What Beats Make you Eat?

In the case of a restaurant, its main goal is to generate as much of a revenue as possible, whilst keeping customers happy and potentially earning new ones in the future. An easy way to achieve this is through something as simple as background music. Many psychology tests have proven that music has a direct relationship in people’s consumption rates (Zullow, 1991) . Research has found that certain aspects of music, such as loudness, tempo and genre of music have significant effects on how long consumers spend in restaurants, and how much they eat and drink (Oaks, 44).

Genre plays an integral part in the restaurant business. One of the key things I noticed when working in my restaurant is that when the genre stayed with its 1940’s Big Band music, I never noticed it, and continued on with my work. However, when popular songs, like Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why” came on, I had to stop what I was doing and try to grasp what was going on at that given moment.

It did not seem to mesh with the theme of the Big Band, and it made me take notice of the music, rather than focus on doing my job. I also noticed other customers noticing the song, focusing more on the music than the food in front of them. This phenomenon is not uncommon and was shown in a study. Research shows that music with a slower tempo, like “Don’t Know Why”, entices diners to stay in the restaurant longer than upbeat songs, like “It’s Too Darn Hot” by Ella Fitzgerald (Dube, Chebat, and Morin, 1995). Listen to the songs to feel a difference in vibe, theme, and mood, and imagine eating our signature chicken dish, “Chicken Bryan” while listening to each song:


Chicken Bryan: Chicken, lemon butter, basil, sundried tomatoes, goat cheese, and veggies.


Norah Jones- “Don’t Know Why”


Ella Fitzgerald- “It’s Too Darn Hot”

After listening to each song, it is evident that “Don’t Know Why”‘s smooth jazz tones subconsciously makes the diner want to slowdown, whereas “It’s Too Darn Hot”‘ss upbeat tempo subconsciously speeds up the diner’s eating (Alpert and Alpert, 1990) . This same theory applies to other genres of music, where the more aggressive music speeds up eating, and the softer tempos slows it down (Yalch and Spangenberg, 1990) .

Research has also shown that the tempo of a song can influence how much a person eats or drinks during their stay in a restaurant. Studies have shown that in an upscale restaurant, the results showed that diners ate more quickly when fast music was playing. On the nights when slow music was playing and caused customers to slow down their eating, they also showed a trend in spending more money on alcoholic beverages (Rad0cy, 1997).

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