Just one more please: top tips to increase dwell time in your restaurant or bar

We’ve all been there, trying to decide whether you should call it a night, or have that last cheeky drink with friends or colleagues. Sometimes it is as simple as someone shouting “just one more beer”, whereas at other times, extra effort needs to come from the establishment in order to increase dwell time and keep customers around for extended periods, which will ultimately lift sales. 

Why is dwell time so important?

Dwell time is the term used for the amount of time a customer spends in your restaurant, bar or pub. Dwell time is a key performance indicator (KPI) and is strongly related to sales from the current visit, but also for customer’s overall satisfaction and return visits. For example, if a customer is extremely satisfied, they will likely be returning and spreading the word which can lead to more customers visiting. However, on the flip side, if your customers have a negative experience, it’s highly unlikely they will be returning anytime soon, nor spreading reviews you want either. 

The longer the dwell time, the greater the likelihood that customers will spend more money. For example in a bar, they may stay an extra drink which could turn into two if they’re enjoying the ambiance and experience. In a restaurant, this may equate to ordering a coffee or dessert which the customer previously did not intend to. It’s important to note that sometimes it may be challenging to increase dwell time during certain hours of the week, such as a lunch hour where customers only have an hour. However, there should always be careful consideration how to increase dwell time, and these should continuously be implemented and maintained. 

By increasing dwell time in your hospitality venue with engaged, happy customers is often easier than trying to get new footfall through the doors. If customers are enjoying their dining / drinking experience, the vibe and ambiance, the friendly staff, the right music, it opens up so many opportunities for increased revenue, now and later on.

Top tips to increase dwell time

First and foremost, it’s business critical to ensure that your customers are happy, comfortable and taken care of, on top of the food and beverages, because if they’re not, if you increase efforts to increase dwell time, it may be lost if the customers aren’t going to come back. 

1. Get the background music right

The potential power of background music should never be underestimated. In the same way as other touch-points in the customer journey are so meticulously considered, so too should the music and audio. Music is an effective tool to very quickly engage customers and shape the desired ambiance and subsequent experience in a restaurant and bar. 

When a particular venue has a strong reputation, a recognisable identity and is well-liked on multiple levels, it’s so pertinent that the music needs to communicate the brand’s values and personality. Music can also help unify your brand across multiple different locations. There’s no point in having a heavy metal playlist on repeat in a family-run Italian restaurant, or classical music in a bar every Friday evening at 11PM, for example.

Music is an important medium which owners and managers can use to change the way your customers feel about your business. By choosing music that reflects your brand, you can attract certain types of customers and even influence their behaviour. In addition, the volume of the music is also another factor impacting dwell time. If the music is too loud, you struggle to hear the guests at your table and have to shout for the whole meal, chances are you are not going to stay on for an extra drink / coffee. In the same notion, if there is no music or it is too quiet, customers could feel slightly uncomfortable and a lack of ambiance.

Thus, music is central in building positive customer and guest experiences; and these experiences have the potential to be extended (i.e. increased dwell time) and duplicated if the right elements are at play. It’s therefore wise to truly understand the demographics of your customers, trading patterns and the type of ambiance which is best suited, then music can be planned ahead of time and ultimately even scheduled in order to extend dwell time.

If customers have a negative perception of your brand, they are not going to want to spend a significant amount of time in your venue, and thus spend less money. Get the background music and sound spot-on, and your customers’ positive perceptions of your brand will lead them to stay longer and spend more.

Gideon Chain, Founder of Ambie

2. Engaged staff and managers

Cast your mind back to a time when your waiter was really enthusiastic, engaged and ‘there for the customer experience’. There’s both something tangible and intangible about being served by either an engaged or disengaged member of staff. The morale of staff can not only directly impact the staff working that sift,but it can drastically impact everyone else around them.

If staff and managers feel valued, looked after and that they are important, their morale will be higher, which in turn will increase their productivity and level of service. If staff are disgruntled and resentful, chances are they will add positively to the overall guest experience; however, if a waiter is chatty and friendly with the clientele, makes them feel important then in turn they could increase their dwell time. Therefore, it is the duty of managers and business owners to ensure their workforce (no matter their role) are happy and listened to, as they are the ambassadors of the restaurant / bar and have the power to influence dwell time.

Another key way to engage your team is to ensure that the staff are also happy with the music playing whilst they working. The music needs to compliment the brand, and at the same time should be enjoyable for all staff. For some businesses, staff input on which music is played is welcomed, whereas for other establishments, staff can have control at opening and closing for example.

Coffee shop music

3. Evolve with the seasons

Sounds obvious, right? Many businesses get stuck in their groove with menus, music and promotions year in and year out. Whilst the idiom of don’t break what’s not broken is obvious, restaurants and bars need to evolve with the seasons so to speak. Think seasonality if you want your customers to stay longer. If customers feel that the establishment is relevant, up-to-date and seasonally-accurate, there is a higher percentage of increased dwell time. For example, in the heart of the summer, menus can adapt to include salads and al fresco options, and the heavy warming soups can be removed. 

If it’s coming up to Valentine’s Day, playing romantic love songs which boosts the ambiance can increase dwell time, whereas playing an older Christmas playlist may discourage guests to stay longer. The weather can also sway dwell time. Nothing empties a space quicker than a cold environment in winter and a stuffy hot one in the summer. If restaurants are cosy with warm heaters or a fireplace in the winter, customers will be cosy and not wanting to move; whereas in the summer if tables are put outdoors, lighter meals are added to the menu, and the songs are adapted accordingly, then there’s the potential for increased dwell time once again.

4. Customer acknowledgment

Customer acknowledgement is key from the moment a customer walks in until the moment the leave. First impressions last, so if your staff welcome them, make eye-contact and are interested, then they will have a memorable and enjoyable experience from the get-go, however if there’re ignored and swabbed off, psychologically your customers are likely to make judgement, including how long they will stay with you that visit.  

This goes back to the previous point, if staff are content and engaged, then it will be a domino effect which can be passed onto the customers. However, if the front of house is moody and completely disinterested, then this will rub off on the guests and can in turn, alter their perceptions, especially if they are first time or new customers. However, if the customers are returning, there’s a great opportunity welcome them and give them a sense of belonging. This will help increase dwell time as customers will feel important, looked after and know what to expect. It’s so valuable to always put a lot of effort into the best quality service from beginning to end. By investing in your employees and venue to make it as customer-centric as possible, the outcome will far exceed the initial investment.

Customer Success Story: The Rum Kitchen

Ambie interviewed Mike Parnham, Managing Director of Rum Kitchen, to find out why they chose Ambie and how they use music to drive customer spend and increase dwell time. At The Rum Kitchen, the soundtrack is the heartbeat of any service; where the right music can create an atmosphere that lifts the mood of the team and guests, increases dwell-time and is what sets us apart from other restaurants and bars. 

Over the past 3 years our LFL sales have been ahead of the London benchmark and one reason is definitely the music, its helped to create an atmosphere where people will stay for one more drink. One of the best feedbacks we receive on a regular basis is that the music was so good that they forgot there wasn’t a DJ, this also saves us money on that having to have DJs all the time. We have tailored the music so it feels as though a DJ is playing all day. Our teams and DJs have all had input into the playlists and they reflect the day part and the music our customers love to hear.

Mike Parnham, Managing Director of Rum Kitchen

At Ambie, we’re about all things music and how music can help enhance the customer experience, increase dwell time and ultimately drive sales. So, ensuring that the sound is perfect for your venue, restaurant or bar is part of our game. Our team of music specialists are here to guide you along your journey to finding the perfect, tailored sound for your business to increase dwell time. Find out more.