Eating at a loud restaurant could change the way you order, according to a new study

Next time you go out to eat with friends, pay attention to the restaurant’s environment and then take note of what everyone orders. According to a new study published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Sciencesthe louder the music in the restaurant, the unhealthier patrons’ choices will be.

Dr. Dipayan Biswas, marketing professor at the University of South Florida Muma College of Business, conducted this study at a café in Stockholm, Sweden. The café played different music selections ranging from soft, ambient melodies hitting around 55 decibels, to louder, more energetic tunes that peaked at about 70 decibels.

After coding the items on the café’s menu into “healthy,” “neutral,” and “non-healthy” categories, Dr. Biswas’s team then observed customers over a series of days. What they found was that 20% more patrons ordered unhealthy items when loud music was playing compared to those who ate at the café while softer music was playing.

Dr. Biswas concluded, "Restaurants and supermarkets can use ambient music strategically to influence consumer buying behavior."

Ordering habits and how they relate to the volume of ambient music in a restaurant or supermarket setting has mostly to do with our heart rates. The study notes that higher volumes cause an increase in heart rate and arousal, thus stimulating stress and encouraging diners to eat something comforting (ahem…greasy and delicious).

But when the ambient music is softer, patrons feel more calm and are therefore less inclined to order comfort food. Customers exposed to soft music will usually choose something healthier, like a salad.

As Dr. Biswas stated, restaurants that specialize in greasy, fatty foods will most likely benefit from a louder soundtrack than places that stick to a health-oriented menu. This is a whole new area of marketing we never knew existed.

So if you find yourself ordering something fatty yet divine the next time you dine out, the ambiance may be to blame rather than your taste buds. What an amazing excuse.

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