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An Idea For Personalized Music For Restaurant Customers

Updated on April 19, 2014

Just about all restaurants these days play some sort of background music for the "entertainment" of the customers. The music plays continuously from overhead speakers at varying levels of loudness, depending on the establishment. I frequently eat out and I often go to the same restaurant again and again for convenience. After going to the same place ten times or so I do begin to tire of the overhead music. Many restaurants seem to have set play lists which they repeat over and over. Their selection of music can be fairly random. They could play traditional "muzak", or classical, or jazz, or hip-hop, or rap, or classic rock. But does the music always entertain the customer?

People are different. It's that simple. Different people like different styles of music. Young people may appreciate rap but senior citizens may not. So it seems a bit odd when a dining establishment is blasting rap when the majority of customers at a particular time are octogenarians. Seniors might appreciate something a little more low-key.

How entertained are you by overhead music you typically hear in a restaurant?

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My idea for customizing music for the current customers is fairly simple. It would require some new technology but nothing very complicated. Most of it could be done through software alone. In order to play music which is most appropriate for the current set of customers, a restaurant needs to know who is present at the moment. A simple way to do this is to allow customers to swipe a "preferred customer" card when they enter the building. Many restaurants already have some sort of card to offer discounts or track the buying habits of their customers so this part might already be in place. When customers register their cards (something normally done just once from home) they would be asked about their music preferences. They could list maybe ten or so different styles and put them in order of preference. Some fairly simple software could determine what most people preferred at the moment and select the appropriate style of music to play. This would be a fairly democratic method. If the majority specified jazz as a preference then mostly jazz would be played. If no one present liked rap then rap would not be played. Of course, as customers entered and departed, the demographics would change and the software would be constantly making minor adjustments to the playlist to adapt to these changes.

More than a decade ago, Bill Gates (the founder of Microsoft) proposed a music system for his new state-of-the-art house. It was a similar concept. Guests would wear special ID cards and as they toured the house and went from room to room the music, art, and lighting would automatically change to satisfy to the tastes of the guests. Of course, the guests would have to prespecify their preferences so the software would know what to do. It was an intriguing concept. I do not know of many businesses which have adopted a similar technology to create personalized experiences for their customers. Most of the time it is hit-and-miss.

For the restaurant idea, I could see other possible features. Diners could use a smart phone app to make playlist requests - sort of like a modern jukebox. Using technology similar to what Internet radio stations use, the software could make assumptions about other tracks or artists the customer might enjoy.

We are in the 21st century. We have incredibly powerful technology at our fingertips. Why not apply this to the restaurant experience? This proposed idea would not always satisfy 100% of the customers but it would certainly be more than just the random music we hear now.


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