this isn't the case for everyone.

Brands like Chipotle, Buffalo Wild Wings and even Mcdonalds are starting to realize how impactful music can be. Chipotle is well known for their signature sound which is embedded into their brand identity and loved by their customers. They even have their own festival (Chipotle Cultivate) which further infiltrates their musical identity into their customer base. Buffalo Wild Wings is another brand embracing the power of music. Over the years they have done things like use social music solutions and add a branded radio station, saying the decision to do so incorporated “two of our guests’ key passions: sports and music.” McDonalds was recently hiring for a product manager for music and entertainment and has spent time working on music for their stores that relates to core words such as “warm” and “human”. They emphasize the importance of defining music for different times of the day and make sure their catalog is on-brand and fits within their stores. The head of media and digital for their Sweden branch says, “we’ve all walked into a shop and thought “oh this song just doesn’t fit here” sometimes subconsciously but it’s still there and that’s so important.” Each of these brands have embraced music in different ways, closely aligning their choices with the preferences of their brand and customers.

Future Week, What will the future of restaurant music look like?

*image by Eater.com 

Enter Eater's Future Week, an entire week dedicated to the future of the food service industry. They are writing about things like, what restaurants will look like in 2040 and what the modern kitchen will be like. It got us thinking, what is the future of on-premise music? It's changing, which is clear from the decisions made by the brands above. And as Rockbot is familiar with change and this new way of thinking about music, we wanted to take a deeper dive into the future of restaurant music based on some present data gathered through a survey we ran with Technomic.

The Present Data

We partnered with Technomic to find out how guests wanted to be entertained on-premise and the results might surprise you.

"78% of all participants would prefer to be entertained by listening to music over other on-premise activities like watching sports or the news."

Further, we looked at the data by gender, income level, age, ethnicity and region to figure out if the results were skewed for certain attributes. What we found was conclusive evidence that across all age groups, gender, income level etc. music was the top choice. We took a look at sports, finding a strong difference between males and females, 67% and 39%, respectively. Similarly, social media varied among age groups showing 84% of Gen Z's favoring social and only 41% of Baby Boomers.

Data on Restaurant Music

We also surveyed participants on how they wanted to be entertained on the screens that are ever present in today's restaurants and bars. We found that 66% would prefer to be entertained by music content, beating out all other categories including sports and games (see above).

So many restaurants invest in games, video content and sports channels. All of that is important and you can't discredit these forms of media that have been embedded in the restaurant and bar industry forever. But, the most universally enjoyed form of media proven by this study is music. If you could make all of your guests happy with one simple tool, wouldn't you want to invest in that as well? 

What the Future Holds

So, the data is telling us about the demand for music but how are we going to keep up with that demand? Below are 5 themes that will help you navigate the future of restaurant music:

No CDs - Are you using the same cd's over and over again? Are you getting frustrated by hearing the same songs? If you are, your employees are as well and we garauntee this is increasing the liklihood that they are turning off your music completely or replacing it with their own. While we have a feeling cd's, records, old school jukeboxes etc. will always exist, we know that most consumption will be via streaming services. 

Signature Sounds - Companies like Chipotle and Panera, have embraced the signature sound. In an effort to more closely identify with their consumers they both have used music as a focal point of their ambience. Chipotle has even gone so far as to have their own radio station consumers can listen to off-premise, a great way to keep their brand in front of consumers. Panera has used to music to create a relaxing place to work or socialize. 

Music Content on Screens - Putting musical content on screens is a great way to get your customers talking. We see companies bringing the power of Shazam to their screens and creating buzz around what's playing. We see trends of music being less in the background and more a part of your existing digital ecosystem. 

Smart Solutions - Many companies are giving you the power to put the music in the hands of your consumers. In an era that's moving more and more towards personalized experiences, why not move music in that direction as well? Future music solutions will be smart enough to tap into the libraries of consumers at your venue and adjust the music accordingly, playing tunes that appeal to the preferences of your guests. Of course, you want to be sure you are able to give them options within the desired constraints of your brand. 

Omni-Presence - In the future, music will be everywhere. We talked about putting music content on screens, but companies are already starting to show signs of integrating their brand's music into mobile apps, social media presence and websites. It's a great and easy way to identify with your customers and personalize their experience. 

So there you have it. A look into the future of music for the restaurant industry. The central themes being identifying your brand's signature sound, making music omnipresent in your environment, adopting smarter solutions and eliminating cd's in leu of modern streaming services.


Do you have questions about your current restaurant music solution, speaker system or sound environment in general? Click here to schedule a consultation. Just want more restaurant and bar insights? Click Below!


Subscribe for more