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Music Is Making You Eat More…Yes, Really.

Here’s how music influences our food and drinks intake. Food services, take note of this!

Photo by life is fantastic from Unsplash

Have you found yourself in a bar with the music so loud you just couldn’t do anything else but drink (or eat)?

That’s what businesses hope you’ll do.

The louder the music the more drinks you’ll consume.


Music has its own way of influencing our behavior, let’s see how.

Listening to music while eating can increase your food consumption

When you eat in front of the TV you increase your food intake because it distracts you from feeling you’re full. Music can have a similar effect.

A study tracked people’s eating habits for 7 days. Each time they had a meal they had to fill a brief survey about their food intake and environmental conditions. Plus, whenever they accompanied their meal with music, they answered some additional questions: “what’s the speed and volume of the music you listened to while eating?”

Results show that music increases the amount of food and beverage we consume for any kind of meal (either meal or snack).

When people ate listening to music, they could consume even 10% more food than without music. And this happened to both normal-weight and obese people.

The higher food intake thanks to background music has been shown in other studies as well (here, and here).

So what musical features make people eat and drink more?

  • Volume — Loud music: people drink more and faster when they’re in a loud environment (88dB) compared to a normal background noise (72dB). Music can enhance their arousal level which will transfer to their consumption behavior. Plus, if people can’t talk as much as they’d like because of a high volume, they might drink more to pass time (or compensate for the lack of interaction). In fact, a 22% volume increase in a bar’s background music makes consumers drink 26% faster.
  • Tempo — Fast music: people also consume more food and drinks when they‘re exposed to fast-paced background music. It takes time for us to experience a full stomach so when we eat faster, we’ll get more food inside our bellies before our feeling of satiety kicks in.
  • Musical Style — Classical music: playing background classical music (compared to Top-40 hits for instance) induces people to spend more on food and drinks no matter if it’s inside a wine shop, a university cafeteria, or even in an African-themed restaurant. Classical music persuades people to think of a higher quality and class environment which then translates into spending more than people otherwise might.

Is it just me or bars and restaurants have actually become too loud these days?

Don’t apply this just mindlessly — the importance of musical fit

While the above-mentioned studies show certain musical features relate to an increase in food consumption, you can’t just add them together and expect a stream of money to come to you.

Ambiance in a bar or restaurant is the key ingredient

People keep coming to restaurants and bars because they appeal to their hearts.

They get a certain feeling while being there. It might be a feeling of relaxation, excitement, thrill, surprise, or any other emotion they’re seeking, and ambiance is key to getting people in the right mood.

And here’s where music comes into play.

There has to be a musical fit between the establishment’s motto and their sound palette. All elements at a bar/restaurant say something about the place: the type of furniture, the decoration, the colors being displayed, and so does music contribute to the brand’s image.

Photo by Robert Claypool from Unsplash

Take the Hard Rock Café as an example.

They have wooden furniture, musical elements decorating their walls all over the place and a chill atmosphere to sit and chat with your friends. So if you add classical music, do you think their revenues will skyrocket?

Just because classical music has consistently been shown to increase people’s purchase intention, it doesn’t mean it will apply in every possible scenario.

Always consider if the music is synced with the brand’s message.

You won’t be seeing classical music in a Burger King or loud heavy metal in a luxurious restaurant, and there’s a reason for it.

Musical fit is paramount to get the best results.

Do bars and restaurants profit from using music strategically?

Businesses want their customers to have a good time at their establishments. If they enjoy their stay they’ll likely recommend it to others and probably come back again, which helps raise their profits.

Happy customers, happy bills.

One study found that slow-paced and enjoyable music (from the customer’s POV) encouraged people to spend more on food and drinks. Clients will spend more time and money at the restaurant if they like their music ambiance.

If you are unsure which type of music to put, another study might help you set your playlist. This study revealed that classical and jazz music leads to higher spending than having pop or no music at all.

Just consider that this research focused on one restaurant changing its background music every night for a couple of weeks, which led to eventually finding the right musical fit for that establishment.

In general, classical music is especially powerful to get people to open their wallets.

When do you usually hear classical music?

At fancy places, right?

And this association serves businesses well.

By setting the customer’s mind to think of their establishment as a prestigious place thanks to music, this genre will influence them to behave accordingly…buying more expensive products (or just spending more).

Hard Rock Café has been using some of these musical features to their advantage because it fits their ambiance style. They’ve seen that playing loud and fast music makes customers talk less, consume more, and leave quickly. It has been a perfect formula for them to raise their revenue.

Takeaway — Music is changing your food consumption

People’s listening experience while eating influences the amount of food they put in their bellies.

But not just any kind of music will do the trick.

Studies show that by changing the volume, the tempo, and the genre, restaurants and bars can benefit from music’s subtle (and powerful) persuasion on their customer’s behavior.

Loud and fast music has been shown to benefit establishments that base their profit on having their customers talk less, drink fast, and leave quickly. In other instances, slow and classical music gets people to spend more, especially in fancy restaurants.

Next time you go into a bar or a restaurant, see if you can identify the background music they’re using:

  • What musical features are they using more often?
  • Does it fit with the ambiance?
  • Can you see if it’s influencing people’s behavior?

Take your time and see if they’re harnessing music’s power for their benefit.

Or you could always mess with them and say

“Could you keep it down? I’m trying to drink”

(Don Draper)


By Pavle Marinkovic on .

Are you curious about the world of sound and music? Learn how music can enhance a plant’s growth, the way sound changes our sense of taste, understand the music industry, and much more! Join my newsletter to embark on this journey of sound awareness.

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