Music in your restaurant can shape the customer experience and enhance sales.
In research discussed on the Food Newsfeed run by Journalistic, Inc., researchers found that playing the right music could increase sales by 9 percent.
With profits on the line, it's vital to ensure that the music you play is right for the audience you serve. That can take a little bit of creativity and a lot of planning.
Basic Music Considerations for Restaurants
When playing music in your restaurant, there are several things to consider:
Unless you're hosting live music, the music you play isn't meant to be the main event. That means, in most cases, your music shouldn't be so loud that it's difficult for your patrons to focus on your food. As an article in LS Retail explains, music that is too loud can diminish patrons' sense of taste.
The music also should be loud enough to cover up some unpleasant noises associated with restaurants. Your patrons may not want to hear intimate conversations held by other diners, and they don’t want to hear your kitchen staff yelling about orders. That means your music should work as a buffer, so patrons can focus on that sound and tune out the others.
Assess volume multiple times throughout the day. During peak times, a loud room might demand louder music. When it's quiet, you might need to turn the tunes down.
Researchers writing in Psychology Today suggest that songs with loud, fast beats tend to stimulate the body's fight-or-flight system. When that is activated, we tend to eat faster. Parts of our bodies are preparing to flee, so we may not feel comfortable with settling down to a long meal.
While some restaurants may want music that is a little quicker, just to help tables turn over more quickly, no one wants their guests to feel stressed out. This means some kinds of music you may enjoy in other venues, including workout music or dance music, may not be appropriate for eating.
Your customers may have very strong feelings about the music they love and the music they hate, and they may feel very comfortable with telling you their preferences. When your playlist is in place, listen to these concerns, but know that it will be impossible to keep every customer happy all the time.
Music is personal, and what we like is based on our opinions, our background, and our demographics. Music can also tap into the deepest parts of our brains, so we can be passionate about the opinions we hold. Your job is to come up with the soundtrack that fits your brand and the experience your brand delivers. Focus on that, and the opinions you hear, while important, may not shake the choices you make.
Choose the Right Music for Your Restaurant
The music that is right for your restaurant will be influenced by these things:
- The market segment you serve
- The food you offer
- The décor of your restaurant
- The patrons who visit you
Let's break down choices by restaurant type, and we’ll offer a few suggestions on music choices that might be right for all of these different types of businesses.
These types of restaurants are seeing an explosion in growth. In fact, The Washington Post reports that the fast-casual sector has grown by 550 percent since 1999.
These restaurants are known for providing a quality product that is slightly more expensive than items served in fast-food restaurants, and the Post suggests that they are also associated with sustainability. People who eat in places like this care about the environment and the impact their choices make on the environment.
Running a successful fast-casual restaurant might mean looking for music that is independent, young, and fresh. Consumers who head to these places might not be interested in the more conservative feel of country music, and they may dislike associations made with classic rock. Serving up music by independent, like-minded artists like Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson might be a better option.
These types of establishments are almost exclusively focused on speed. Many people who go to fast-food restaurants don't plan to eat their meals there. They order, take the food away, and eat it in a different location. Fast foods tend to be a bit on the unhealthy, greasy side.
Research quoted by Science Daily suggests that 20 percent of restaurant patrons ordered an unhealthy menu selection when exposed to louder, faster ambient music. If you're hoping to entice your patrons to choose from a greasy menu, setting that expectation with music could help a great deal.
Classic rock could do the trick quite nicely. This familiar music could also help patrons feel entertained while they wait.
Many restaurants serve food that is associated with a specific country of origin. Customers often like it when the music is also associated with the same country as the cuisine.
A study in the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management observed that customers prefer when the entire restaurant experience, including the music choice, feels authentic.
These restaurants offer diners an upscale experience. Guests may spend a long time in a restaurant like this, as they consume appetizers, main courses, and desserts.
The music choices in fine-dining restaurants should promote a leisurely, posh experience. Optimal choices include jazz and classical music, as both are associated with sophistication and class.
Follow the Laws
As a business owner, you know how the laws protect your intellectual property. Just as you'd contact lawyers if someone stole your company name or published a protected recipe, people who create music may come after you if you play music without permission.
In order to pay the fees required, you need to work with music copyright holders. There is only one real exception, according to the National Restaurant Association, and that involves radio. If your restaurant is 3,750 square feet or smaller and you play only radio, you don't have to pay a fee.
But playing radio means subjecting your patrons to commercials, DJ banter, and more content that you can't control. That could make it less than ideal for your business.
At Cloud Cover Music, we have a wide variety of music that is just right for the restaurant environment. We can help you choose music that fits your brand, and we negotiated agreements with copyright holders, so you'll pay reasonable fees for the music you play.
Getting started is easy. Just contact us and we'll tell you more.
- The Psychology of Restaurant Music. (July 2014). Psychology Today.
- The Chipotle Effect: Why America Is Obsessed with Fast Casual Food. (February 2015). The Washington Post.
- Cheeseburger or Salad? How Music Volume Impacts Your Decision. (May 2018). Science Daily.
- Effects of Authentic Atmospherics in Ethnic Restaurants: Investigating Chinese Restaurants. (2011). International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management.
- 11 Questions About Music Licensing. National Restaurant Association.
- 5 Reasons Why You Should Play Music in Your Restaurant. (December 2017). LS Retail.