Making a profit from sound and music in gastronomy


Reverberating room, rattling cuttlery, people talking, that noisy group in the back with the guy laughing way too loud. And you are trying to have a romantic dinner and a good conversation in the middle of all that. Let’s take a look at sound and music in restaurants and bars!

When it comes to sound, good practice is very rare in gastronomy. The vast majority of restaurants and bars is extremely noisy. Obviously, the events taking place in a restaurant are noisy by nature. A hissing coffee machine, people talking, the open kitchen. All of them are loud. With the architectural trend leaning towards minimalist designs with hard materials such as concrete, wood and glass all that noise is amplified even more by being bounced around the room several times.

Result? A space that is not ideally suited for its intended purpose. Depending on the formula, it might be the goal to facilitate people having a good time, relaxing and engaging in a fun conversation with their friends. A noisy space triggers the release of stress hormones, speeds up heart and breath rates and makes conversing a lot harder and less comfortable.

On the plus side, researchers found that in uncomfortably loud restaurants people buy more beverages. Why? Since your conversation requires near shouting, you spend less time talking and more time drinking. The fact that raising your voice irritates the throat makes you want to hydrate it even more.

Another effect of a very loud atmosphere in a bar or restaurant is that people leave quicker. This will lower the revenues per customer, but might offer the opportunity to cover every table twice or more on a single night. The downside being that the customers were basically unconsciously scared off, which will likely result in lower customer satisfaction and loyalty.

So let’s look at the other end of the spectrum. Making acoustical corrections in a bar or restaurant can be a costly affair. So what is there to be gained by bringing down the noise?

Research has shown that people spend significantly more time on their dinner in a pleasant atmosphere. This too, raises beverage sales. And there is another way gastronomy entrepreneurs can benefit financially from a quieter atmosphere;

A recent study has shown that the typical atmosphere in fast food restaurants leads people to eating more. The researchers decorated half the restaurant with a classy, relaxing, quality feel. Lowering the lights and adding some light jazz music. The other half was left traditionally brightly lit and noisy. They found that people took in, on overage, 174 calories less in the new classy atmosphere.

A relaxing atmosphere slows people down. This means we take more time to eat our meals and as a result we feel full sooner. This is a well know dieticians’ trick; Eat your meal consciously and slowly and you will feel full sooner and eat less.

This means that if you create a relaxing, comfortable atmosphere you can offer smaller meals and still have customers leave with a fully satisfied appetite.

So if you make an effort to reduce ambient noise and create a comfortable space for your customers, you will see a rise in beverage orders, you will be able to economize on ingredients by reducing meal sizes and on top of it all: your customers will be way happier!

Now let’s take a look at music. How does music affect people while dining?

A very interesting study showed that our internal time mechanisms are so deeply affected by music, that we take less bites per minute when slow music is playing. The opposite is also true; fast paced music leads to more bites per minute being taken. So if a gastronomy entrepreneur wants to go for the “serve many, quickly” approach he will benefit from playing fast music. Should he wish to maximize revenues per client and customer satisfaction, slow music is the way to go.

Another study, conducted in a bar, showed that musical genre has great influence on willingness to spend money. A group of respondents indicated how much money they would be willing to spend on a selection of products. While doing so, different genres of music were played in the background. When classical music was playing, the respondents were willing to spend significantly more money on the products compared to when pop music was played. It is widely accepted that this has to do with association of complexity of music with specific quality segments.

All in all we have to conclude that sound and music are gravely underestimated in their effect on gastronomy enterprise performance. The smart entrepreneur, however, makes very conscious and consistent choices in this field and will find that it boosts his sales significantly!

Thomas van Straaten
Instore media consultant

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