Panera Bread Co., a Needham, Mass.-based chain of 140 company-owned and 365 franchised bakery cafes across the country, also views sound as an important (though subtle) in-store element.
"Some retailers use music to define their space," says Scott Davis, Panera's senior vp and chief concept officer. "We use music to enhance our space. Because Panera Bread is what is known as a 'third place' - that is, a locale between work and the home that people go to in order to socialize and eat - we want our music to be soothing and relaxing."
In keeping with the music's background role at Panera, its audio system plays only jazz and classical instrumentals. "We don't want a vocal track intruding into customers' conversations," says Davis. "For that reason, you won't hear any disco or classic rock in our restaurants."
The music in Panera stores is provided by its longtime audio partner, |817)| (Los Angeles), and the two companies recently teamed to upgrade the sound systems in all the chain's locations. The latest installation - DMX's ProFusionX - is an Internet-based system that downloads new musical content nightly to a secure digital player at each store.
Davis notes that the DMX system includes a sound-monitoring feature that automatically adjusts volume levels as needed. "A set of microphones in the ceiling periodically reads the noise level in the store, and adjusts the volume level accordingly," Davis explains. "So when the noise level in the restaurant goes up during the lunch rush, the feedback system bumps up the music volume a bit. And when things quiet down in the mid-afternoon, it tones the music back down. That helps ensure that the music adds to people's enjoyment of our stores. And that's the bottom line for us, when it comes to our in-store sound systems."