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Restaurant music actually affects what you order, study finds

A new study has found that music volume has a significant impact on people’s food choices, and when soft music is playing in the background of a restaurant, people prefer healthy options like salads.

More and more marketing tactics are revolving around ambiance and studies have shown how big a role music plays in a customer’s overall experience.

Retail atmospherics, as it’s called, is gaining popularity and becoming an important strategic tool for businesses.

Now, researchers from the University of South Florida found that music volume directly impacts heart rate and influences food choices.

The study was published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.

Loud music drives customers to choose unhealthy options like burgers and fries because the volume raises heartbeat and stimulation.

Quiet music, on the other hand, promotes relaxation and customers are more mindful of their food choices.

For the study, the researchers, led by University of South Florida marketing professor Dipayan Biswas, conducted two field experiments in a cafe in Stockholm.

The cafe played music at two different decibels, either 55 or 70. Fifty-five decibels is similar to quiet background talking or the hum of a refrigerator.

Menu items were categorized as healthy, non-healthy, and neutral, and the researchers recorded what customers ordered over several days to see how the difference in volume impacted orders.

When the volume was turned up to 70 decibels, 20 percent more of the cafe patrons ordered something categorized an unhealthy.

The study adds to the growing body of research on atmospherics which shows how restaurants and stores can influence customers choices and spending.

“Restaurants and supermarkets can use ambient music strategically to influence consumer buying behavior,” Biswas said.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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