Study: Loud Music In Restaurants

I remember the exact moment when I realized music could ruin dinner, many moons ago at an unnamed restaurant in Chicago. I had just ordered smoked oysters and a plate of cheddar rillettes—the perfect start to any meal—to be followed up by chicken three ways. The wine was as glib as the company. Our table of four was enjoying a relaxing evening out in a reputedly beautiful setting.

And out of nowhere it came. Softly at the first, and then vehemently aggressive: "This ain't a song for the broken-hearted!" 

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I don't mean to pick on Bon Jovi. And it's not that I was previously unaware of how important music is to a restaurant. It's just that at that very moment, I finally understood. Everything else made sense, but the music did not.

Simple as that may sound, it may be surprising to learn that as far back as the 80s, countless scientific studies have been done on the influence of background music in a restaurant. Everything from the correlation of sound pressure and mood to how music affects food intake and duration of meals has been scrutinized, analyzed and quantified. Science truly knows no bounds. 

The latest study comes from the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science but takes a more holistic approach, finding that when the music in a restaurant is louder, diners are more prone to ordering unhealthy foods.

According to The Washington Post, the study was conducted at a café in Stockholm, where music was played on a loop at 55 and 70 decibels at different times. The researchers found that 20 percent more customers ordered something unhealthy compared to those who dined during lower volumes.

"In essence, louder music tends to make people more excited and aroused," the study says, adding that "higher levels of excitement (and stress) tend to enhance preference for high energy and high fat foods." 

The takeaway? Loud music, no matter the genre, may be the explanation for your calorie craving. Let's just hope it's not Bon Jovi.