Do you know why you order what you do when you’re in a restaurant? Study shows that background music influences your meal choices
07/19/2018 // Edsel Cook // Views

Ever wondered why you entered a restaurant in the hopes of eating a healthy salad, only to find yourself chowing down on a greasy burger? According to a report from The Daily Mail, the music playing in the background of the establishment could be subconsciously affecting your choice of product.

American researchers found that music exerts a subconscious effect on your decision-making process when it comes to picking meals. In their experiment, louder background music led customers to order burgers and other unhealthy food.

Meanwhile, quieter tunes are associated with healthier orders like salads. The track itself does not appear to be as important as the volume of the song.

The tempo of the music is known to be connected to the excitement levels of the listener. Songs with fast beats get the heart pumping while slower rhythms induce the body to chill out. (Related: Why do you like specific music over others? Turns out our expectations and biases greatly impact how our brain responds to music.)

Loud music makes you hanker for unhealthy food, while soft music calms you down

The University of South Florida (USF) research team investigated how the volume of music can affect human behavior in instances such as dining. Led by Dr. Dipayas Biswas, they reported that the loudness correlated with arousal and the speed of the heartbeat.

Louder music exerts the same effect as up-tempo songs. They raise excitement and stress levels, which leads listeners to want a cheeseburger and fries.

In contrast, softer songs have a calming effect on listeners. The USF researchers reported that this stimulus makes people consider their orders with more care.


Biswas said music can be used to control consumer buying behavior. Restaurants and supermarkets can play background music that encourages people to buy differently.

"Retail atmospherics is becoming an increasingly important strategic tool for stores and restaurants," he wrote in his recently-published scientific paper. "Ambient music and background noise are especially important atmospheric elements given their ubiquity in retail settings."

Biswas held a trial at a cafe in Stockholm, Sweden. The cafe played different kinds of music. On some hours, it played the songs at 55 decibels (Db), which is softer than the hum of an air conditioning unit. On other hours, the volume was raised to 70 Db, around the same loudness as a vacuum cleaner.

The cafe's menu consisted of healthy food, unhealthy food, and neutral items. At the end of the multiple-day experiment, Biswas reported that 20 percent more people picked unhealthy food while louder music was playing in the background, as compared to the times when softer music was issuing from the speakers.

Soundtrack Your Brand system gets customers to increase spending at stores

In a separate study held in 2017, Swedish researchers found that background music can influence the buying habits of consumers. This led McDonald's, TGI Fridays, and other big food chains to install Soundtrack Your Brand, a specialized sound system that encourages customers to spend up to 10 percent more in their stores.

A Soundtrack Your Brand unit play songs that are based on the values of a store brand. Listeners feel more positive about the brand and express a higher rate of satisfaction.

The sound system was designed by Stockholm-based HUI Research. They undertook what was perhaps the biggest academic study of background music to create Soundtrack Your Brand.

"When done right, music has a major positive effect on sales, largely stemming from guests purchasing more items such as desserts and sides," remarked Sven-Olov Daunfeldt of HUI Research, the leader of the study. "Play the wrong music, and you just might find that you're alienating that very same customer and selling significantly less."

Be better informed about the ways big corporations are influencing your habits at

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