Many factors go into establishing the ambiance at restaurants. For Bahama Breeze, engaging acclaimed music producer and curator Gary Gunn to pair music selections with the menu was a harmonious way to offer guests a more authentic experience.
“It’s really about the vibe we’re creating in the restaurant,” Jaime Bunker, Vice President of Brand Management at Bahama Breeze told Modern Restaurant Management magazine. “We know that when you’re dining, the way things taste and the way things sound go hand in hand. Our objective in working with Gary is to elevate the overall experience for guests. For us, exploration has always been a major part of the Bahama Breeze experience, and the food and drinks and music have always been a part of that. Bringing Gary in to create a more thoughtful approach to the dining experience through music lends itself to an island ambiance and sense of place.
Bunker was intrigued by the idea of working with a curator who would have a thoughtful approach to hand-selecting each song so that the total compilation made sense for the brand and the guest. The partnership is designed to enable guests to bridge the gap between music they already know and love, and music they have yet to discover. Through Gunn’s playlists, they can discover up-and-coming Caribbean artists and get a sneak preview of music on the verge of becoming mainstream.
Gunn was a good fit for Bahama Breeze because he had a keen sense of the brand and the guest.
“He had a vision of where we should be focused and what we might want to shed from our current playlist,” said Bunker. “We brought him to our restaurant and conducted a full immersion with him on the brand.”
The entire process took between four to five months. During the immersion and development process, Gunn spent time at different restaurants to pinpoint unique sounds and songs guests would enjoy.
“By being on the ground and trying our different food and drink offerings, he was able to envision himself in the space as one of our guests,” said Bunker. As we listened to the initial cut, we were looking to answer: Do I feel like I’m in my island escape? Did I feel happier after listening the music? Was there a sense of discovery? Would I feel re-energized leaving Bahama Breeze?”
A large part of the process, according to Gunn, was finding a balance between the songs that one would expect to hear at Bahama Breeze with those songs that may be less known by this audience, while providing a sense of discovery.
“When it came to selecting the staple Caribbean/reggae songs, much of it really just came down to honoring tradition, history, and pinpointing the lyrics/feel that coincided with the brand at the highest level,” explained Gunn. “The curation aspect really came into play during the process of digging for Caribbean inspired songs from respected non-Caribbean artists. It’s a long process and I listened to thousands of songs to find the right one. In some instances, it was only one in 100 songs that would make the cut.”
Gunn’s career includes collaborations with various brands and television networks such as PBS, Showtime, Google Play, Nike, Dell, Puma, NBC Universal, National Geographic, BET, Sonos and Moogfest. He has also composed original scores for films at more than 20 festivals worldwide.
“My approach to curation is about building bridges between things that don’t always seem to go together but somehow in context, they work,” said Gunn. “Another ‘enhancement’ is the level of care and consideration gone into the selections that staff and customers will appreciate.
Gunn tailored the playlists to change based on the varying shifts.
“The environment and atmosphere play a large role in the music, so we knew the beats and rhythm needed to change based on different parts of the day, whether it was for lunch, dinner, happy hour or late night happy hour,” said Bunker. “Gary started by developing a base list with 100 songs. He then coordinated with our team to break out each day part playlist. Once it was more defined, we ended up with about 130 songs on each list. For example, the happy hour play list is more carefree, nostalgic, adventurous and upbeat, but still flows very nicely from the lunch playlist. For late night happy hour, we took a slightly edgier route sonically to amp up the energy and encourage our guests to socialize.”
Through this curation, Bahama Breeze’s ultimate goal is to elevate the guest experience by a few notes.
“We want our guests to notice the music and want to come back for another listen or taste,” said Bunker. “The music should be memorable and stand out, so that people leave happier than when they came into the restaurant. Combining the music we’ve created with our food and drinks provides a sense of discovery, familiarity and wonder all at the same time.”