The Real Reason Some Restaurants Blast Music

Food is indisputably the centerpiece of every great restaurant. But to get diners returning again and again, restaurant ambiance plays a key role, says Absolute Commercial Interiors. While things like service and décor matter, sound is also an important part of the equation. According to LS Retail, it's music that sets the mood, and there are science-backed theories that match sound with things like the way food tastes, eating speed, and even how much consumers spend on their meal. 

NPR reports the results from a University of Oxford study that showed that low-pitched sounds enhanced the flavor of bitter items, while high-pitched ones do the same for sweet. Similarly, in a study published in the Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, researchers found that diners increased their bites per minute when exposed to fast-tempo music while eating. 

Music can even encourage us to make poor menu choices, with loud music triggering a stress response corresponding to an increase in consumption of high-fat, calorie-dense meals.

Why restaurants turn up the volume

Not only can a restaurant's decibel level create a regret-filled morning after, but according to Psychology Today, fast, loud music triggers our fight-or-flight response. This sense of urgency makes us speed through our meals. Long, leisurely meals don't help a restaurant's bottom line; they need the tables to turn over quickly (via US Foods). So playing speed metal at a high volume will move customers through at a brisk pace.

Flavor Journal points out that noise is the second biggest complaint in the restaurant industry. (The first is poor service.) Indeed, more food critics, as well as customers, are calling out eateries who play their music at ear-piercing levels. Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema added noise ratings to his restaurant reviews. Acoustical engineer John Mayberry even theorized to The New York Times that restaurants used audio as a weapon, punishing the customer for not leaving fast enough.