Mood Media

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Why Restaurants Need to Invest in Sensory Experiences

Study shows creating a memorable restaurant experience is more important than ever. 

It’s no secret that diners are increasingly finding ways to order food without ever entering a storefront. A mistake for restauranteurs would be to assume that means it’s not worth investing in their brick-and-mortar locations. On the contrary, it’s more important than ever before to create a dining experience that makes patrons want to return. 

“When approached and executed strategically, the in-store experience continues to have a more positive impact on the bottom line,” says Sumter Cox, senior marketing director at Mood Media. “Consumer expectations are forcing business owners and operators to consciously design an in-store experience that reflects the personality and values of their brand. In doing so, they build stronger personal and emotional connections with their customers.”

Whether a restaurant is aware of it or not, it is already engaging in sensory marketing. The music played, the scents in a store, the visuals on display––these are all controlled variables that have an impact on the associations guests make with a brand. Ninety percent of shoppers say they’re more likely to revisit a brick-and-mortar business if the music, visuals, and scent create an enjoyable atmosphere.

“Sensory marketing impacts all guests from the moment they come through the doors,” Cox says. “Not everyone orders the same meal, but everyone senses the same experience, so a strategic approach is essential to establishing and reinforcing a consistent brand image.”

Music is a relatively inexpensive way to create ambience. According to a recent study released by Mood Media, in which they surveyed more than 10,000 consumers, 58 percent of quick-service customers recall hearing and enjoying music while dining. But this doesn’t just apply to the quick-service sector––music is important to younger diners across the board. In the Generation Z demographic, music is even more crucial: 74 percent of shoppers, ages 18 to 24, recall recently enjoying listening to music in-store. 

Studies have also shown that music can influence the pace at which diners eat. If your goal is to have guests linger over a romantic dinner and stay for extra drinks and dessert, slow, soothing music would be a good choice. If you are trying to turn over tables, something more upbeat will help. 

That’s not to say any music will do––more than half of respondents noted that they make negative associations with brands that play music they do not enjoy, or music that is loud. 

“The right music matters,” Cox says. “Operators are beginning to recognize meaningful ROI and improved customer satisfaction with a deliberate approach to digital signage as well,” Cox says. 

That’s another key ingredient to the customer sensory experience––visual engagement. If you have screens in-house, consider how programming and content might affect your customers. If TVs are set to a news channel, for example, and the coverage is largely negative, it can be a big turn off. The same goes for stale, static menuboards. If nothing grabs a guest’s attention, a restaurant is destined to be forgettable. 

“What customers see and hear creates a powerful emotional response,” Cox says. “Building positive emotional connections with your customers builds a foundation for success, and when your content strategy is well executed, your investment in that effort can yield meaningful results.”