How to Create the Perfect Vibe at Your Restaurant

This is a guest post from Rockbot CEO Garrett Dodge. We asked Garrett to bring his experience in working with restaurants on enhancing their in-venue experience with technology — independents and chains — to readers of 

Ask yourself: When you go out to eat and drink with friends, what is most important to you?

Ask yourself: When you go out to eat and drink with friends, what is most important to you?

Most often, we are looking for theright vibe more than anything else — an atmosphere we love that compliments our mood and creates the right kind of energy. It’s the experience.

So, how do you create the perfect vibe at your restaurant for your guests? Today’s consumers are living in a golden age of entertainment, social connectivity and technology. They’re expecting a smart, unique, and shareable experience when they walk into today’s restaurants, and the most memorable vibe often wins their affection, their loyalty, and their tweets.

Let’s take a tour of your vibe — the sights and sounds of your restaurant — and make sure you’re giving your customers a memorable experience.

The Sights

When imagining the visual aspect of your vibe, start with the end goal — how do you want your customers to feel when they walk in? If you first identify the customer reaction you’d like to create, many of your subsequent decisions — from lightning to furniture to menu design—will flow naturally to align with that goal.

1. Start with a simple vision.

In three words, describe the ideal look and feel of your restaurant or bar—whether it’s “warm, cozy and casual” or “upbeat, social and entertaining”. If you’re restaurant is built around a distinct concept or theme (50’s diner, sports entertainment, craft beer hall, etc.), make it a goal that your visual elements will support that theme.

2. Bring your vision to life with a consistent design.

When your customers walk in, they get a sense for your vibe by noticing several elements over the course of their stay. Here are a few examples.

First, think about the peripheral elements of your space—do your walls, ceilings, art pieces, lighting, color scheme, and overall layout align with your goal? Do they work together to create the vibe you have in mind? If you’re Johnny Rockets, you know that checkered flooring and white walls are important for creating that old-school diner feel.

On the other hand, if you’re Buffalo Wild Wings, the ubiquitous presence of large flat-screen TVs is a must, so consumers can find the entertainment of their choice. When customers look around, they’re forming opinions about your brand.

Next, think about how you’ll utilize the space. Which style of tables, chairs and other furniture fits your vibe? Booths communicate low-energy comfort while high tables can dictate a more social and mobile customer experience. Think outside the box—you might partition the space to allow for a multiple vibes or have your staff wear uniforms that echo your restaurant theme.

Finally, what will capture your customers’ attention during their stay? If entertainment is a priority, consider having a focal point, whether it’s a bar, a TV setup, a large grill, or a designated area for programming such as live music or trivia.

If your food and service is the sole focus, make sure your tabletop design reinforces your vibe by choosing the appropriate dinnerware, table tents, vases, candelabras, glassware, table linens, and so on.

The Sounds

Music is the most universal form of in-venue entertainment and is becoming increasingly important to customers. Today’s consumers are enjoying unprecedented music access. From Pandora to Spotify to Beats, they can listen to nearly any song at any time—even at restaurants and bars with apps like Rockbot.

Likewise, today’s restaurant owners and managers expect the same experience from their licensed business music service. So how do you find a restaurant music service with the “perfect” playlist for you?

Many background music services will say they can analyze your demographics and come up with the perfect sound—but you’ll likely want a little more control. Since relying on your managers’ iPods or Pandora stations creates inconveniences and licensing challenges, respectively, it’s best to find a highly customizable business music solution that will bring your vibe to life.

Here’s a good framework to guide you to the right choice for your business.

1. Start by defining your goals and restaurant concept.

Are you a theme restaurant with music-related branding?

For example, a country bar, a 50s diner or a jazz cafe.  The theme is a core reason customers seek out your business and the music should match. This approach to music is one of the easiest because it is clearly defined and doesn’t need to be updated as often.

Does your restaurant concept lack a specific musical theme?

The food attracts customers but the vibe can also change over the course of the day or week.  For example, you might be a trendy pub restaurant with an update tempo vibe. During the day customers of all ages come to your business, but after 9 PM you cater to 20 somethings. You may also have locations across the country and the music should reflect regional preferences.

The Exciting Customer Experience

Your business is a neighborhood gathering spot. Engaging customers with a welcoming atmosphere and keeping them excited is more important than a specific musical vibe. From classic rock to pop to country you want a music experience that caters to the crowd.

2. Determine how to measure your music’s success.

Staff Satisfaction & Influence

Managers and staff are the face of your business. Giving them some influence on the music can create more employee satisfaction and improved customer service. Does your music service allow you to delegate some control to additional admins?

Customer Feedback & Dwell Time

While it is impossible to have the perfect music for everyone, creating a unique, engaging, or fun music experience can increase positive reviews. A quick search or Yelp or Twitter shows the power of music. Engaging customers through music can lead to longer dwell time and increased revenue, and music services with mobile apps engage customers while their at your restaurants.

Reliability & Ease of Use

For many businesses the music is a key component of the experience. It should work without interruption.  Business music services typically offer hardware that is more robust than consumer hardware.

Cost & Public Performance Licensing

While business owners have the right to pay the PROs (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) directly it is typically easier and cheaper to sign up with the licensed business music service like Rockbot, PlayNetwork, or TouchTunes.  Remember, Spotify, Pandora, and other consumer services do not include the proper licensing and penalties can be stiff.


For most restaurant owners, a thoughtful investment in creating the right vibe will make a profound impact on whether customers enjoy their stay, come back with friends, and share their experience. Answering these questions about the sights and sounds of your restaurant will help your brand take small actions that will have a major impact.

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