It certainly is no coincidence that 99 percent of the time the only music you will hear at the Mahogany restaurant at Gaborone Sun, or the Beef Baron at Grand Palm, is classical. So, what is it with classical music and hotels?
For one, very multi-million-pula deals are ever sealed against the background of house or kwaito. For another, the choice of music is influenced by a systematic application of insights gleaned from cutting-edge social and environmental psychology research.
One study carried out by an Australian university illustrates how music influences commercial processes in the hospitality environment. If an establishment plays loud up-tempo music, diners would eat more quickly and leave, thus spending substantially less money. On the other hand, classical music has been associated with patrons being prepared to spend the most on their main meal.
‘Momo’ Mohamed, a resident entertainer at Mahogany, says that classical music is ‘the most relaxing, most soothing’ and best suited to the ultimate dining experience. The basic conclusion of the study referred to is that music tempo has a significant effect on money that patrons spend on both expensive food and drink.
Momo says that he cannot play loud music because that would be invasive to the privacy of diners, some of whom come to the restaurant to hold meetings.
In the first part of the day, the two hotels play piped music and from late afternoon resident entertainers take to the stage. Momo says that a live performance enhances the thrill for customers in that they can personally connect with the musician on stage. Some, he says, would comment on the quality of his fingerwork on the keyboard.
“Others would say ‘you play like so-and-so.’ There is that sort of connection with customers,” he says.
But if the study referred to is accurate, would gastropubs which target almost the same clientele as hotels, make more money if they switched to classical music? Certainly not, says Momo.
“If they do that, they would chase away their customers because those customers go there for a particular type of atmosphere and particular type of music,” he says.
By way of example, he suggest that if he were to relocate to a culturally-themed gastropub (say Brazilian) and play classical music, he would not connect because the clientele would prefer a less international offering.
Besides the choice of music, hospitality establishments take great care in how they arrange other atmospheric elements like lighting, layout, colors, temperature and scent. The grand plan is to target all senses and stimulate desirable perceptual, emotional and financial responses in patrons.
On Wednesdays, President Hotel hosts what it calls ‘Diva Night’, which is basically a fancy term for the more traditional ‘Ladies Night’. Hotel staff brings out decor pieces which they set out on tables and light scented candles to enhance the aesthetic appeal of the service environment.
The benefits would be huge, but not all hospitality establishments have systematically introduced atmospherics to their service environments. In that category would be the neighborhood liquor restaurant and the guesthouse which is little more than a dilapidated warehouse partitioned into cramped cubicles. Taking advantage of lax public health regulation, some of those places have institutionalized the most appalling hygiene standards as a business model. The situation is so desperate that on a really bad day, part of the indoor experience of a tacky, down-market liquor restaurant includes having to inhale lungfuls of faecal vapor and urinal stench.