Restaurants pick fresher background music to lure younger diners
Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin have crooned through the speakers of Olive Garden dining rooms for years. Lately, though, diners at the Italian chain have been hearing Adele, David Bowie and U2.
Some casual-dining restaurants are undergoing musical makeovers as they try to attract more cash and customers — especially younger ones — by playing cooler tunes.
Olive Garden and Red Lobster, owned by Orlando, Fla.-based Darden Restaurants, recently revamped their soundtracks.
Winter Park, Fla.-based Sonny's BBQ is replacing its mostly country lineup with one heavier on blues and rock 'n' roll. Tony Roma's is aiming for a more familiar sound with its new mix of '90s alternative and today's Top 40.
To lure a generation that constantly shares the latest releases online, restaurants can't keep offering the same old song and dance, branding experts say. Changing a restaurant's music can signal to consumers it is keeping up with the times, said Ron Boucher, creative director at the Orlando branding agency Push.
“Knowing what's now and cool, it lends sort of an air of credibility,” said Boucher, whose company has worked with chains including Sonny's. “You're not stuck in your heyday of 1988 or whatever.”
In many cases, a shift in sound accompanies a larger overhaul of an aging brand. Olive Garden, for example, is reinventing itself as it tries to reverse declining sales. Its changes include remodeling, new server uniforms and trendier dishes. Adding soft rock, pop and modern Italian songs was a natural extension of that, said Jay Spenchian, Olive Garden's executive vice president of marketing.
Singers such as Sinatra still waft through the speakers but not nearly as often. Spenchian said the idea is “to send a different message and signal about Olive Garden and bring it more up to date.”
Like many other chains, Olive Garden hired an outside company to develop its new sound, which Spenchian said is meant to evoke “a feeling where it's an Italian gathering place.” It tested songs in some restaurants. And Olive Garden executives kicked back some music — for example, dance tracks that Spenchian described as “a little too frenetic.”
“If you've got Lady Gaga in there, I just don't think that's what an Olive Garden guest would expect right now,” he said.
The 1,000-title playlist will be updated every couple of months to keep it fresh. Tempos vary depending on the time of day, with lunchtime calling for more upbeat music to match the pace of diners on the go.
Olive Garden's sister chain Red Lobster has replaced an easy-listening soundtrack with a faster-paced one featuring more current hits. Now customers will hear “Rumor Has It” by Adele and “Mirrors” by Justin Timberlake. Spokeswoman Heidi Schauer described the mix in an email as “more vibrant, relevant and energetic.”
Tony Roma's played jazz and Rat Pack-era tunes for years. Recently, though, it switched to a soundtrack more recognizable to patrons in their 30s and 40s. The playlist includes “Lips Like Sugar” by Echo & the Bunnymen and “Good Life” by One Republic.
Rather than hiring an outside consultant, two corporate employees scoured the Internet and listened to satellite radio for inspiration. Guests were hungering for music they actually remember, said marketing director Monique Yeager, who helped select the new titles.
“You have more fun when you're listening to songs you know the words to,” Yeager said. “We got complaints on the Rat Pack music. People would say, ‘Oh, my God, can you change the music?' ”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Safety of credit cards up to banks
- Travelers love to hate cheap airlines
- Volkswagen may compensate vehicle owners for loss of value, CEO says
- 2 Fed members push case for rate hike in ’15
- UAW ups Fiat Chrysler workers’ pay in new proposal
- Uncle Charley’s Sausage expands sales to Maryland, Virginia
- ‘Coffin-nosed Cord’ was ahead of its time
- Miata leaves cutesy behind for sleek
- Majority of House members sign petition calling for vote on Export-Import Bank’s charter
- Rice, Gulfport team on Utica shale pipeline system
- Stocks wrap best week of year with slight gains