Not long ago a friend of my was complaining about the sound system at one of her favorite restaurants.
“We were there for lunch as soon as they opened,” she said. “There was no one else there, but the music was so loud, the whole booth was vibrating!”
Yep, but the night before, when the place was full, that same volume was probably just right. That’s what happens when you have a restaurant sound system that’s basically on / off with an analog volume control.
My friend can blame acoustics – not the employees – for the loud music at lunch time.
From Smart Home to Smart Restaurant
That restaurant isn’t taking advantage of the same technology that’s fueling the smart home automation revolution. But I have clients who are (see this case study about the sound system we installed for the new Mad Duck Restaurant in Fresno).
You know I’m a huge fan of home automation and the range of possibilities for creating the perfect sound, lighting and security in your home. Seems like the restaurant business is just now getting the benefit of all that.
I’m working with some great new restaurants (like India’s Oven in Fresno’s Tower District, which is getting a lot of buzz about their food) and they’re integrating a lot including TVs, surveillance and sound.
So I know exactly how to set up a system that would never blast out the first customer of the day and none of the employees would have to lift a finger to make that happen.
The Perfect Restaurant Music System Setup
Here’s how I would set up the perfect restaurant (or office) music system.
Start With the Wiring
You need more than a few speakers but not too many (I see a lot of that). It depends on the size of the restaurant, the height and type of the ceiling, etc. It’s part formula, part art and part experience.
Then you’ve got to wire them right. It’s not economical to run a wire directly back to an amplifier for every speaker. It would create an ugly, thick bundle of wires coming out of one spot. Instead, you use the right kind of amp and speakers so you can daisy-chain them.
It looks a lot neater plus it’s more economical. You’re not buying a ton of wire, the amps are usually a little bit cheaper and the speakers can be too if you’re just doing background music. Now, if you want people to rock with high-fidelity out in the brewery, say (see the Mad Duck case study), then you can get really nice speakers.
I’d also invest a bit more in for the outdoor or patio speakers, too. Longevity and durability is important. You don’t want to be replacing those every year.
Don’t Get Sued by ASCAP
“The law requires that public performances of copyrighted music by other means such as live music, karaoke, CDs, MP3 and digital files, background music services and DVDs require permission obtained either from the copyright owners or from their performing rights licensing organizations.” via ASCAP.
This means you can’t just turn on the radio, crank up your Spotify or bring CDs from home for your restaurant, business or office. This is why we highly recommend streaming music services which are designed specifically for businesses. Their monthly subscriptions include the rights to play music in these venues.
Plus, some have really great options like curating your station to play different types of music based on the time of day or the type of crowd you have in at that time.
Monday lunch crowd looking to make it through the day? Yacht rock.
Friday happy hour and everyone just wants to get happy? Real rock.
There’s an option where you can specify “radio friendly” versions of songs. There’s even a service that allows you to insert your own ads. Not sure I’d do that in a restaurant, but leveraging that option basically paid for the municipal sound system we installed for the city of Corcoran.
Call me at (559) 432-8600 and ask me which one I’d recommend for your business.
Automate the Volume
My friend got blasted out at early lunchtime because the restaurant didn’t have that many people in it. Later on – or the previous night – they will need the volume at that level. They just didn’t adjust it at the end of the night.
Instead, most restaurant managers will just slowly turn it up throughout the night.
But you could totally automate that with a control system. I’d program in auto volume scaling throughout the day depending on how full the restaurant usually is. For example, it would start adjusting up on Friday about three o’clock.
Then your staff doesn’t even have to think about it throughout the day. You can gave a different Friday schedule, a different one for Saturday … you get the idea.
And then I’d go really crazy with it and actually put a sensor in the restaurant that would monitor the decibel level was inside and then adjust the volume of the music based on that.
We’ve got automated light sensors and motion detector security systems. Why not automated sound levels? One less thing to deal with so your waitstaff can focus on customers.
If you’re a Fresno, Clovis, Visalia or Central-Valley restaurant (or doctor or dentist looking to improve your office sound systems) and you’ve got one knob to control your sound system (and it doesn’t even go to 11), give me a call at (559) 432-8600.