It’s no secret that music is a key component of any restaurant experience. It influences the atmosphere of the space and, by extension, the way customers experience it. Thus, restaurateurs that tailor their atmosphere through a wisely chosen music selection maximize their chances for success.
Louis McNeil is the owner of all four Cosmos restaurants in the Québec City metropolitan area, and he’s always placed music right at the heart of what sets his establishments’ customer experience apart from the rest; it’s what has ensured his success. “Twenty years ago in Québec City, there were no restaurants with an ‘atmosphere,’ only restaurants with tablecloths,” says McNeil. “We made a conscious choice to be a restaurant with no tablecloths. Music is definitely a big part of our customers’ experience.”
Twenty years ago, at the first Cosmos Café on Grande-Allée, the music was played via cassette tapes, later using 8-track tapes, and later using a system that played multiple tapes in a loop. After migrating to CDs, Cosmos began hiring DJs to make sure it kept that distinctive vibe.
A few years ago, inspired by the huge wave of boutique hotel and restaurant compilations à la Buddha Bar, Louis McNeil thought to himself, “Why not us, too?” Daniel Lussier, Cosmos’ head designer, recruited SOCAN member Alain Simard who, under the moniker Mr. Smith, created original music to fit with the restaurant’s unique personality. And now, the fourth album in the Cosmopop series was launched in November 2014.
“Cosmos can boast [that] it’s the only restaurant in Canada to have produced original music albums!” says McNeil. “Customers can buy the CDs in all of our locations, and it’s a great promo for the restaurant. It’s much more pleasant to see a CD cover than skewered chicken when you’re waiting at the bus stop. That way, we’re actually selling a vibe, a concept, an experience.”
There’s no half-stepping at Cosmos when it comes to sound quality: high-end speakers, acoustic panel baffles for better sound on the ceilings and walls, and anything else that’s required to give customers the best possible music experience. “We also don’t hesitate to put our equipment on display, like our amp banks right next to the kitchen,” says McNeil. “At Cosmos Lévis, we feature live music every Friday and Saturday night.”
Everyone can enjoy the Cosmos Ste-Foy vibe thanks to the restaurant’s website, where anyone can listen to Cosmos Radio, a web radio station that broadcasts the actual music being played at that location in real time.
Furthermore, throughout the years, Cosmos also played an important role in talent development. Such is the case of The Seasons, who honed their chops at the restaurant before breaking out on the international music scene. “We played there every other Thursday, we were kind of like the house band”, said Hubert Chiasson in an interview with Le Soleil.
Just like their owner, all four Cosmos locations – in Québec City, Ste-Foy, Lévis and Lebourgneuf – are creative, support creativity, and are passionate about food and music. In other words, they’re proudly Licensed To Play!