What do your patrons hear when they walk into your restaurant? In addition to the chatter of other patrons and the clang of food being prepared, they may also hear some kind of music.

Why do restaurants play music? To shape consumer experience and enhance sales. When done properly, it works.

For example, 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 whole lot of planning.

Basic Music Considerations

Before we discuss creating the right music for your patrons, let's discuss a few restaurant music basics.

First, let's talk about volume.

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 Bon Appetit explains, the music shouldn't be loud enough to impede conversation between dining companions.

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.


You may need to 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.

Paying attention to the tempo is also wise

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 consumers turn over with haste, no one wants their consumers to feel stressed out and at risk.


That means some kinds of music that you may enjoy in other venues, including workout music or dance music, may not be appropriate for eating.

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Personal preferences may also play a role.

Your consumers may have very strong feelings about the music they love and the music they hate, and they may feel very comfortable with the idea of telling you all about it. When your playlist is in place, you will want to listen to these concerns, but 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

The music that is right for your restaurant will be influenced by your:

  • Market segment
  • Food you offer
  • Restaurant décor
  • Patrons

Let's break apart 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.

Fast-casual

Fast-casual 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 conservative nature of country music, and they may dislike associations made with classic rock. Serving up music by independent, likeminded artists like Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson might be a better option.

Fast Food

Fast-food restaurants are almost exclusively focused on speed, and many people who go to spots like this don't plan to eat their meals within the space. They order, they take the food away, and they eat it in a different location. The foods they eat 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 to feel entertained while they wait.

Ethnic restaurants

Ethnic restaurants serve food that is associated with a specific place or a specific category of people. The music should match that place or category. As a study in the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management points out, consumers grow upset when the music they hear in a Italian restaurant is not considered "authentic." They expect to hear music that sounds as though it comes from Italy. Playing American music causes dissonance, and that makes consumers unhappy.

Fine Dining

Fine-dining establishments offer consumers the opportunity to step away from chaotic lives and explore a meal at leisure. Consumers may spend a long period of time in a restaurant like this, as they consume appetizers, main events, and desserts. The music choices here should help to persuade these consumers to stay. 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.

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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.

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