New app puts restaurant customers in control of music

Feb. 22, 2013 | by Cherryh Butler

Customization is bigger than ever these days, as customers expect to have everything their way — whether it's the power to swap a salad for fries or the ability to bypass the front-of-the-house employee to order via smartphone. Now, there's a way for them to be in charge of the music, too — no jukebox required.

Roqbot, backed by Google, replaces background music at restaurants with a personalized music experience via a mobile app, said Garrett Dodge, co-founder and CEO of the company that closed a $1.2- million series of funding this summer.

"The key concept is that the (business) owner is always in control of the overall experience," Dodge said. "They can spend as much or as little time as they want on this. They can use only the existing (music) stations or they can go super custom by creating their own."

How it works
Customers download the Roqbot app to vote for their favorite songs. The app then selects the most popular songs to play. The businesses, Dodge said, keep control over the selections because they customize their music library at setup, meaning customers can only vote for songs authorized by the restaurants. Roqbot's library includes not only more than 7 million songs, but also genre-specific catalogs and pre-built playlists, and business owners may also build their own playlists using the online tools.

"We want to provide as many ways as possible to give you the perfect playlist for your customers. In addition, you can let staff members influence the music by giving them admin rights," Dodge said.

Managers can even skip songs they've previously authorized by pressing "Skip" on the Roqbot player.

"If you are tired of people playing that same Lady Ga Ga song, you can skip it," Dodge said.

Roqbot, which managers control via computer or a mobile device, also runs on Roku; Roqbot's private Roku channel uses the Internet and standard connection A/V (HDMI, Component) to stream music through the sound system and TVs in the venue. Restaurants may also purchase the Roqbot for Business Player, which has better audio quality, an automatic on/off and a digital signage component, Dodge said.

The solution is already rocking in businesses across the U.S., including Burger King, Wendy's, Miller Lite, Gap and Wahoo's Fish Taco, a California-based fast casual chain and one of the first brands to launch the app. Jeff Berres, Wahoo's Fish Taco's director of marketing, said guests love it.

"To some it has become a competition — who can be the best 'DJ' by getting their songs to play the most," he said.

Roqbot is also a valuable marketing tool, Berres said.

"It gave us another way to connect with our customer. That's always important," he said. "We absolutely use the digital signage. We're always updating important information, like food and drink specials, and putting whatever other information we want to put out into our store. Our screen is located in a position that just about everyone who walks through our door can see."

The cost
Business owners can choose among three levels of service, which range in cost from $24.95 to $99.95 per month. The latter comes with fully customized branding applications, free customer requests, a dedicated account manager and advanced metric reporting.

"We don't really have a way to calculate ROI, but I can tell you that our staff has definitely noticed a difference in our customers hanging out at the bar longer as they pick through songs. This is always a good thing," Berres said.

Check out this video for a demo.

Read more about technology.

Topics: Digital Signage , Equipment & Supplies , Marketing / Branding / Promotion , Operations Management , Systems / Technology

Cherryh Butler / Cherryh Butler has been a reporter for nearly 10 years, writing on a variety of topics ranging from the restaurant industry to business and health and fitness news. Before joining as editor, she oversaw and and contributed to She's also written for several daily newspapers, magazines and websites, including The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine.
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