Photo from Custom Channels client Bub’s San Diego/Bub’s @ the Ballpark

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal caught our attention about music for business. It was titled How Restaurants Can Win Back Customers: What Research Reveals. Among the strategies listed for restaurant operators were adding certain smells to the front of the house, using more mirrors, varying the lighting between brighter and dimmer depending on the goals, using white plates instead of colored plates, serving colorful foods, and more ideas.

The volume of the music playing in a business is important

The section that got our attention was about background and foreground music in restaurants. Quoting the WSJ article:

“When loud music is playing, people order more fried foods and more high-calorie, unhealthy foods. On low-volume-music days, people ordered more salads.”

“Some restaurants capitalize on the phenomenon by turning the decibels up during the busy times to turn more tables faster, and down during periods they want to let diners linger,” writes WSJ.

The article is quoting Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford and head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory. Spence studies how atmosphere in restaurants affects the perception of taste.

“Loud music makes people eat and drink faster, and it makes salty and sweet harder to taste. Loud music is very umami forward.”

The style of music can affect customer perceptions

Prof. Spence’s study found that, beyond the volume level of music in restaurants, “people listening to jazz, for instance, perceived the meal as more expensive than the same meal paired with pop music. And pairing Pavarotti with Italian food made consumers rate the dishes higher. Classical music has been found to increase wine sales in stores and fine-dining restaurants. There is such a strong association between classical music and class and quality. When you hear that music, consumers are primed to be willing to spend more,” writes WSJ.

We don’t hear classical music playing many restaurants. It may be because owners and managers don’t prefer classical personally. We do hear light jazz playing in some restaurants and it definitely elevates the perception of quality, status, and refinement, in our opinion, but not in an elitist way. The right jazz mix can be very accessible and comfortable as background music.

Experts can help with music solutions for restaurants

Prof. Spence’s study Effects of Ambient Music and Background Noise on Food Sales is an academic deep reading assignment. Suffice to say that the study proves that music does affect restaurant diners. Music is important to the customer experience.

Our Custom Channels music experts can help guide restaurant operators and brand managers through the difficult decisions of “what music and which songs do I play in my restaurant?”