Things that can ruin a good meal: 1. Finding a hair in your food 2. Over salted anything 3. Jingle Bells playing in the middle of June. Yes, while we may tell ourselves that dining out is purely to please our taste buds, in reality a pleasant restaurant experience is a full sensory package.
The effect of background music on people’s behavior in restaurants is actually a pretty well documented psychological phenomenon. All evidence indicate that a restaurant’s background music can set the mood, determine the duration of the mean, influence people’s menu choices and, generally underlie their entire experience. And yet surprisingly few establishments act on the information available to compile their playlists. While plenty of thought goes into the wine selection, the server interactions, and of course the food menu, all too often the music comes as an afterthought.
“While plenty of thought goes into the wine selection, the server interactions, and of course the food menu, all too often the music comes as an afterthought.”
Perhaps I’m getting grouchy in my old age, but when I have a nice sit down dinner with friends, I would like to actually be able to communicate with them without having to resort to shouting across the table like a barbarian. While I appreciate that whoever put together the playlist may assume that we’re all as eager to indulge in their music choice as they are, when it becomes a serious impediment to simple socializing… well, then perhaps you need to turn it down a notch.
Same thing goes for incongruous music choices. Unless you’re deliberately making some kind of countercultural statement, it’s best to stick with music that fit the venue. While I applaud the audacity of anyone who might try to put on, say, 2Chainz at somewhere like Roosevelt Steakhouse, I also imagine that the average customer there would be pretty turned off by his particular brand of music.
While a lot of restaurants have failed to grasp the importance of a well-crafted playlist, it’s also true that are restaurants that have paid close attention in this category. Take Hakkasan for example. In addition to their admirable, almost obsessive attention to detail on everything from décor to food to what colour the waitresses’ lipstick is, they also have a dedicated music director who takes care of their auditory output in much the same way a sommelier takes care of the wine list. On the other side of the Asian food spectrum, the perennially busy cheap and cheerful ramen joint Ippudo uses high-tempo beats to churn out the covers. Ever tried to linger there during a busy lunch break after you’ve slurped up the last of your broth? It’s impossible, believe me, you feel like you’re going to have a panic attack.
So, dear reader, the next time you’re in a restaurant, take a moment to take in the music and ask yourself – do the beats match the bites?