Why Play Music in Restaurants?

As a restaurateur, you’re focused mostly on appealing to people’s sense of taste. Right?

Well, not really. When you run a restaurant, you have to focus on all five senses.


The reality is that all five of our senses are intrinsically linked. Each one influences and affects the other in a multitude of ways. Sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing are interdependent elements in the total human experience – which means all of these tools come into play when creating the perfect atmosphere for your restaurant.

So, how often do you pay attention to the sounds at your restaurant?

One study in particular reported that, “listening to a lower-pitched soundscape can help to emphasize the bitter notes in a bittersweet toffee, while listening to a soundscape with a higher pitch tends to bring out its sweetness.”

Restaurant music plays a big role in the overall guest experience. There’s a lot of research supporting the theory that restaurant music directly impacts someone’s flavor perception.

Restaurant background music can also impact the speed at which customers consume food and drink, as well as the quality and quantity they buy and devour.

Below you’ll find guidelines for making successful restaurant music choices at your restaurant, including:

  • The top five ways you can use restaurant music as a tool to boost sales
  • Determining when live music is the right choice
  • Where to turn for help if music isn’t your strong suit 
  • How to select the right sound system for your business 

5 Ways To Use Restaurant Music to Impact Sales

Music and food have been paired across cultures and throughout history.

However, unlike your restaurant’s décor, music choices shouldn’t stay the same. You’ll want to adapt volume, tempo, and genre to a variety of factors throughout your restaurant’s service. 

Sound complicated?

Don’t worry – we’re here to help.

1. Adjust Speed and Tempo

This is as straightforward as it gets. Studies show that faster paced music will make people eat faster.

Making people feel rushed is never the goal, but if your restaurant is small and requires high turnover to keep profits high, faster-paced music can help.

On the flipside, slowing it down can influence your guests to linger long enough for another cocktail, a cup of coffee, or dessert.

While there is no steadfast rule for speed, it’s important to be aware of the effects it has on guest behavior. The tempo you choose for your dinner music should be determined by the effect you want to have on guests. This will depend on what type of restaurant you are – 5-star, casual diner, or something in between.

2. Play with Volume 

Let’s start with the obvious. If your music is too loud it will drive people away. Period.

But what people don’t realize is that quiet music can also drive people away because it creates the impression that your restaurant is preparing to close up.

Between these two extremes, the effects of volume are not as straightforward as they are with pace and genre. Age and gender impact people’s preferences when it comes to volume. For example, one study showed that younger people are more prone to linger when music is louder while older people will stick around in places where the music is just in the background.

As with everything else, you’ll need to read the room and use your judgment. Adjust the volume throughout service depending on time of day and the number of diners.

3. Keep Your Music Choices on Brand

Music genre can have a huge impact on how diners perceive your brand and affect how much they’re willing to spend on food and drink.

For example, this study showed consumers are more likely to purchase higher-end wines when a restaurant is playing classical music rather than pop or top 40. The same study showed that people are more likely to purchase French wine when French music is played, and German wine when German music is played.

The most important thing is choosing music that fits with the overall vibe of your restaurant. BUT, you don’t have to pigeonhole yourself. Have a common thread that links your music choices, but enough variety to prevent the vibe from getting stale.

For example, if you’re operating a Tiki bar, design a playlist that includes a little surf rock, a little Hawaiian folk, and a little 50s rockabilly to keep it on brand without compromising variety.

4. Adapt Your Music Choices to the Time of Day

Time of day will influence volume, tempo, and genre of music. A lunch crowd in the business district might call for faster-paced music at a medium volume for privacy without impeding conversation. When switching to dinner service, that same restaurant might want a slightly louder and slower paced playlist – think old school soul – to keep the energy high for larger groups and to encourage more drink orders.

5. Choosing Music for the Size of the Crowd

The human body is an amazing thing. Did you know we naturally absorb approximately 0.3db of sound just by being in the room?

What that means is that you can go ahead and nudge that volume button up a notch when your restaurant is at capacity, then bring it down when the venue isn’t as packed.

What You Need to Know About Live Restaurant Music

Many restaurants have transitioned to playing recorded rather than live music, but higher-end restaurants can benefit from having live bands from time to time.

Live music emphasizes your attention to detail and can lead to people to linger at the table. This can mean less turnover but higher check sizes because people will stay for cocktails or wine.

There are added costs to bringing in live music, since musicians (obviously) need to be paid, and you’ll need proper stage and sound equipment. It also means a few additional man-hours as you source a roster of local musicians who fit your brand.

Depending on the type of music you plan to play, you may also want to consider investing in a small backline of instruments, like a basic drum kit and a few amplifiers to accommodate multiple musicians and decrease load-in and load-out time.

Local music listings, Facebook events in your area, and word of mouth are great ways to start the search. You can also post an ad or turn to social media to let people know you’re looking for musicians.

Major Keys and How They Set the Mood

No, we aren’t suggesting you hire DJ Khaled to spin your restaurant (but you do you, baby!).

There’s a little thing called “key” in music. It’s divided into major and minor and they sound entirely different – though you wouldn’t necessarily pick up on it if you didn’t know what to look for.

Usually, major key songs sound really happy while minor key are moodier and more introspective. You may be prone to thinking that happy is always better, but take a moment to meditate on what mood you’re trying to set in your restaurant.

Talk to Mood Music about our Restaurant Live Music at any time – we can help you decide on the right option for your space and clientele.

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