Pump Up the Volume but Drive Out the Diners?
An article in the Detroit Free Press reports that restaurants have been increasingly raising music volume in an effort to create a more fun, lively atmosphere and to control dining pace and consumption. But according to Zagat, restaurant noise has become the number one bothersome aspect of dining out, even above poor service and high prices.
The article cites how Oxford researchers have found that sound contributes to the overall “taste experience,” and researchers hypothesize that loud noise or too much stimulation may mask our ability to taste. There also may be certain sounds or music that accentuate the eating experience, and tastes such as sweet, sour, and bitter may be associated with certain pitches, tempos, and decibel levels.
Dining out has become fully woven into the fabric of Americans’ daily food lives. Creating a dining experience that is pleasurable to all senses, including auditory, is key for restaurants to appeal to a broad range of consumers.
However, music so loud that it forces diners to yell across the table may be creating a less pleasurable taste experience, causing diners to opt out and seek alternative solutions, such as grocerants or delivery. With aging Baby Boomers totaling 20% of the population, it makes more sense for restaurants to pay greater attention to changing consumer needs, which will benefit the aging diner as well as the restaurant’s bottom line.
Our Dining Out 2016: A Comparative Look at Four Key Restaurant Channels report finds that while much restaurant food consumption today occurs off-premises, ambiance is of critical importance to the dining experience. Consumers notice the details — they see whether the tables and floors are clean, the décor is modern or tired, the menus/menu boards are readable and attractive — and this includes whether the music is too loud for convesations. These ambience details influence how consumers perceive the quality of the food and even help them to judge whether they think the food is safe to eat.