Why Do Restaurants Play Music? The Science of Music & Restaurant Sales

While attracting and retaining customers is the key to success in the restaurant industry, this can be challenging for even experienced restaurateurs. If you’re actively pursuing this goal, you’ve probably taken obvious steps like reworking your restaurant’s decor or changing the items on your menu. But even after doing this work, you might not get the results you’re looking for.

In truth, there’s another essential factor that is all too easy to overlook—how your restaurant sounds. If you’ve ever asked “Why do restaurants play music?” you should know that choosing the right soundtrack can deliver concrete, scientifically-backed benefits. Here, you’ll find a breakdown of five of these benefits and advice on finding the right playlists for your restaurant.


Posted on January 29, 2024

The Science Behind Restaurants Playing Music

Whether you’re ordering fast food or French cuisine, you can expect to hear background music at any kind of restaurant you visit these days. That’s no coincidence, of course—not when playing the right music can directly improve your eatery’s bottom line in ways that other strategies can’t. Here are just a few reasons why it’s so difficult to overstate the importance of music in restaurants:

Music Makes Customers Stay

According to a study by Gant on the importance of music in sales environments, customers stayed 42% longer in stores where music was playing. Better still, if the music was a good brand fit instead of random, sales increased 37%. 

Diners Come Back for the Right Music

Repeat business is a crucial source of revenue for restaurants, and the music you play can have a surprising effect on your ability to bring existing customers back. A whopping 67% of people who responded to this BMI survey thought of themselves as “regulars” at their favorite eateries. As you might assume, a restaurant’s ambiance plays a big role in encouraging these people to stop in for a meal—and music can go a long way towards creating the right atmosphere.

Curated Playlists Drive More Sales

In a customer study focusing on a global restaurant chain, sales increased by 9.1% when these restaurants put on a playlist of hit songs and more obscure tracks, all of which were carefully selected to fit its brand. But when these restaurants played a mix of random hits, sales actually fell by 4.3% in comparison to sales at restaurants playing no music whatsoever.

Background Music Can Influence Purchases

When diners stick around longer than they usually would, there’s a good chance they’ll also spend more. Based on the BMI survey, 60% of restaurant patrons would pay for additional food and drinks when the environment was filled with enjoyable background music.

How to Build the Perfect Restaurant Playlist

Despite these advantages, hitting play is hardly an “instant win” for restauranteurs. Instead, you’ll need to pay close attention to what you’re playing and how you’re playing it. To create a soundtrack that matches your business needs, you’ll want to:

1. Match the Music to Your Restaurant

“Don’t Stop Believin’” is the perfect song for Friday night at a crowded sports bar, but it’s far from ideal for fine dining by candlelight. Why do restaurants play music that’s highly tailored to their environment instead of just sticking to the top of the charts? To avoid situations like this! You may love Journey, but that doesn’t make it ideal for your restaurant. Think about the genre and mood of your ideal soundtrack and how it sets the tone for your diners. 

2. Think Carefully About Volume and Tempo

You already know why finding the right volume for your background music matters, but the tempo of your restaurant’s soundtrack is equally important. According to one Danish study, fast-paced music may also subconsciously encourage patrons to eat faster. Additionally, songs with distinct, separate notes motivate people to eat more quickly than they would while listening to music where one note flows smoothly into the next.

3. Invest in Audio Equipment

No matter how good your restaurant’s playlist is, it won’t give you the benefits you’d expect if your customers can’t hear it. Because of that, you’ll need to invest in a decent sound system to optimize your background music strategy.

4. Make Sure You Have a License

Think you can play whatever you want because you have a Spotify subscription? Think again. Personal streaming services aren’t legal for business use. Even if they were, they still wouldn’t offer business-centric perks like curated commercial playlists. To play recorded music in your restaurant, you’ll need sound recording, publishing, and public performance licenses—or a streaming solution that covers all three in the US and Canada.


How Does Live Music Affect Diners?

There’s no denying that live music can add excitement to the dining experience, and that excitement translates into real-world value. A survey of Canadian restaurant patrons found that 75% of people are very likely to stay at a restaurant longer if they enjoy the live music being played there. But since most restaurants can’t offer this kind of music whenever they’re open, you’ll need another way to access the benefits described in this article—and Soundtrack can help.

How Noisy Is a Restaurant?

Not every restaurant has the same noise level, but background noise at eateries has gotten louder in recent years. There are many factors behind this shift, including everything from evolving customer preferences to trends in modern restaurant decor. While most restaurant owners can’t afford improvements to their buildings’ acoustics, they can control what sounds their patrons hear with the help of background music.

How Loud Should Music Be in a Restaurant?

Choosing the right volume level for your restaurant’s music is a balancing act. While loud music can improve turnover, it might also suppress diners’ appetites, making them less likely to order extra drinks or desserts. Because of that (and to protect your patrons’ hearing), your soundtrack should be no louder than 70-80 decibels.

Where Can I Legally Stream Restaurant Music?

Are you looking for a music streaming service designed for National Restaurant Association members and other commercial users? If so, Soundtrack Your Brand has you covered. We’re the only commercial music service that allows businesses to stream the songs and playlists they want on demand.

Get the Perfect Ambience with Soundtrack Your Brand

Running a restaurant can be hard work, so you shouldn’t have to spend valuable time putting a playlist together by yourself. Soundtrack Your Brand offers a wide selection of licensed playlist options for restaurants, and whether you need to set a romantic tone for dinner or some casual ambiance for a few drinks, we have the perfect playlist for you. 

When you subscribe to Soundtrack Your Brand, you’ll get access to over 1000 of our curated playlists in addition to the ability to customize your perfect background track with our extensive catalog. Along with that, Soundtrack Your Brand boasts an intuitive interface, an explicit lyrics filter, and the ability to import existing Spotify playlists with ease. 

So, why do restaurants play music? The answer is simple: no matter how much effort you put towards improving your restaurant in other ways, you’ll be holding yourself back if you don’t have the right soundtrack to tie everything together.

If you’re ready to play music in your eatery for the first time or to take your existing musical accompaniment to the next level, sign up for a free trial today!

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