Restaurant Background Music Is a Key Ingredient for Success

Restaurant Background Music Is a Key Ingredient for Success



When a patron walks into your dining establishment, their sense of sight, smell, and sound are immediately piqued upon entering. Disrupt these senses before seating your guest and it’s likely they won’t stick around to taste test your flavorful food. If your restaurant is dirty, smelly or loud, customers will immediately take notice. And the last thing you want to hear is the dreaded music-related question, “Can you turn this garbage down?”

If you only think about the music in your restaurant or cafe in terms of being “background noise” — then think again!  Restaurant success is no longer based solely on the quality of food, but rather the overall experience.

So your food is great, but so is a competitor’s down the block. Why should someone dine with you over them? No two venues are the same, and believe it or not, music can be a key ingredient  to give your restaurant a competitive advantage, and keep your customers coming back for more.


Why a Custom Music Playlist?


If we already know that patron’s today are seeking the “overall customer experience”, then your brand and your music is where the rubber meets the road.  Those who value their brand, will no longer simply play whatever is on, and instead match their music with their brand to separate themselves from the pack.

Many restaurant brands are undergoing musical makeovers to keep pace in order to try and attract more customers, improve the customer experience and signal to consumers it is keeping up with the times. Orlando based Darden Restaurants, (owners of Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, The Capital Grille and Yard House)  is one such brand.

Olive Garden is one of their older restaurant chains that underwent a complete makeover including remodeling, altering dishes and server attire which included revamping the restaurant’s music to an Italian music soundtrack. Olive Garden’s executive vice president of marketing Jay Spenchian said; “the change is meant to evoke a feeling where it’s an Italian gathering place.”


Drive Profits


No matter the desired mood, numerous studies have established that music is central to creating the proper atmosphere and driving profits. To cite a sampling:


  • A recent CNN article showed that people chewed food nearly a third faster when listening to high-volume, fast-tempo music, potentially increasing table turnover. Also according to CNN, a French study observed that as decibel levels increased, men not only consumed more drinks but also finished each drink in less time.


  •  A study published by the Journal of Culinary Science & Technology determined that food tastes best to diners when 1) classical music is softly played, and 2) there’s the presence of subtle background “chatter.” The same study showed that the absence of music detracted significantly from the dining experience, with patrons describing something as innocuous as the “clink” of cutlery as unacceptably noisy. Music, of course, serves to mask such noise.


  •  A Scottish study published by the Association for Consumer Research found that diners increased their expenditures by 23 percent when slow-tempo music was played. Most of the additional spending went toward the drink bill, which grew 51 percent. Because drinks are typically a high-margin item, the increase in profits was especially significant.


Setting the Mood


Restaurant background music sets the tone for the experience you want your customers to have. Can you imagine walking into a trendy, dimly lit coffee house to hear heavy metal? It simply doesn’t fit.


Choose music wisely and consider these factors:


  • Emotion – Music impacts the restaurant’s energy level and patrons’ emotions. You want to create an environment where patrons feel comfortable and engaged.


  • Volume – Unless you’re a sports bar, do not install televisions simply for background noise. In most cases, it drowns out conversation. Feel free to keep televisions for aesthetics, but hit mute and accompany it with a unique music playlist.


  • Tempo – Patrons’ mannerisms and attitudes change throughout the day and your music should too. The music volume and tempo can help regulate patron activity. A faster song encourages patrons to eat quicker; softer music says, “Stay. Relax. Maybe order dessert.”


Stay Relevant and Fresh


Some restaurants change their background music monthly to remain current, others may do it more seasonally. It really depends on the venue. Patrons have high expectations, so you also want to avoid having too short a playlist as you don’t want regulars hearing the same repetitive song line-up.



Keep It Legal


While this post is about how the strategic use of music in your restaurant can increase profits, and create wonderful experiences, we feel compelled to remind you that you need to keep your music in compliance with the law.

Playing your own music can be problematic. Why? Some owners knowingly play music without the proper license required, while others are unaware that their DIY solution of programmed iPods, iPads, CDs or internet radio sites is illegal.

Ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law, and most business owners are unaware of the legalities of music copyright infringement until they’re smacked with a P.R.O.  lawsuit (Performance Rights Organizations) which quickly becomes an expensive endeavor.  Performance and usage rights are covered as a part of your business music service subscription, which ensures you’re playing your music legally.


Whether a restaurant is seeking to increase table turnover, retain patrons by fostering a soothing ambiance or liven a festive gathering, music plays a crucial role. In the end, you may think patrons don’t pay much attention to your complementing of music, decor and food – but they will when it’s terribly wrong.

Scrumptious food, appropriate lighting and decorations, as well as the right music are the key ingredients that will give your restaurant the perfect combination to keep guests returning for your restaurant’s full experience!



Share this post