ASK Italian + Startle.

Changing the tune at ASK.

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About ASK.

ASK Italian is a British casual dining restaurant chain that serves tasty Italian cuisine in 65 locations across the UK. It is also part of The Azzurri Group, one of the UK's largest and most successful casual dining businesses.

Houston, we have a…

The Azzurri Group approached us as their existing music supplier contracts were coming up for renewal across their three (very different) brands, including ASK. They had several different music providers across the group but they didn’t have the benefits of group purchasing, and there were inconsistencies in the quality of service, such as a lack of updates and the constant repetition of tracks. This repetition of tracks was a particularly big problem for staff morale; employees would often know what time of day it was purely from hearing a particular track!

Ask Italian

This is how we do it.

ASK wanted a single solution that they could then roll out across the group, yet also effectively allowed them and the other Azzurri brands to work as three separate organisations. Crucially, they needed flexibility to treat each brand as its own entity as regards to brand profiling and permissions.

‍Startle struck up concurrent and individual project installation and profiling conversations with each of the three brands, with our Creative Director and music master, James, taking a detailed music brief to get the ball rolling.

...they needed flexibility to treat each brand as its own entity as regards to brand profiling and permissions.

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The sound.

In our first profiling session with ASK’s brand team, we were captivated by the idea of the Italian coastline. The feeling of discovering new sights. The subdued, relaxed atmosphere of being on holiday. How your mind can be transported by sight, sound and smell.

Sound came in the form of more subdued tones; soft synths, muted or hushed vocals and elegant, uplifting melodics. It was clear that we should use a wide range of artists from a plethora of genres, but that the overall mood should be very relaxed. Aesthetically, ASK Italian boasts clean lines, classic colour palettes and wide-open spaces, giving customers plenty of room to relax and engage with each other.  We felt that music should be less fussy, and take on the role of an atmosphere enhancer rather than a statement maker or interrupter.

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Light, Bubbly, Escapist

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Average tempo

105 BPM

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Electronic, Indie, Pop

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Example artists

Bonobo, HONNE, Jordan Rakei, Khruangbin, Lorde, Shura, Nu Genea

ASK staff playlist

Tell me more, tell me more.

We also presented ASK with a dedicated tool where staff could request tracks to include from an approved master playlist. This little bit of flex gave the wider ASK team the opportunity to connect with the brand’s soundtrack, doing the world of good for staff engagement and morale. Staff were also encouraged to send track requests to head office, so we put together a playlist that they could bop away to before and after opening.

Look at me now.

After working with ASK Italian for a couple of years now, the improvements reported have been significant; uniformity, more control, more flexibility, enhanced staff engagement and increased cost effectiveness.

We are currently having conversations with ASK about exciting future innovations, such as the playing of Italian storytelling audio feeds in the toilets, tapping into behavioural science by creating a memorable “peak” in the customer experience and sending customers back to the table with a more positive, refreshed frame of mind. Watch this space!

From my first interaction with Startle I have been very impressed with the understanding they have of what we're looking for. Creating a 'vibe' or environment within a space is something quite hard to explain but the support and reactivity they gave throughout the curation process was incredible.

Joe Gilbert

The Azzurri Group

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Heard enough?

Get in touch to start playing your customers the kind of background music that creates those hair-tingling moments.

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