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The Effects of Music on Responses to a Dining Area

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 4100 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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The Effects of Music on Responses to a Dining Area 


“It’s a good day to have a good meal” is what many of the customers think when they enter a restaurant or a café or any kind of dining area. As a layman understanding, the factors that influence a customer to like a restaurant or café would be 1. Great food, 2. Reasonable pricing with a large variety to choose from, 3. Good ambiance and 4. Good customer service. As we are here to discuss the effect of music on one’s dining experience, let us understand the influence of the atmosphere on the customer. The mood of the dining area can be set by several factors, i.e., by the décor, by the music and by the theme that determines both. Music plays an important part when it comes to recreational, hobby, profession, ceremonial, religious and social, such as parties, weddings, and funerals. Different genres of music are enjoyed by people around the world. In general, music comprises of pitch, harmony, dynamics, texture, timbre, and rhythms. Changes made to these elements result in various genres, and different expressions and form. Let us understand the effects of music in various settings and different demographic setups. For this, we need to do some market research to understand the preferences of various kinds of customers and the results of such changes done by other competitors, in this case, other restaurants. Market research provides you with all the information that is critical to making better business decisions that are more profitable. Research is important not only for big businesses with huge investments and turn-overs but also to new startups and small businesses.

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This article focuses on laboratory experiments conducted by Konecni and his coworkers on the relationship between music and the environment. Konecni made a series of experiments that demonstrated the relation between arousal-evoking of musical stimulus with arousal-evoking qualities of specific response of the experimental setting. One study was where the subjects were first insulted or treated neutrally while entering the place. Then they were treated to melodies. Both cases showed manipulations in the fake electric shocks but the subjects who faced insults and then exposed to high arousal musical gave maximum electric shocks. Another study by Ramos (1993), where the music played while customers waited for their calls to be answered influenced the number of people who stayed connected in the call or disconnected the call before it was addressed. Stratton and Zalanowski (1984) found that soothing music increased the vibrations of a group discussion as opposed to stimulating or no music. One study demonstrated that expensive wine sales increased when classical music was played rather than top picks. One study of our interest was by Milliman in 1982 were fast, slow and no music was played in a supermarket. People spent less amount on buying with an increase in their walking speed while fast tempo music was played. Also, in restaurants, meals where eaten quicker. The intake of drinks increased when slow tempo music was played.

The main experiment talked in the article was conducted in a university cafeteria. A total of 285 subjects participated in the survey. The music was divided into 5 types low-complexity new-age, high-complexity new-age, moderate-complexity new-age, moderate-complexity organ, and no music conditions. 15 students measured the complexity of 32 nonlyrical excerpts with 10 as highest complexity and 0 as the lowest complexity. The experiment was conducted for 2 days where the advice stall was set up and the number of people approaching the stall was measured. The recording was played for 2 days and four times each day. The volunteers approached the subjects with questionnaires. The results table is shown below.

The result shows that there was a positive response to the listening situation. The responses can be predicted based on the complexity of the music played. One example was mentioned where a complainant wanted the music to be turned off and was showing signs of using physical violence.


To understand the influence of background music on consumer behavior two studies have been presented in this article. Study 1. If music affects the buying behavior of a customer in a real-life environment; in a Swedish home Electronics retail store. The variables of study being with music and without music over a period of 4 days and customers were given a questionnaire to fill. It was a study conducted on 150 customers of which 85 were male and 65 females with an average age of 44 years. This was conducted during the Christmas season hence the music was selected accordingly. Four hypotheses are developed for the study. H 1. Music will affect(a)pleasure and (b)arousal. H 2. Music will affect time spent in-store and actual spending. H 3. Music will affect(a)general approach/avoidance behavior, (b) enjoyment with the store, (c)time experience, (d)contact with others, (e)purchase experience. H 4. Pleasure and arousal of consumers will predict(a)general approach/avoidance behavior, (b)enjoyment with the store, (c) time experience, (d)contact with others, and(e)purchase experience.

