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Background Music Strategy

10 Minute Read

How to Choose the Best Music for Restaurants

by Ryan Santangelo, Ph.D., Co-Founder & CEO, Dynamic Media

music for restaurants

It’s no secret that music plays a big role in setting the mood for any occasion. This is especially true for restaurants, where the right music can create the type of relaxed and welcoming atmosphere that drives sales and keeps your guests coming back.  

However, with so many options available, it can be hard to know which music is the best music for restaurants. Beyond that, how do you know what kind of music will create the mood you want? And what do you do if you don’t know anything about music?

We’re here to help. This article will call on our 20 years in the restaurant music industry and walk you through everything you need to know about choosing restaurant music that will delight your guests and your dazzle bottom line.  

best music for restaurant

Why the Right Restaurant Music Is Important

Your restaurant’s concept is what gives it an identity and separates it from every other eatery on the block. For that reason, background music for restaurants must compliment your concept. The restaurant music you play throughout the day is equally as important as your staff, decor, atmosphere, and food.  

In an ambitious 2016 study by HUI Research, researchers analyzed close to two million transactions from 16 well-known chain restaurants. The study found that restaurants with a carefully selected restaurant music playlist catered to their customer’s demographics can increase revenue by more than 9 percent.

In another study, more than 2,000 restaurant guests rated how brand-specific restaurant music and a random selection of tunes impacted their experience. According to the results, guests’ satisfaction and well-being increased exponentially when they listened to a curated restaurant music playlist that fit the restaurant’s brand compared to random popular music. 

When choosing music in restaurants, owners and general managers should always select a genre that matches their demographics.

How to Select the Best Background Music for Restaurants

When it comes to curating the best background music for restaurants, several key factors come into play. Volume, speed and tempo are crucial elements that can significantly impact your customers’ overall dining experience.

Remember that music selection is a dynamic process that requires regular assessment and adjustment. Experiment with different volume levels, speeds and tempos to find the perfect combination that fits your restaurant’s concept and target audience. Pay attention to customer feedback and observe their reactions to the music to gauge its impact on their dining experience.

Best Music For Restaurants

Volume

Finding the right balance in volume is essential. Music should be audible enough to create a pleasant background ambiance without overpowering conversations. Consider the size and layout of your restaurant when determining the appropriate volume level. A smaller, more intimate space may require a lower volume to avoid overwhelming guests, while larger establishments can accommodate slightly higher volume levels.

Speed

The speed of music sets the pace and energy of your restaurant. Consider the dining style and target audience when selecting the appropriate speed. For fine dining establishments, slower and more relaxed tempos can create an elegant and tranquil atmosphere. If your restaurant aims for a lively and energetic vibe, a faster speed can generate excitement. Match the music speed to the desired dining experience, whether it’s a leisurely meal or a vibrant gathering.

Tempo

The tempo of music influences the mood and rhythm of your restaurant. Different tempos evoke varying emotions and can shape the overall ambiance. The human ear can distinguish sounds between 40 and 300 beats per minute (BPM). Lower than 40 BPM, and there’s no discernable pattern. Higher than 300 BPM, and you only perceive a monotonous tone. Research shows the most popular music ranges between 117 BPM and 122 BPM.

Upbeat and exciting music creates a more dynamic atmosphere, perfect for casual and bustling dining spaces. On the other hand, slower and more melodic tunes can instill a sense of relaxation and sophistication in fine dining establishments. Consider the desired atmosphere and the type of cuisine you offer when selecting music with the appropriate tempo.

Keeping the Right Volume Enhances Customer Experiences

    Finding the right restaurant music that matches your brand is just one part of the overall experience. Volume is also essential in maintaining a positive atmosphere that your guests will enjoy.

    Volume should be balanced; it should create a pleasant background ambiance without overpowering conversations. The size and layout of your restaurant also influence the appropriate volume level.

    You should keep your restaurant music at a decibel level that is pleasant for your customers and employees. In most eating establishments, the noise level (including ambient sound) should not exceed 70 decibels. However, more vibrant bars and eateries can keep the volume between 75 and 80 decibels and still maintain a degree of comfort for their patrons. The big thing to keep in mind is you should always pay attention to how your guests interact with the music in your restaurant so you can adjust the volume level when needed. 

    The Effects of Loud Restaurant Music

    Regarding background music for restaurants, it’s been found that louder music tends to drive customers out of their seats faster. How you use this knowledge depends on what type of restaurant you run. If you’re a fast-casual restaurant, you may prefer to turn tables faster and make room for other guests by increasing the volume of your restaurant music during peak hours.

    However, turning tables with loud music in restaurants also has some drawbacks. In another study, researchers found that playing louder restaurant music can lower a person’s appetite, as customers aren’t able to perceive taste as well. Guests may order less food or not enjoy the taste as much in the presence of loud music, reducing the likelihood of returning in the future. 

