Music to Dine For
Feb 16, 2011 3:12 PM, by Dan Daley
As music-themed restaurants and cafés proliferate, the bar gets raised for sound quality.
If you’re going to theme your new café franchise on the music after a particular artist, and if you’re going to do it in Nashville—aka Music City—you know that the sound is going to have to be the first thing on the menu. It was for the latest edition of the Margaritaville Café chain, named for beach bum billionaire Jimmy Buffett (it could have been worse—they could have named it “Jimmy’s Buffet”) on Nashville’s boisterous and bustling lower Broadway nightlife strip. “The Nashville store was important for all of those reasons but also because Jimmy started his career there and several of his [Coral Reefer] band members live there, so you know it’s going to get scrutiny,” says Jeff Barnhart, design engineer and project manager for Technomedia, which did the AV systems installation and integration at that location. (This was Technomedia’s first Margaritaville location but it’s a sector veteran, having worked on many of the Hard Rock Café restaurants in the U.S.)
Music-themed restaurants have been a cyclical staple of the food and beverage business for decades, starting with the venerable Hard Rock Café and House of Blues brands. But they’ve taken off in recent years. According to Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic—a market research company that tracks the restaurant industry—these types of establishments have been “showing more unit growth” in the last several years, particularly new brands like country singer Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar, which is named for one of his hit songs.
The Nashville Margaritaville location, the tenth in the chain so far, is somewhat different from its siblings, which tend to have a house band stage on the main floor and small solo/duo stage near the entrance. In Nashville, the company included those, but the restaurant also tipped its hat to Nashville’s massive music performance base and created a concert stage on the building’s second floor in a space that can hold up to 400 patrons. Technomedia installed a JBL PA system comprised of a pair of VP7212/64DP powered 10in. two-way integrated loudspeakers flown above the curved stage at the front of the restaurant with a pair of VPSB7118DP subwoofers nestled below the stage. Two VP7219/95DP powered delay speakers cover the rear of the room while JBL VP7212MDP powered monitors keep the band alert on stage. The club’s house band stage on the main floor also has JBL components—the same main enclosures as upstairs but with smaller VRX918SP subs, all flown 9ft. above the stage and aimed downward at 35 degrees to optimize throw and coverage. “We picked enclosures with tight dispersion patterns and chose the angle in order to be able to keep it pretty loud but not rip the heads off the people sitting closest to the stage,” Barnhart explains. Both stages are mixed through Yamaha LS9-32 digital mixers. The solo performer stage near the entrance uses a JBL portable EON PA system and a Behringer Xenyx 1202 analog mixer on the stage.
“This location is set apart by the fact that it’s intended to be used as a showcase venue for record labels and artists,” Barnhart explains. “It’s going to be the most demanding venue in terms of sound for that reason.”
The distributed audio system is no slouch, either. Klipsch provided 29 KI-102BT speakers, 18 IC-650-T in-ceiling speakers, 31 RW5101in-ceiling subs, and a pair of CA-800T subwoofers for the background music/paging systems that covers both store levels. In all 103 speakers are used to distribute audio from a variety of sources, including Sirius XM satellite radio (Buffett has his own channel on the network) and a Promo Only Muse video server that’s loaded with music videos from Coral Reefer alumni including Sheryl Crow and Mac MacAnally; music from any of the three stages can also be routed through the eight-zone distributed audio system, which uses MediaMatrix N series DSP.
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