This shows that gender has an important role in the general approach and purchase experience as female customers are more approachable in no music environment. Also, the purchases of male customers have increased in a music environment. But there is no significant change in contacting the customers. This is a direct study on customer behavior compared to the laboratory experiment conducted by Konecni.

Study II. This can be considered as an extension of the previous study with two different tempo of the music and no music as variables and during the regular shopping season, unlike the Christmas season when shopping is at peak.

The hypotheses of Study I was further developed based on the results. H 1:2. Music tempo will affect(a)pleasure and(b)arousal, and gender will have a moderating role. H 2:2. Music tempo will affect time spent in store, actual spending and gender will have a moderating role. H 3:2. Music tempo will affect(a)general approach/avoidance behavior, (b)enjoyment with the store, (c)time experience, (d) contact with others, (e)purchase experience and gender will have a moderating role. H 4:2. Pleasure and arousal of consumers will predict (a) general approach/avoidance behavior, (b)enjoyment with the store, (c)time experience, (d)contact with others, and (e) purchase experience.

This study took into account 400 subjects with 174 males and 226 females, with an average age of 49 years.

As the result shows there is no considerable amount of change in arousal based on music tempo and no music. The overall study of both experiments says that music has an influence on the most important part of the business, i.e., purchase. Given the results from the held studies, the effect of music is different for different gender/groups, hence the retailers must be aware of the kind of music that plays in the background to improve the sales and approachability and customer loyalty and satisfaction.


 For this study, Chinese restaurants are chosen for understanding the relationships between the dining atmosphere, behavioral and emotional responses, and perceived values. The Mehrabian–Russel model (hereafter, M–R) can be used to understand the effect of the physical environment on human behavior. The model states that emotional response acts as a mediator in the relationship between environmental stimuli and human behavior. Physical environment affects an individual’s emotional state, which in turn defines the individual’s approach/avoidance behavior toward the environment. The objectives of this study are as below:

(1) Investigate the effect of dining atmospherics on behavioral intentions through positive and negative emotions;

(2) Investigate the effect of dining atmospherics on behavioral intentions through perceived value; and,

(3) Test the mediating role of perceived value in the relationship between emotional responses and behavioral intentions.

Hypotheses have been derived for this study and the R-M model has been proposed.

H1a. Dining atmospherics has a positive effect on positive emotions.

H1b. Dining atmospherics has a negative effect on negative emotions.

H2a. Positive emotion has a positive effect on behavioral intentions.

H2b. Negative emotion has a negative effect on behavioral intentions.

H3. Dining atmospherics has a positive effect on perceived value.

H4. Perceived value has a positive effect on behavioral intentions.

H5a. Positive emotion has a positive effect on perceived value.

H5b. Negative emotion has a negative effect on perceived value.

Three Chinese mid-scale restaurants were surveyed with full-table occupancies. 348 questionnaires were used. The result can be jotted down to 3 main points. Firstly, aesthetically pleasing and comfortable atmosphere can play a key role in satisfying customers’ overall experience and restaurant image. Secondly, perceived value plays a central role so while interior design and human elements were both significantly add value, it is important to upgrade employee training and education. Various visual elements must be considered when redecorating or redesigning the interior and décor such as wallpaper colors, paintings, decorative items, and interior plants to enhance the mood of the diners. Third, this study stresses on developing long-lasting relationships with customers as the emotional responses influence both perceived value and behavioral intentions.


In this research, two large dining areas are selected which have daily dining services along with beverage service functions in urban setup, i.e., office and business district in Harbin (a city in China). A questionnaire survey was conducted which was divided into two parts.1. diners’ recognition of background sound sources and 2. Their evaluation of the overall sound environment and different individual sources of sound. The questionnaire was based on a five-point scale and a total of 926 valid surveys were accepted. Analysis of Pearson-Correlation was done to determine the factors and dominant sound sources influencing the diners’ comfort based on the sound environment. Second, Pearson-Correlation Analysis and Regression Analysis were applied to derive the factors affecting the acoustic comfort of dominant independent sound sources from characteristics of the sound sources.