    This means restaurant owners and managers must strike a delicate balance of the music volume in restaurants. The best music for restaurants can encourage guests to eat faster without creating a negative experience and reducing ticket amounts. 

    SiriusXM Music for Business Can Help You Find the Best Music for Your Restaurant

    When you need the best music for your restaurant, look to SiriusXM Music for Business. Our music streaming services for restaurants are the perfect solution for any restaurant owner or manager looking to perfect their ambiance and atmosphere for customers. With 240+ stations of commercial-free music and over 10,000 Pandora playlists, there’s something for all your demographics. And, because SiriusXM is a professionally licensed business music service, you’ll never have to worry about complex licensing laws or ads. Don’t leave your restaurant music up to chance – start streaming with SiriusXM Music for Business today.  

    Understanding Speed and Tempo Can Help You Curate Your Restaurant Music Playlist

    The pace of background music for restaurants also substantially impacts how customers eat and drink.

    The speed of music sets the pace and energy of your restaurant, and it should match the dining style and target audience. Tempo influences the mood and rhythm, with different tempos evoking varying emotions and shaping the overall ambiance.

    Focusing on the wrong speed could have different impacts on experience, even if you play the right genre, volume, and mix.

    The following are a few eye-opening statistics regarding customer behavior and music for restaurants:

    • Customers chew their food nearly 30% faster when hearing up-tempo music, decreasing eating times and increasing table turnover.
    • Men buy more drinks and drink them faster when listening to up-tempo music.
    • Customers increase the average ticket size of their bill by 23% when listening to slower music. On average, these customers bought more drinks and other add-ons like dessert and coffee that typically carry high-profit margins for restaurants.   

    So what does this mean? If you prefer to get more people in and out of your restaurant quickly, you can focus your restaurant music playlist on face-paced songs played at a louder volume. On the other hand, if you want to entice guests to order more high-priced food and beverages, like a vintage bottle of wine, the music you play in your restaurant should be softer and down-tempo, such as classical music.

    Determining what you want to achieve with your restaurant music will help you reach your goal faster and select the right speed and tempo. Additionally, you may want to use both techniques to achieve different purposes throughout the day.

    The Best Music for Restaurants

    We’ve discussed how music psychology, volume, speed and tempo inform the selection of the best music for restaurants. Now let’s look at the best music genres. We’ll tackle this review with an establishment-by-establishment approach.

    Fine Dining Music

    The best fine dining music enhances the sophisticated atmosphere while not overpowering the conversation or distracting from the cuisine. Some of the best music genres for fine dining restaurants include:

    • Classical Music: Classical music has long been associated with elegance, refinement and sophistication. Its rich melodies and intricate compositions can create a timeless and cultured atmosphere in a fine dining setting. The soothing sounds of composers like Mozart, Bach and Chopin can provide a sense of tranquility and add a touch of class to the dining experience.
    • Soft Jazz: Soft jazz is another popular choice for fine dining establishments. Its mellow tones and smooth rhythms create a relaxed and intimate ambiance. The gentle sounds of instruments like the piano, saxophone and trumpet blend harmoniously to set a sophisticated mood without being intrusive.
    • Instrumental Music: Instrumental music, particularly gentle instrumental pieces, can be an excellent choice for fine dining establishments. By removing lyrics, instrumental music allows the focus to remain on the food, conversation and overall atmosphere. Ambient instrumentals, classical instrumentals or even modern instrumental compositions can create a refined and soothing backdrop for patrons to enjoy their meals.

    Examples of fine dining music from the SiriusXM Music for Business catalog include:

    • Channel 66 — Smooth Jazz
    • Channel 67 — Classic Jazz
    • Channel 76 — Symphony Hall
    • Channel 355 — Met Opera Radio

    Fast Casual Dining Music

    Fast casual dining establishments often benefit from music genres that reflect a more contemporary and upbeat vibe. The right music creates a sense of energy and enhances the casual dining experience. The best music genres for fast casual dining establishments include:

    • Rhythm and Blues: R&B music offers a smooth and soulful sound that can elevate the ambiance of a fast casual dining establishment. Its melodic beats and captivating rhythms create a comfortable and enjoyable environment for patrons. A blend of modern and classic R&B hits will resonate with a wide range of customers.
    • Pop Music: Pop music is a versatile genre that appeals to a broad audience, making it an excellent choice for fast casual dining establishments. With its catchy melodies and upbeat tempo, pop music can create a high-spirited atmosphere. It offers a mix of popular hits from various artists, ensuring there’s something for everyone. Pop music can keep the energy and mood high.
    • Hip-Hop: Hip-hop music has become increasingly popular and can add a trendy and contemporary vibe to a fast casual dining establishment. Its infectious beats, rhythmic flow and expressive lyrics can engage and energize patrons. Hip-hop playlists resonate with younger audiences while appealing to a diverse customer base.

