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While 60% of eateries fail in their first year, creating a sought-after dining experience is more likely to make an establishment successful. With more than a million restaurants competing to keep Americans satisfied, it’s not entirely about the food. 

We surveyed 941 people to learn if music plays a role in dining experiences. Does excessive volume rush dinner? What about profane lyrics or an unpopular artist? And does restaurant type elicit different feelings toward the tunes playing from the speakers? Keep reading to find out.

Dining and Music Experiences 

Imagine you’re lunching at McDonald’s. What’s playing on the stereo? Now, say you’re at a fancy sushi restaurant. Do you want to hear the same music, or would you prefer tunes that match the atmosphere? 

According to our findings, what someone prefers listening to depends on the dining experience they’re having. Our survey participants perceived instrumental music at fast-food establishments most likely to improve their dining experience (46%). While 68.7% felt it was most appropriate to listen to classical music during a fine dining experience, 67.7% agreed that instrumental was fitting. 

Fast-casual restaurants are booming, and they offer something unique: healthier food options with fast speeds and cheap prices. Interestingly, 42.5% of people wanted to eat with pop playing in the background at this type of establishment. Over 44% of patrons also favored pop music during casual dining. 

Music Disapproval 

When was the last time you heard lousy music during a dining experience? One in 5 who heard a disliked tune came across the music at a sports bar or pub. Casual dining venues (14.4%) were the second most likely to play disagreeable beats. So, why does some music strike the wrong chord? 

Nearly 67% of people disapproved of the music they had heard at a restaurant because it was too loud. Mood-setting songs can be lovely, but once they reach a certain decibel, diners may struggle to taste their food, and conversations can prove difficult to hold. This is unlikely to change, as restaurants know increasing their music's volume also increases the speed at which guests chew their food, ultimately allowing them to turn over tables more quickly. Volume aside, 21% of participants also took issue with poor sound quality, and nearly as many (20.8%) reported hearing an artist they disliked.

Cuisine and Genre Association

Our findings showed that Americans prefer music to match their restaurant environment; the same is true of cuisine. People in our study were asked to pair popular cuisines with music genres they considered most fitting for each type of food. Instrumental was the top choice for six of the 12 cuisines, including Italian, Japanese, and Mediterranean. 

Dining Behavior

Research shows that music affects emotion: Listening to an upbeat song can drag us out of melancholy. But do tunes impact how we conduct ourselves in restaurants? Yes. 

According to our participants, the best recipe for a positive restaurant experience was soft music. Guests will spend more money on food and alcohol, and they’ll tip your staff well. Additionally, 48.2% of people reported that mellow tunes improved their mood, and 65% felt more relaxed. But people will spend more time at your establishment, so if it’s a full house, and there’s a line out the door, turn up the volume – 55.1% shortened their visit due to loud music. Profane lyrics created a similar outcome, driving 48.1% of people to eat faster and spend less money. 

I’ll Have a Side of Music 

Music can transport us – to a memory or an emotion we want to experience. Our study provides insight into what Americans want to listen to when they dine at different restaurants. But it’s about more than what people enjoy vibing to while they eat; music affects dining behavior. Knowing which genre complements your eatery’s cuisine may be the difference between a five-star review and a noise complaint. 

Now that you’re aware of the genre that best suits your restaurant, which artists belong on your business’s playlist? Cloud Cover Music will help you curate a lineup that engages your customers. With our clean, ad-free, targeted music and overhead messages, people will spend just the right amount of time at your restaurant. 

Methodology and Limitations

We collected responses from 941 respondents who indicated they had dined out at least once a month, on average, over the last year. Of our respondents, 51.7% identified as female, and 49.1% identified as male. Remaining respondents identified as nonbinary or chose not to identify their gender. The average age of respondents was 42.1, with a standard deviation of 11.3.

These data are survey-based and depend on the self-reported recollections of respondents regarding their everyday life. Limitations with such data include telescoping, selective memory, and exaggeration. We also find that geography can also play strongly into the choice of music. We did not statistically test our data, and our campaign is exploratory. The data were not weighted. 

Fair Use Statement 

Our research is like the perfect playlist; you want to share it. We enjoy providing content and graphics, so freely share with others but only for noncommercial purposes. And give credit where it’s due: Link back to this page and cite the authors. 

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