For a long time, people have enjoyed combining food with music. Musicians performed during dinner parties in Roman times, and minstrels entertained dining guests at medieval banquets. Today musical accompaniment during meals is much more common, and the music played more varied, than ever before. If you run a hospitality business – no matter whether it is a fine dining restaurant, a hip bar or a cozy café – you know it: music plays a fundamental part in the retail mix. But how much do you really pay attention to what music you play on your premises? Do you have a sound music strategy, or do you just keep the radio on, maybe playing your favorite tunes? If you are tempted to believe that all music is the same, and what you play doesn’t really affect your bottom line – think again. There are at least five good reasons why you should have a well-thought music strategy in place:
1. Music creates the atmosphere
Music is a key element when it comes to setting the mood. The right harmonies help keep your messaging consistent, complementing your branding and integrating with your image and décor. Volume matters: when the music is loud, your guests will be unable to chat properly and will start drinking more, science says. A welcome outcome if you run a pub or club - but definitely unadvisable if you manage a fine dining or family-oriented restaurant. On the other hand, playing music at a too low volume (or –even worse!– leaving the room silent) has its downsides, too. In public spaces, music plays the important role of creating a personal, private space around guests, allowing them to chat and relax without having to feel the intrusive presence of other diners and waiting staff.
2. Frequency and volume affect the taste of food
The music you play can make your dishes taste more flavorful. Scientists have been studying the effect of music on taste for years, and found out that playing low-pitch sounds while eating makes savory dishes taste better; conversely, high-pitch notes enhance sweet flavors. Volume also plays a part: when the background noise is too loud, it impairs our sense of taste – making food and drinks taste not quite as good. If you want to heighten your dishes’ flavor, make sure you choose the right sounds (cafés or bakeries should play high-pitched songs, whereas bars and pizzerias should go for low, deep tunes), and keep the volume medium-low.
3. Songs can make waiting more pleasant
According to scientific research, music can make queuing feel less stressful. Waiting guests don’t become as anxious and stressed if there are nice, soft tunes playing in the background. Perhaps counterintuitively, slow music has been found to make time go by faster than uptempo music. If you run a busy café, make sure to start the day playing pleasant, slow music, to sweeten your guests’ mood as they queue for their morning coffee.
4. Music tempo influences eating rhythms
Background music has been found to powerfully affect people’s pace of eating and drinking: the quicker the tempo, the faster people finish their order and leave. The lesson for restaurateurs is clear. Do you run a chain of quick service restaurants or a bar, and want to turn tables quickly? Then energize your diners and speed up their eating rhythm by playing up-tempo, fast tunes. If, on the other hand, you manage an upscale restaurant, known for its romantic atmosphere, make sure you keep the music in the background low and slow. The researchers found that when soft music is playing, diners eat slowly but also tend to spend more, as they are more likely to linger at the table for dessert and coffee.
5. You can increase spending with the right beat
People use music as a powerful cue to interpret a place – and smart restaurateurs can capitalize on that. For example, research shows that restaurants playing classical or jazz music are automatically perceived as high-class -and therefore more expensive- than restaurants playing pop or rock songs. You can use this to your advantage: if you run a quick service restaurant or family-friendly diner, play contemporary pop and rock to give off a relaxed vibe. If you manage a fine dining restaurant, play classical music or jazz classics instead. You are more likely to be perceived as classy, and attract the right type of diners. Music can heavily contribute to your restaurant’s ambiance, while being relatively inexpensive and easy to control. If you run a café, bar, diner or restaurant, don’t let just anybody choose which songs should play. The head waiter may like rap, while the cook might be into blues – but before you give in to personal tastes, ask yourself: is this the right vibe? Does this music create the right atmosphere? Does it fit with what my brand stands for? Does it attract the right type of customers, and support my business goals? Think of it as seasoning: the wrong spice, or the wrong quantity, can easily ruin a dish. On the other hand, when you add the right seasoning, in the exact amount, the result can be the perfect dish that leaves diners asking for seconds.