We can understand that the sound environment here consists of 4 types of background sounds. (a) general background music, (b) speech sound, (c) activity sound and (d) mechanical noise. From the result, we can understand that the music or sound alone do not solely determine the customer’s experience but has a significant effect on the overall experience. Importantly, the diners’ acoustic comfort evaluation was higher with no background music than with the presence of background music/noise. Various factors combined to give the ultimate experience that a customer takes home. Also, female diners had a higher evaluation on the comfort of the sound environment than male diners.

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 The author discusses whether music can enhance the crunchiness, creaminess, and carbonation of chocolate tasting. The experiment was conducted in a floor of the Musical Instruments Museum Brussels. Two different soundtracks were played, and the customers tasted the same chocolate twice without the knowledge of which sample they were tasting. The smoothness or roughness of a sound was determined based on the pitch, timbre, and loudness. A flute’s sound wave is considered smoother compared to a complex sound of a violin. 116 participants took part in this study of which 65 were female and 51 were male with an average age of 35.11 years. For taste stimuli: Four types of samples were presented at the experiment. Two formulas of chocolate samples were used for the experiment. One with 71% and the other with 80% cocoa content (both milk-free chocolate formulas). Moreover, each formula was presented in two different molds. For auditory stimuli: Two soundtracks were prepared; one representing creaminess and the other corresponding to roughness. The test was on a 7-scale basis ranging 1-very bitter to 7-very sweet with 4 being balanced.

The result shows that the creaminess, bitterness, and sweetness are influenced by the type of music played. The sweetness and creaminess are positively correlated to the creamy soundtrack whereas the rough soundtrack has a direct effect on the bitterness of the chocolate. Even though the chocolate liking had no major difference due to the soundtracks, the creamy music was liked more with tasting the chocolate samples. Thus, participants liking the creamy music might have enhanced their chocolate liking experience by a slight margin.



Speaking of background noise, people speaking in restaurants, canteens and social gatherings is unavoidable. It is understood that when many people speak in a room it increases the ambient noise which leads to everyone increasing their voice which leads to an overall increase in the ambient noise. This is called the Lombard Effect or Lombard Reflex. Along with the loudness other acoustic features such as pitch, rate, and duration of syllables also change. This results in an increase in the auditory signal-to-noise ratio(SNR) of the speaker’s voice. This causes many diners dissatisfaction in their eating experience and leaves the place exhausted. Such effects are observed even in the vocalization of animals through research. The aims of this study are to present a simple prediction model which considers the Lombard effect to answer the below questions:

1. How much will the sound pressure level of the noise from speaking persons in an eating establishment be reduced by acoustic treatment if the absorption area is increased by a certain amount, say by a factor of 2?

2.  Is it possible to give design guidelines for satisfactory or good acoustic conditions in eating establishments?

The signal-to-noise ratio SNR can be expressed in terms of the absorption area per speaking person: SNR = LS;A;1m – LN;A = -14 + 10 log(A/Ns)(dB)

The vocal effort is described to be relaxed at speech level 54 dB, Normal at 60 dB, Raised at 66 dB, Loud at 72 dB and Very Loud at 78 dB

 The quality of verbal communication is concluded to be Very Good with an SNR of +9 and considered Insufficient with an SNR of -9. An SNR of 0 is related to the satisfactory quality of verbal communication which is an ideal situation where the ambient noise level from a speaking person and the speaking level are equal.


Many types of research have been conducted to determine the relationship between music and the diners satisfactory experience, but in recent times new researches have begun to understand the effect of other unwanted noises that add up to the overall auditory stimuli. These sounds are classified as controlled and uncontrolled sounds. Prior researches have focused on controlled sounds or planned use of music based on 2 assumptions. 1. Consumers can be influenced using music, and 2. that changing the music alone can impact consumer behavior in an isolated setup rather than in a realistic scenario.

