Veggie appetizers with Lenny Kravitz on the patio, clam chowder with The Grateful Dead on the dock, steak and lobster with the Common Kings on the sand, brownie a la mode with Gym Class Heroes in the window seat, and cappuccino with Madonna in a candle-lit cafe.
The combinations are endless, and the demand for satisfying not just the taste buds but each one of the customers' five senses is on the rise, which is why restaurants and eateries are spending more quality time researching ways to improve the overall dining experience.
Music branding and consulting company Prescriptive Music, headquartered in Los Angeles, has helped lead the way for the growing use of 'sensory branding', which is defined as: leveraging the emotional and powerful effect of customized music to build customer loyalty and brand differentiation.
Prescriptive Music works not just with restaurants, but major hotels, spas, and retailers to help them attract new customers and retain the regulars.
Everything from the music played during certain meal hours to the lighting contrast are factors involved in deciding how to elevate a customer’s overall experience.
“It’s important to have fun and make the customers smile. It’s easier trying to not make it a job, so I just relax, have fun, don’t take anything too serious, and just smile, ” says Starbuck’s barista Josh Rynnels.
For fellow barista, Tasi Sua, a customer’s overall experience depends on customer service.
“We provide energy, a sense of belonging, and we welcome all customers,” says Sua. “Our energy can inspire the moment.”
From the first point of human contact, customers tend to decide if the environment is worth their time and money.
“The first impression is the most important,” says Jamba Juice team leader Alexis Amian. “We try to recognize every customer that comes in by saying ‘hi’, smiling, and making it a point to be personal.”
Once customers are greeted, the place is observed for a welcoming ambiance.
“We always make sure the restaurant is clean, everything is in place, and nothing looks sloppy,” says Koa Pancake House waitress Michelle Banis-Cruz.
“Cleanliness is very important. No one wants to hang out in a dirty place,” says Rynnels.
For advertising, Jamba Juice makes it a priority that all their promos are up and visible.
“It’s important that customers know what we offer, so we make sure to present everything in a clear way,” says Amian.
As the world’s largest chain of ice cream specialty shops, Baskin-Robbins has provided quality and value to consumers at nearly 7,000 retail shops in nearly 50 countries.
Though the shops are more frequented in the summer, workers are trained to keep a positive attitude each and every day.
“We give our customers our full attention,” says Baskin-Robbins employee Dolly Baruela. “We don’t just stand there. We offer customers our new flavors and try to get them to try flavors they’ve never tried, and we have décor that shows everything we have to offer. We make them feel welcome so that they want to come back.”
According to Martin Lindstrom in “A Sense of Wonder”, visual images are more distinctive when matched with a second sense. These second senses are smell, taste, touch, and sound.
At the Koa Pancake House as well as Baskin-Robbins, local sound is the second sense that customers are drawn to.
“We’re a local restaurant so we play local music,” says Banis-Cruz. “We play the local radio stations that have artists such as JBoog and Positive Motion. It keeps our customers happy and sometimes they sing along to the lyrics.”
While enjoying some pineapple sherbet, customers can also listen to local radio stations at Baskin-Robbins.
“Kids like the local pop songs, as well as songs by Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj,” says Baruela.
But music choice is not just for the customers. Workers find that song choice and genre can help them work better. With happy workers, comes better work, and with better work, comes satisfied customers.
“Our music is generally upbeat to keep the employees in a good mood,” says Amian about Jamba Juice’s playlist that is sent to each store every month from headquarters. “It helps the workers to not get stressed, and you could always catch them singing along.”
According to Bertil Hultén in “Sensory marketing: the multi-sensory brand-experience concept", sensory branding uses the senses to relate with customers on an emotional level. Brands can forge emotional associations in the customers' minds by appealing to their senses. A multi-sensory brand experience generates certain beliefs, feelings, thoughts and opinions to create a brand image in the consumer's mind.
With over 260 locations and close to 40 different pizzas to choose from, California Pizza Kitchen teamed with Prescriptive Music in 2010 to enhance their customer’s senses.
Much like the menu, the musical vibe has a little something for everyone. A blend of recognizable 80s and 90s classics for mom and dad and Top 40 hits for the kids mimics the qualities of the menu.
From the smallest mom and pop eateries to the worldwide corporations, the use of sensory branding is on the rise.
Expect to see, hear, feel, taste, and touch a difference in your next dining experience.