The Custom Channels Blog

Beyond Background Music For Fast Casual Restaurants

Posted by Dave on November 4th, 2011

I attended the Fast Casual Executive Summit recently in Chicago. It was an intimate gathering of 100 or so top executives from some of the nation’s fastest-growing, fast casual restaurant groups.  Fast Casual?  It’s the restaurant category that’s in between drive-thru fast food and fine dining.  Think Chipotle.

For these execs, it’s an invitation-only event where they can learn about new trends in the fast casual restaurant business, like marketing and social media, new technologies and concepts, government regulations and policy, consumer trends and more.  For a limited number of vendors, like Custom Channels, we pay to attend for the opportunity to meet, socialize and learn alongside the movers & shakers in the restaurant business.

Not being directly in the restaurant business, it was a little like auditing an advanced level college course on restaurant management.  It was fascinating, giving me a whole new perspective and appreciation for all of what goes into making a successful restaurant concept successful.  Of course, I was very interested to learn how much discussion there was around background music and restaurant ambiance – after all, I was there to try to connect with a few new clients for Custom Channels!


I learned that even though the fast casual segment of the restaurant industry has fared pretty well through the economic malaise of the past few years, it’s still a very tough and competitive business.  Diners have more choices than ever.  The public continues to be very discerning with how, where and how often they spend their money dining out.

A key to success in the restaurant business is in generating and retaining repeat customer business.  If restaurants can increase their average customer’s visit by just one more visit per month, many could nearly double their business!  So, while getting new customers is always important, keeping, cultivating and enhancing the spend of the current customer base is even more important.


So, fast casual concepts are always looking for ways to make sure the dining out experience has high value for customers – and not by just offering the lowest price in town.  Tasty food and great service are base expectations of any customer walking in the door.  Beyond that, restaurant execs are keenly aware of the role that their concept’s “sensory experience” – sight, smell, taste, touch, sound – plays in creating a comfortable, welcoming and memorable experience. Everyone I talked to agreed that the right music can be a key brand differentiator and a big part of the customer’s sensory experience.  See our page on Music Service for Restaurants.

So, while all of these restaurant executives have a lot on their plate when it comes to operating a successful business, they continue to pay attention to the small things, like background music, that allow them to stand-out in the crowded marketplace and better connect with their customers every time they visit.  From my view, I’m pleased that many restaurant operators recognize the importance of the right music mix as part of improving the customer experience!

Thanks to those executives that I chatted with at The Fast Casual Executive Summit that shared their views on music-for-business including Firehouse Subs, Noodles & Company, Which Wich Superior Sandwiches, The Corner Bakery, Penn Station Subs, OinkADoodleMoo Barbeque, Mad Greens, and Mooyah Burgers & Fries.

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