Music is only one of the many types or sound or noise that customers encounter. The music combined with other people talking, items being moved, and other clutter of noise makeup to the overall sound environment that influences a customers’ shopping/service experience. Noise is a new component in the social dimension of the service-scape, with sources such as machine/equipment noise, furniture movement, traffic/outdoors noise that infiltrates the walls and windows, which can have a negative impact on consumers and staff. Raised voices allowed for better hearing/understanding, but at the cost of one’s privacy. The research result and analysis were done based on (i) Awareness of sound, (ii) sounds and mood, and (iii) sound and time spent in the store. The study leads to two outcomes, i.e., music has no effect on consumer behavior as they cannot hear any music when their attention is focused on multiple tasks. And the other, consumers are rarely conscious of the effect of music on their behavior or experience. Some consumers have also denied the idea of being manipulated by music to increase their time spent in stores and in turn increasing their purchase values. Alternatively, better acoustics and targeted music zones would likely enhance the consumer mood more with no music.


Restaurants are no longer places for only getting great food, but also where families gather, friends connect, and businesses are discussed: negotiations are done. In this study, the conversation of diners is taken as one of the main behaviors influencing the diner’s perspective of the restaurant. To understand the relation between dining styles and conversation behavior, three dining styles are chosen. Centralized style, separated style, and dispersed style. To understand the influence of music on these dining styles six restaurants have been selected; two for each style of dining. Three restaurants had music playing in the background while three restaurants did not have any background music. The frequency of conversations have been noted down and presented in the below graphs.

Three conclusions were drawn from this study. 1. influence of dining styles on conversation behavior: Centralized dining increased the frequency of conversation, the presence of 4 or more also increases the conversation and the frequency was more in restaurants with background music than in restaurants without music.

2. increase in crowd density increases the sound pressure inside the restaurant: with background music, the separate style dining reduced sound pressure most effectively when crowd density was less, and with no background music, the separate style dining reduced sound level most effectively across the table.

3. influence of dining styles on acoustic comfort: acoustic comfort in dispersed style dining decreased sharply with increase in crowd density. With background music, the acoustic comfort was better in dispersed style with low crowd density while separated style achieved better acoustic comfort when crowd density was more than 0.12 persons/sq.mt.



While some studies were based only on typical Chinese restaurants, the size of restaurants in Europe is usually 1/3 to 1/4 of that of Asian restaurants. This could influence the acoustic comfort of diners. Moreover, the pricing of the services in restaurants also have a direct relationship with a social difference which leads to a difference in conversation behavior and tastes in music. The speed or tempo of the music can influence the speed of conversation, while some diners reported having stopped their conversations just to savor their food while listening to their favorite music being played. This can affect the acoustic comfort of the diners on a whole. Also, the emotional state of the customer can make the difference as shown in the first article, where the customers were first insulted and then treated to music. Many of them are not aware of the influence music has on their behavior or spending limit.

 Because these researches have been conducted on sample audience, the generalization cannot be made on all the diners or consumers change in behavior or satisfaction based on music. Shopping is an activity which involves walking around the aisles, some supermarkets and stores have made changes in the kind of music to be played at different parts of the store. Also taking into account the unplanned or uncontrollable sounds the quality of conversations has been influenced. The taste of food has had a positive effect with respect to the kind of music running in the background in one of the studies. The creaminess and roughness of the music made an impact on the taster where they felt the chocolate was sweeter when had listened to creamier music compared to rough music. As dining areas are also places for emotional conversations and gatherings, the loudness of the surrounding forces people to raise their voice to be heard clearly which in turn increases the overall noise in the area, as stated in the Lombard Effect. Music cannot alone give positive results as there are numerous other factors that are also governing the customer’s experience.


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