(Ambrosio’s note: So far, the focus of my blog has been on helping prospective franchisees find the right opportunity. But that’s really just the first step towards achieving your dreams and goals for your business. With this mind, I would like to devote more space on the blog to helping you find ways to improve your odds for success. I certainly do not have a monopoly of good ideas, so I’ll be sharing the space with experts in different fields who can expose us to the best practices in their specific areas of expertise.
This interview with Bradley Newberger really opened my eyes to the importance of the “little things” that can make a big difference to your business . I didn’t realize that the right music at the right time can have such a profound effect on top line revenues, especially for restaurant franchises. Even if you’re not quite ready to test their service, I think it’s worth your time to learn what Ambiance Radio can do for you.)
Bradley Newberger, a 2008 graduate of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, is out to change the industry’s dated mindset when it comes to background music. Though only 25, Newberger has 10 years active experience in the field, having worked every line-level restaurant position from a line cook to food runner and bartender, as well as having worked on the hotel side of Celebrity Cruise Line ships all around the world.
In 2010, Bradley launched Ambiance Radio, the only background music service geared toward the hospitality industry. Ambiance Radio’s executive ranks and advisory board include many well-known individuals with deep experience in hospitality management, music, academic research, brand development and successful entrepreneurial startups.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Can you tell us the story of how Ambiance Radio got started?
Bradley Newberger (BN): Ambiance Radio dates back to my senior year at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. I was working as a manager at Taverna Banfi, a restaurant attached to the School. The restaurant had recently been renovated and had the look and feel of a Tuscan-style bistro. Everything was authentic Italian except one thing: the music. It was awful.
The need to find a better way to do music in a hospitality setting set me on a quest which, two years later, became the company called Ambiance Radio. During that time, my co-founders and I absorbed decades of scientific and academic research — what we call the Science of Music — developed a series of proprietary processes to consistently apply the Science to meet the individual needs of each venue, organized the company and built our team. After rigorous testing, we launched commercially less than a year ago.
FC: Can you walk us through how your proprietary system works?
BN: Applying the Science of Music adeptly and consistently, we provide each venue with THE RIGHT MUSIC, which we have proven can actually increase top line revenues, make guests feel good about their experience and help operators run their business more efficiently by keeping
staff upbeat and engaged.
We offer Ambiance Radio Gold for full service operators and Ambiance Radio QS for limited service restaurants and other high volume environments. With both services, our system produces a custom music feed for each location, based on the specific site’s demographics, psychographics, traffic volume and business objectives every hour of every day.
Our Gold service is designed to influence turn time, menu selection and positive feelings about the experience, all with an objective of helping to achieve top line revenue gains from higher check averages or more throughput. As multi-unit operators know, not all locations have exactly the same lunch demographics and day parts. It could be an early rush at 11:30 with some construction guys, moving into high school students at 12:30 and office/medical professionals by 1:00pm. For each of these hours, there may be different nuances to the music playing in the background which enhance the environment for the guests who are there. Our service makes that happen.
Additionally, our QS service can help people FEEL like the time they spend waiting in line is less than it actually is. If you think of a typical lunch rush at a QSR location, the idea of making a line feel shorter can be the difference between someone having a good experience at the venue or not.
FC: How is your offering different from other background music services in the market?
First, we are the only background music service geared specifically for restaurants, hotels, resorts and spas. We do this by combining proven science, 21st century technology and our hospitality industry knowledge to create specific results.
Secondly, we use our proprietary software and cutting-edge technology to consistently deliver fully customized, always changing music feeds tailored to each site’s needs each hour of each day — we don’t do canned, one-size-fits-all “channels.”
Third, our system takes “personal taste” out of the programming equation — we are playing what is right for the guests, not what the manager on duty likes to hear.
Lastly, our system automates the music changes throughout the day, so employees do not need to touch the dial. In terms of cost, we are comparable to what the mass produced, largely generic music services charge and a lot less expensive than the “hand made” services.
FC: Why do you think restaurants and food outlets have unique needs for background music compared to retailers and other types of businesses?
BN: Unlike many other types of businesses, restaurants and food outlets do not operate in a “steady state” every hour of every day. They tend to change dynamically depending on who comes to eat when, and whether the restaurant wants to keep them sitting longer or get that table turned as efficiently as possible. Often, restaurants want to create specific moods and “ambiance” in different day parts.
Playing the wrong music for the space does nothing good. It literally is just filling the room with junk sound. By using the Science of Music, we help operators run their business more efficiently.
FC: What are the pricing options available for your service? Do you have packages that individual franchisees can afford?
BN: Ambiance Radio is a subscription service. We provide a fully customized feed to each location we serve (including free use of our Player) for a price that is comparable to what franchises are currently paying for a bundle of nondescript channels of generic business music. So our subscribers are getting a better product for their money. And of course, we pay the correct ASCAP, BMI and SESAC Performance Rights Fees so that is another expense the venue does not have to bear.
FC: Can you name some of your clients and how have their businesses benefited from your service?
BN: Ambiance is currently installed in select corporate and franchise units of several franchise companies in the hospitality industry. Our restaurant clients include Schlotzsky’s Deli, Quaker Steak & Lube, Lazy Dog Café, WOW Wingery and franchise units of Beef O’Brady’s, Applebee’s and many, many others.
We are also in several full service resorts and limited service hotels around the country flying many well-known flags. Because we have programs that meet the specific needs of both limited and full-service establishments, we’ve been able to gain traction in every facet of the market.
When we go into a new space, it’s definitely noticeable. People can feel that something is different and better. We have grown quickly, which attests to the positive reaction we are getting. Music is something that can immediately transform the room. Changing the music in a “tired” restaurant instantly gives it a facelift.
A lot of franchises right now are looking to rebrand their concepts, and music is one of the least expensive ways to make a huge impact, yet it is often overlooked. And let’s not leave this important fact out: playing THE RIGHT MUSIC can increase top line revenues—our subscribers have seen boosts of 5-20% in some hours after they switched to Ambiance Radio.
FC: Can you share with my readers some general advice on how to choose the right background music for their food franchises?
BN: Remember, you are choosing music to influence the attitudes and behaviors of your guests, not to entertain yourself. Do not let your personal taste in music interfere with what is actually appropriate for your atmosphere.
FC: What are your some of your future plans to grow Ambiance Radio?
BN: By focusing on chains and franchise business systems, the sky is the limit. As you know, chains can range from a dozen to thousands of locations, and our service model has been designed to give every size organization — from single units to thousands — their own feeds of custom music at every store, every hour of every day. Our growth plan is to continue to focus squarely on these organizations in the hospitality space, eventually becoming the preeminent provider of background music to the industry.
FC: If any of my readers are interested in learning more about Ambiance Radio or availing of your services, how can they get started?
BN: They can visit www.ambianceradio.com and click on “Try Ambiance Radio.” We offer a free risk-free trial for 30 days.