Fast food is usually associated with convenience. We walk in, we get what we want, and we walk out. These aren't spaces associated with long, lingering conversations.

They're spaces in which we can get nourishing, consistent meals very quickly. When we're too busy to cook, they're our top choice due to the speed with which we can get what we want.

But fast-food restaurants don't have to be punishing spaces consumers want to drive through rather than spend time in. With a few subtle shifts, fast-food joints can become destination spots that allow consumers to enjoy their stay. Music can play a big role in this enhanced experience.

Music and Your Menu

All business owners know that pleasing customers is a top priority. When customers are satisfied, they come back for more. They may also tell others about their experience, which helps a brand to grow.

Music can help fast-food restaurants to give their consumers that happy experience. For example, in a study in the journal Psychological Reports, scientists found that softening the music in a fast-food restaurant prompted consumers to rate the food as more enjoyable. That subtle change in the soundtrack made the food taste just a little better. That could entice these consumers to come back to explore the menu again.

When the researchers who performed this study were asked about the results, in an article in Medical Xpress, they explained that the people in this study also ate 18 percent less of the food they ordered when the music was softer. That could, the researchers said, help fast-food restaurants to overcome a consistent brand problem.

People associate fast food with high-fat, high-calorie meals that contribute to obesity. Restaurants like this are often accused of prompting consumers to eat more, so they can boost profits. Softening the music, and explaining why you're doing so, could help your brand to seem empathetic. You might seem as though you really care about your customers, and that could set your brand apart.

Your music could also help to explain your brand.

If you focus on serving Tex-Mex food, playing a Latin-infused playlist could boost cravings for the foods you serve. If you serve American meat-and-potatoes meals, playing country music could have the same effect. Matching the music you play with the food you serve helps to explain your brand and enhance the experience for your customers.

Can You Choose Music?

The United States Census Bureau reports that there were an estimated 122,042 limited-service franchise restaurants in 2012, making this the largest franchise segment in the United States.

When you purchase a franchise, you're purchasing a proven concept that has resonated with consumers. You're typically not allowed to take this existing brand and make it your own by changing:

  • Logos
  • Internal d├ęcor
  • Menu choices
  • Employee uniforms

You may also be unable to change the music. When your organization makes a decision for the brand, it is your responsibility to play along.

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There may be times when it's wise to reach out to the corporate office with your ideas about how to change music choices. For example, Franchise Direct reports that some fast-food organizations are going through a brand refresh to help them connect to a changing market. Taco Bell, for example, is refreshing restaurant design to highlight a commitment to sustainability and environmental action. Enhancing that refresh with music that comes from eco-minded artists, or moving from classic rock to a more modern sound, could help them to reinforce that brand shift.

Good ideas come from everywhere, and you may have just the playlist shift the top managers need to know about in order to move forward with the business.


There may be times when it's wise to reach out to the corporate office with your ideas about how to change music choices.

What Should You Play?

If you own your own fast-food restaurant, you can play any kind of music you'd like to play. That's the good news, but the bad news is that there are literally hundreds of different types of songs you could play for your guests. You'll need to choose carefully.

Looking for a specific type of consumer that eats fast food isn't helpful, as research from Ohio State suggests that 80 percent of Americans eat fast food. That means nearly all Americans eat in this food sector, so you won't be able to make broad generalizations about who your consumers are, how much money they have, or what they like to listen to.

Instead, it's wise to focus on the foods you serve and look for ways to match music with the food. If you were about to serve these foods to friends and family members, what kinds of music would you play? What songs would they expect? What seems like a match?

It's also vital to play music you have a license to play. Music is protected by American copyright laws, and that means you must connect with the copyright holder of that song and pay a fee when the song is played. You can't simply plug in a CD player or turn on Pandora to fill the space with music. You must have a license to spin those tunes.

The National Restaurant Association reports that federal penalties for using music without permission can range from $750 to $30,000 or more. These hefty fees could put your whole business at risk.

Working with a company like Cloud Cover Music is smart.

We have connections with music copyright holders, and we negotiate the fees for you. We can provide you with no-risk music you can play to entice your customers, and we offer low fees for the protections you need. It takes just minutes to sign up and get started.

We Offer a Variety of Music Options