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What Kind of Overhead Music Should You Play In Your Fast Casual Restaurant?

Posted Dec 21, 2017 10:51:39 AM

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Customers don’t always pay attention to fast casual restaurant overhead music, but that doesn’t mean they’re not affected by it. Subconsciously, the music you choose for your restaurant can impact what items you sell, how big your tickets are, and how long your customers stay.

"Brand fit music,” (music that matches your brand's persona) lifts restaurant sales by over 9%. 

Restaurant managers have a chance to grow their sales and create a better customer experience just by thinking carefully about their music choices.

Here are a few questions restaurant owners can ask about ambient music and how it can help their business grow.  

Will Music Choices Really Have an Impact on My Sales?

One of the first questions owners ask when they start researching fast casual restaurant overhead music is whether or not it will have a significant impact on their sales. Several studies have shown how restaurants see customer behavior change when they adjust their music settings.

For example, one wine store increased sales when it switched from Top 40 music to classical music. Interestingly, customers bought the same number of wine bottles either way, but chose more expensive options. This proves that an overhead music playlist of classical music created a feeling in customers that modified their behavior.  

Additionally, customers listening to holiday music in a store bought more seasonal items than those who did not. Once again, the music pulled on their emotional heartstrings and the seasonal spirit, which lead to more purchases. That isn’t just a psychological response; it’s an emotional one as well.

Creating an emotional response can be significant for stores trying to push their holiday items or boost their average tickets.  

Is the Music Tempo as Important as the Genre?

The pace of your overhead music also has a strong impact on how your customers eat and drink. Choosing the wrong speed could have different impacts on your diner’s experiences even if you pick the right genre, volume, and mix.

The National Restaurant Association recently shared some eye-opening statistics about customer behavior and music:

  • Customers chew food 30% faster when they listen to uptempo music, decreasing eating times and increasing table turnover.
  • Men buy more drinks when they listen to uptempo music and drink them faster.
  • Customers increased the average ticket size of their bill by 23% while listening to slower music. This is attributed to customers buying more drinks and other add-ons (like dessert and coffee) that typically have high-profit margins for restaurants.

One strong example of pace affecting business is Tin Drum Asian Cafe in Atlanta. The team at Toast recently shared how owner Steven Chan chooses the soundtrack overhead music at his 12+ locations in the southeast.

Chan grew up in Hong Kong and wanted to create a similar vibe to the one he felt wandering through the streets as a boy and stopping at food stalls along the way for dinner. Instead of focusing on songs, he focuses on a feeling, and says the sweet spot for a song in his restaurants typically means has around 120 beats per minute.

As you can see, the solution isn’t always to play high-energy songs that get people excited. Some restaurants might want to encourage people to stay longer to have another drink and keep talking. However, when it comes to fast casual restaurant overhead music, where the goal is often to move customers through as quickly as possible, faster music is typically better.

Can I Also Adjust Music Volume to Change Customer Behavior?

Like the tempo, the volume of your music can have a significant impact on how your customers react in your restaurant. Louder music tends to drive customers out of the business faster, which might actually be the goal for some fast casual restaurants.

You might want to turn tables faster and make room for other customers by increasing the volume during busy hours.

Customers are unable to comfortably keep talking, so they move from your restaurant to someplace quieter to continue their conversations.

However, the benefits of turning tables can also have drawbacks. The same studies that discovered the benefits of louder music also found that appetites are lowered when loud music plays and customers aren’t able to perceive taste as well. Your customers might order less or enjoy their food less, reducing the likelihood that they will return in the near future.

This means that restaurant owners need to strike a delicate balance when it comes to volume. The music needs to get customers moving and encourage them to eat faster, without creating a negative experience and reducing ticket amounts.    

Are There Any Negative Effects to Choosing the Wrong Music?

Some owners and managers might stick with any type of ambient music, assuming that the tempo and feeling that it creates will automatically generate positive results -- and at its worst, produce neutral results. However this is simply untrue.

According to the industry blog FastCasual.com, playing inappropriate music for your brand can reduce overall sales by 4%. Considering playing the right music can increase sales by 5%, brands stand to face a 9% difference in sales between their competition just by making poor music choices or failing to dedicate enough time to investing in the right fast casual restaurant overhead music.

Simply choosing uptempo music to move customers through your restaurant can have damaging effects if it’s not the style or genre that your customers prefer.

Restaurant owners and designers should consider their target demographics, ages, income levels, and music preferences before selecting something to play.

Ideally, the music choices of your target audience will match that of your restaurant brand, or you may need to think about how you’re reaching and selling to your customers.  

The team at Spectrio understands the importance of choosing the right music genres and levels for your fast casual restaurant. This is why it works with customers not just to create the best overhead music systems, but also to find matching playlists to drive results.

Contact us today to see how we can help you select the overhead music that will grow your sales and create the best customer experience possible.

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