    SiriusXM’s offerings include all the best music genres for fast casual dining, like:

    • Channel 02 — Top 40 Hits
    • Channel 12 — PopRocks ’90s/2000s Pop Rock Hits
    • Channel 46 — The Heat
    • Channel 49 — Classic Soul & Motown

    Family Restaurant Music

    Family restaurants aim to create a welcoming and enjoyable environment for diners of all ages. The best music genres for family establishments set a comfortable tone that appeals to children and adults. Here are some of the best choices for family restaurants:

    • Oldies: Oldies music, encompassing hits from the 1950s to the 1980s, is a classic choice for family restaurants. These timeless tunes evoke a sense of nostalgia and create a warm and familiar ambiance. Artists like Elvis Presley and The Beatles can provide a backdrop of feel-good songs that parents and grandparents may recognize while introducing younger generations to music that has stood the test of time.
    • Country and Blues: Country and blues music has a down-to-earth and soulful quality that can resonate with families. The heartfelt lyrics, twangy guitars and sincere storytelling create a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The genre can contribute to a wholesome and inviting dining experience that appeals to a variety of patrons.
    • Smooth Electronic: Smooth electronic music offers a versatile option for family restaurants, providing a calm and soothing backdrop without being overpowering. Soft instrumental pieces or ambient electronic tracks create a serene environment that allows families to enjoy their meals and engage in conversation. This genre delivers gentle melodies and atmospheric compositions.

    SiriusXM’s options for family restaurants include:

    • Channel 18 — The Beatles Channel
    • Channel 53 — Smooth Electronic
    • Channel 59 — Willie’s Roadhouse
    • Channel 745 — Elvis Radio

    Background Cafe Music

    Creating the right ambiance is essential for a cozy and inviting cafe environment. The music played in the background plays a significant role in setting the mood and enhancing the overall experience. The best background cafe music includes:

    • Indie-Pop: Indie-pop music perfectly blends catchy melodies, soothing vocals and upbeat rhythms. It creates an atmosphere that is both lively and relaxed, making it an ideal choice for cafes. Indie artists provide a modern sound often characterized by its feel-good vibes. The genre’s mellow yet uplifting nature makes it a popular choice for cafes seeking a contemporary and inviting ambiance.
    • Contemporary Rock: Contemporary rock music strikes a balance between energetic and laid-back tunes, making it a versatile choice for cafes. With its powerful guitar riffs, driving rhythms and melodic hooks, contemporary rock can add an element of excitement to the cafe environment without overwhelming conversation. Contemporary artists offer a range of rock-infused tracks that cater to different tastes while maintaining an enjoyable and engaging atmosphere.

    The best music genres for cafes in SiriusXM’s collection include:

    • Channel 35 — SiriusXMU
    • Channel 714 — Indie 1.0

    Pubs

    Pubs are social spaces where people gather to relax, socialize and enjoy their favorite drinks. The music played in pubs sets the tone for the evening, creating an atmosphere that encourages conversation, dancing and anything appropriate for a “night out.” Here are some of the best music genres for pubs:

    • Alternative Rock: Alternative rock offers diverse sounds and styles, making it a popular choice for pubs. Its edgy and guitar-driven nature adds a raw energy to the pub environment. Alt-rock bands deliver an infectious mix of rock and catchy hooks that get patrons in the mood for a good time. The genre’s rebellious spirit creates an atmosphere that is both nostalgic and contemporary.
    • Dance Music: Dance music is the perfect choice for pubs that want to get their patrons on their feet and moving. Whether it’s electronic dance music (EDM), house or techno, these genres offer infectious beats and rhythms that create a party-like atmosphere. Dance music brings a fusion of electronic sounds and catchy melodies that can keep the dance floor buzzing throughout the night.

    SiriusXM Music for Business provides excellent choices for pub music like:

    • Channel 28 — Adult Alternative
    • Channel 34 — ’90s Alternative
    • Channel 52 — Diplo’s Revolution
    • Channel 694 — Pub Mix

    Fast Food Music

    Fast food restaurants have a unique atmosphere that combines speed and convenience. The music played in these establishments contributes to the overall dining experience and can create a positive and energetic ambiance. The best fast food music includes:

    • Pop Music: A versatile genre that appeals to an array of customers, pop music is an ideal choice for fast food restaurants. Its catchy melodies, upbeat tempo and familiar hooks create a dynamic atmosphere. Offering a mix of popular hits from various artists, it ensures there’s something for everyone. Whether it’s the latest chart-toppers or classic pop anthems, pop music sets a lively mood that aligns well with the fast-paced nature of fast food dining.
    • Rock Music: Rock music is a dynamic and energetic option that resonates with customers in a fast food restaurant. Its driving guitar riffs, powerful drum beats and anthemic choruses create an exciting and lively atmosphere. Rock genres such as classic rock, alternative rock or even pop-rock provide various options to suit different tastes. A mix of timeless rock hits adds energy and excitement to the fast food experience.

