Healthy Diet & Nutrition

How Music Volume Affects Whether You Order a Cheeseburger or a Salad

Have you ever felt like music effected your choices while shopping or at a restaurant?

A recent study found that the volume of ambient music has a systemic effect on consumers’ preferences for healthy vs. non-healthy foods. A release from the university explains that music volume is proven to directly impact heart rate and arousal. Softer music has a calming effect, making us more mindful of what we order. This typically results in healthier choices, such as a salad. Louder environments increase stimulation and stress, inspiring diners to crave a greasy cheeseburger and fries instead.

The study, done at the University of South Florida and published in May 2018 in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Sciences, quotes Dipayan Biswas, PhD, marketing professor at the University of South Florida Muma College of Business, as saying,

“Restaurants and supermarkets can use ambient music strategically to influence consumer buying behavior.”

Dr. Biswas conducted the study at a café in Stockholm, Sweden, which played various genres of music in a loop separately at 55Db and 70Db. The menu items were coded as healthy, non-healthy and neutral, the category used for items like coffee or tea.

During the experiment conducted over several hours across multiple days, researchers found 20% more restaurant patrons ordered something unhealthy when exposed to louder ambient music compared to those who dined during a quieter time.

Here’s how soft vs. louder music stack up next to each other:

55 Decibel Speed Music

70 Decibel Speed Music

295 Items Sold254 Items Sold
Healthy Food Orders: 32%Healthy Food Orders: 25%
Non-Healthy Food Orders: 42%Non-Healthy Food Orders: 52%
Neutral Food Orders: 26%Neutral Food Orders: 23%

While previous studies have looked at the impact of lighting, scent, and decor on food sales – this is the first study to look specifically at how sound volume dictates healthy vs. non-healthy food choices. These findings allow restaurant managers to strategically manipulate music volume to influence sales. So don’t lose yourself to the music!

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