Loud Music Makes People Drink More, Leave Faster

I enjoy reading a newsletter sent out by Terry Braverman, an LA-based speaker and consultant. He provided some fascinating reasons why the music in bars and restaurants is so often do dreadfully loud…it makes economic sense, in a sick kind of way. Here is a snip from his report:

Restaurants are getting noisier. That, at least, is what the critics say. If the increase in noise levels is as widespread as has been suggested in the media, then the question that we have to ask ourselves is why this should be so. According to some commentators, it is nothing more than the result of a decision by certain influential North American chefs to play the same music in the dining room that they were fond of listening to in the kitchen. However, other commentators see an ulterior motive here, linked to restaurateurs’ attempts to increase their bottom line.

As one critic puts it, “….the Hard Rock Café had the practice down to a science, ever since its founders realized that by playing loud, fast music, patrons talked less, consumed more and left quickly, a technique documented in the International Directory of Company Histories.”

Both laboratory-based research and field studies converge on the conclusion that people drink more when exposed to loud music. So, for example, the participants in one laboratory study reported by McCarron and Tierney drank more of a soft drink, at a faster rate, when loud popular music was playing at 88 dB than when it was played at a more reasonable 72 dB instead.

Another group conducted a more ecologically valid study in a couple of bars, one located in a rural area and the other in an urban environment in France. The volume of the popular music that was normally played in the bars was varied. The 120 customers whose behavior was observed ordered significantly more to drink when the music was played at 88–91 dB than when it was played at its normal level of 72–75 dB.

Noise level Number of drinks consumed Time taken to finish drink (min)
Normal (72 dB)                   2.6                       14.5
High (88 dB)                        3.4                       11.5

Thus, there is good reason to believe that there might be a direct link between the loudness of the background music and the increased profitability for the owners of those establishments who choose to play loud music.

(Reprinted from an article by Charles Spence in Flavour Journal, November 20, 2014; edited by The Weekly Manager)