According to a new study, the type of music a restaurant plays directly influences what we order. Bon Jovi > Diet.
The sensation of being serenaded by the twang of a lute, lagerphone or latin piano line has long been one of the grandest tastes of the human experience. Whether you’re suckling Porcellini in Tuscana, or poking at a ribcage in a steakhouse franchise in Cronulla, you can digest the musical and food morsels alike safe in the knowledge that this feels real good.
With that being said, it’s a form of culinary abuse. You see, the auditory manipulation of our stomachs is certainly a thing. According to the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Sciences, the louder the soundtrack the restaurant plays, the more likely we are to reach for the fun end of the menu.
The University of South Florida conducted the study at a cafe, where various genres of music were played on a loop at varying decibels. When the music was louder, researchers found that many more customers ordered something that was not good for them, compared to those who dined during the lower-volume times.
Why? Well, I’d imagine it’s because we love a soundtrack. Especially to things we really shouldn’t be doing. Like sex, or a family bucket of chicken for oneself. I mean, damn it feels good to be a gangsta. Ostensibly, the study indicates our own crazy impulses. If the cafe played Jazz, we’re all cool, daddy-o. However, insert the ambulatory guitar ramblings of Journey and we take that deep-fried midnight train going anywhere (but the gym).
According to Callie van der Merwe – CEO of DP Group, quiet is bad for restaurants, but the differences are deliberate:
“In general, fine dining restaurants play slower music at a lower, but audible level. They want patrons to stay longer. In general, the longer they stay (dwell time) the higher the spend. Too quiet, and it gives the sense that nobody likes to go there. Acoustics are critical. The noisier it gets, the louder people talk. This is called the Lombard effect. So, in this environment, the social art of conversation is the most important.
“Whereas, quick service restaurants do the opposite. They play louder music as they generally have smaller footprints and want to turn the transaction and the available tables quicker. Conversation is less important. The space is a fuel stop. Loud music also distracts diners from smelling and tasting their food.
“There are the exceptions to this rule. Places like the Hard Rock Cafe. A sit down where the profile patron expects loud music. It has the same effect though. It causes patrons to talk less, consume more and leave sooner.”
The author of the study, Dipayan Biswas, has a further clue regarding the use of tunes to manipulate us: “Restaurants and supermarkets can use ambient music strategically to influence consumer buying behaviour…these findings allow restaurant managers to strategically manipulate music volume to influence sales.”
According to Biswas: “…these findings allow restaurant managers to strategically manipulate music volume to influence sales.”, which ok. But, if you want to donate your genius to the scientific world of restaurants, how about you figure out why our food never turns up when we expect it to.