Eating is a multisensory experience. You smell the aromas wafting from the restaurant kitchen as your food is prepared, see the gorgeously plated dish as it’s set in front of you, feel the different textures around your mouth, and taste all the layered flavours. But that’s only four out of five senses, right? What about what you hear?

This is where ambient music comes in. Restaurants have been using background music to set the scene in their establishments for centuries, but it does so much more than that. Restaurant music can influence what people order, how long they stay and whether they come back. Just like menu design, interior décor and pricing, it all comes down to psychology. 

We have some insights for you to consider before selecting the music for your restaurant.

Instrumental vs lyrical music

If you think the same songs you sing along to in traffic are what your patrons want to hear while they’re eating, think again. Instrumental music is the safest bet because it creates an ambience without distracting patrons. If they can’t pay full attention to the culinary experience, they might consider the fare unremarkable and not worth a return visit. Food and drink should be the centrepiece of your restaurant’s experience, so it’s best to choose something that will enhance the atmosphere instead of dominating it.

Mind the tempo

Studies have long shown that playing faster music makes people eat faster. The science is simple: your heartbeat tends to synchronise with the music’s tempo, which speeds up your actions. If you run the type of eatery that relies on fast table turnover, you might want to keep your music uptempo. However, if you want your patrons to stay and eat for longer, then slow down your restaurant music.

Does genre matter?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that it depends on the theme of your establishment. If you’re running a trattoria, you always want your patrons to be reminded of Italy. So 90s hip-hop would be an odd choice. Our minds make unconscious associations between concepts. We go to fine-dining restaurants expecting to hear classical music or jazz. In fact, one study found that patrons are more likely to order French wine if French music is playing. So you can nudge your patrons towards certain menu items by simply selecting the right sonic backdrop.

Volume control

A Swedish study revealed that music volume has a significant impact on our food choices. When patrons heard music at a low volume (55 decibels), they ordered healthier food than when louder music (70dB) played. Younger patrons don’t mind dining in noisy restaurants, but older patrons seek out quiet spaces when they eat out. So if you’re running a burger joint, you could probably get away with pumping it up. 

For more insightful restaurant tips, including how to use PoS software to your advantage, download our free e-book, The Definitive 21st-century restaurant playbook.

Author : Rudi Badenhorst