The Science of Music

Studies show that music makes people stay longer and spend more.

Restaurateurs have long used music to set the tone of their restaurants. Observant restaurateurs may have noticed that when the music is right people spend longer dining, and even spend more. If you’re wondering whether you’re imagining it, you’re not alone. This effect has caught the attention of curious behavioural researchers, who over the past couple of decades have proved that music has a measurable effect on customer behaviour and perceptions.

In a landmark paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research, a study showed that customers stayed longer and spent more simply by changing the music. What did they do? They played slow music. As simple as it sounds, the study showed that playing slow music (72 beats per minute or slower) over fast music (92 beats per minute or faster) had measureable effects on diners. When fast music was playing the average time spent by diners was 45 minutes. When slow music was playing the average time increased to 56 minutes – a 24% increase.

The same study also showed a massive 41% increase in bar sales – perhaps indicating that people lingering longer decided to have another drink before heading home. Across the 644 customer groups included in the study at the popular restaurant, researchers noted a 15% increase in profit when slow music was playing.

This research shows that adjusting the tempo of the music you play is a tool that you can use to help control the movement of your customers. Want them to stay longer? Slow down the music. Want to turn tables, get people in and out? Speed it up.

As well as having an effect on the physical movement of customers, music also speaks volumes about the type of restaurant you run, and can even affect people’s perception of taste when they’re dining.

A study published in the British Journal of Psychology picked up on a field of research that looks at sensory inputs on perceptions on taste – designing a study that showed people’s perception of taste changes depending on the music that’s playing. In this study 250 people were asked to categorise the flavour of wine when different music was playing – was the wine Zingy / Fresh, Powerful / Heavy, Mellow / Soft or Subtle / Refined. While the wine stayed the same, the study showed that people perceived the flavour of the wine changed when different music was playing.

Spend some time thinking about what your restaurant sounds like. Get it right, and stand to increase the amount of time people spend dining, and even add to your bottom line.

As well as getting the music mix right, it’s important to note that under New Zealand law you need permission from music creators and rights holders to use their music in a restaurant or other business setting.

OneMusic offer licences that grant you the legal permission you need to use music. Holding a licence helps music creators get paid for the work they produce, and helps your business stay on the right side of the law.