    SiriusXM Music for Business offers fast food music options such as:

    • Channel 16 — Pop Mix Bright
    • Channel 25 — Rock Hits
    • Channel 27 — Deep Tracks
    • Channel 692 — Rock Pop Mix

    The Psychology Behind the Best Restaurant Music

    It’s wise to consider music psychology if you want to select the best restaurant music. Music affects nearly every part of the brain, and its impact is wide-ranging. Research indicates music can evoke emotions because it activates the brain’s reward system. This releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter connected with motivation and pleasure. Other studies link music to reduced stress levels.

    Best Restaurant Music

    The effects of music go beyond just making patrons feel good. Some research shows loud music reduces people’s ability to taste, directly impacting their feelings about the restaurant. Certain articles also connect music tempo to customer behavior. Uptempo music makes men purchase more drinks, while slower-tempo songs cause people to linger and order more drinks and additional items like dessert. According to another study, on-brand music also can boost restaurant revenue.

    Music for Restaurants Can Be Curated to Fit the Time of Day

    To summarize the past two points, dining establishments can benefit from playing restaurant music with a slower tempo and lower volume to achieve higher sales of high-priced items. They can also maximize sales by improving the table turnover rate by playing slightly louder music with a faster tempo.

    But another critical aspect of background music for restaurants is matching the music with the time of day. This is known as dayparting: scheduling your restaurant music to play different selections throughout business hours to generate the most appeal.  

    Early Mornings

    Playing energetic and high-tempo background music during early hours probably won’t please your customers. Play something more relaxed and calming for breakfast to help your guests wake up naturally during their meal.

    Lunch and Early Afternoon

    For the lunch rush and early afternoon hours, slightly energetic, light, and fun tunes are great options as music for a restaurant. Lunch hours, especially on weekdays, are prime for business meetings or friends catching up with one another. Your guests should be able to have comfortable conversations during these times.

    Evenings

    After working hours, your restaurant will be more popular with individuals coming to catch a drink after work and take a break from their day. Or, depending on your establishment, it may be a popular choice for families not cooking for the night. At dinnertime, you can try to change the music you play in your restaurant to match your desired ambiance.

    Put yourself in your guests’ shoes and think about what you want to convey. Classic rock and jazz restaurant music playlists are often great choices. And, if you’re open late, playing upbeat music can keep your customers entertained and encourage them to stay and spend more. 

     

    Frequently Asked Questions About Selecting the Best Music for Restaurants

    As a streaming music leader, SiriusXM Music for Business is a valuable resource for information on the best music genres for restaurants. Read the following questions to learn more.

    Fine Dining Music

    What Is the Best Music Service for Restaurants?

    With our vast music collection and wide array of compatible devices, SiriusXM Music for Business is often the best music service for restaurants. We put you in control, providing options that other music services don’t offer, like Pandora Artist Stations.

    What Are the Best Music Genres to Play in Restaurants?

    The best music genres to play in restaurants fit your clientele’s expectations. From classical fine dining music to indie-pop tracks for background cafe music and rock tunes for fast food music, SiriusXM Music for Business has you covered with an outstanding selection of songs.

    What Is the Best Tone for a Restaurant?

    The best tone for a restaurant depends on the type of establishment. A fine dining restaurant would want a sophisticated, elegant style, while a pub would want something more upbeat, and a fast food restaurant would look for a lively, fast-paced atmosphere.

    Do You Offer Audio Systems and Installation for Restaurants?

    With almost two decades of experience in commercial audio, our team can configure an audio system to meet your exact needs. Whatever the size of your restaurant, we can provide an end-to-end solution.

    SiriusXM Music for Business Helps Fine-Tune Your Restaurant Music With Ease

    SiriusXM Music for Business is the ultimate restaurant music streaming platform. When you subscribe, you’ll get access to over 240 channels, over 10,000 Pandora artist stations and carefully curated restaurant music playlists to ensure you’re always in control of your music. Our easy-to-use dedicated streaming player makes it easier than ever to find and play the best music for restaurants of all types. You can even take full advantage of SiriusXM Music for Business’ advanced features like scheduling and channel blocking for more control over what you play, all for $26.95 a month. Learn more about SiriusXM Music for Business today.

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