Background music serves the same function as do pleasing colours in the décor, without being as apparent. In a restaurant, however, both the selection and the volume of music call for something better than what is provided by the typical background music system. There are a number of reasons for this. Music in a restaurant serves several important functions:
- Conscious enjoyment of favourite melodies or familiar performances.
- Masking of private conversations from those at adjacent tables.
- Making an empty dining room feel less empty.
- Inducing relaxation and setting a mood consistent with the cuisine.
- Encouraging the staff to survive dull routine by providing enjoyment that does not interfere with their movements and interactions.
Patrons often recall that the solo performances of a professional musician stand out as the epitome of pleasurable accompaniment to a relaxing evening meal - as much as a bottle of the finest wine with the most delicious selection of the choicest dish. If the instrumentalist is as skilled and as dedicated as the chef, and the dining room allows one both to watch and to listen to the performer, there is no better recommendation for a restaurant than to recall such an experience to friends afterward.
In addition, researchers have found that the presence and type of background music in a dining setting can have a profound effect on the behaviour and mood of patrons.
For example, one study found that different types of music had different effects on perceived atmosphere and the amount patrons were prepared to spend. Classical, jazz and popular music were associated with patrons being prepared to spend the most on their main meal. This value was found to be significantly lower in the absence of music.
Regarding the tempo, or pace, of music, it was found that patrons waiting in line for a period of time to be seated were more likely to leave if fast tempo music was being played. The average bar bill as well as the total bill average for meal and drinks was significantly higher (up to 30%) when slow music was played, whereas fast music had a negative effect on the very profitable bar tab!
Some researchers found that when calming instrumentals were played, most patrons even claimed that the food tasted better! Reportedly, they also had fewer digestive complaints.
One business professional concluded: "You put music on because you think it makes your restaurant better. You'd pay for it just like you pay for the flowers you put on your table. But it's not a lot of money and certainly not as much as you would pay for other ambiance enhancers."