MRM EXCLUSIVE: Manipulating Music to Master Table Flow

by Matteo Luppi3 Min Read

Everyone knows music is of critical importance to a restaurant’s ambience. But did you know it can also have concrete physical effects on your diners? Multiple studies show that speeding up the tempo of your music makes patrons eat faster, allowing for quicker table turnover. Conversely, slowing the tempo down can make them linger longer, and potentially run up their bill with drink or dessert orders. It’s why SoundMachine includes a simple tempo slider for all our stations and customized mixes, allowing restaurant managers to adjust on the fly or schedule peaks and valleys over the course of a day or week based on their desired flow patterns.

But how do you put this science into practice to maximize table flow and, ultimately, profits? We asked restaurant owners and SoundMachine users throughout the U.S. how they use music to keep their businesses humming.

Fast Music for Rush Hours

At peak hours, it’s important to keep business moving quickly. Increasing the tempo of your music can help accomplish that, allowing you to pump up your sales volume by serving more customers faster and better.

“Most of our customers expect top service no matter how full the restaurant is, and the last thing they want is to have to wait for their food,” said Liza Tevelev, Owner of Stuff’d Dumpling Shop in Los Angeles. “Speeding up our music gets our staff going so they can serve orders fast, plus we’ve noticed that those who grab a table are typically in and out faster when the songs are upbeat. It’s been great for us and our customers; we can ensure that they’re happy, comfortable, satisfied, and on their way to the next appointment as soon as possible. On top of that, we pride ourselves on maintaining a great work environment for our employees, and they’ve told us the soundtrack helps keep them motivated. They’ve even discovered some new favorite tracks!”

Get the Most from Each Customer

At more expensive restaurants, an extra drink or even dessert can drive up your profit margins significantly. In times like these, it may be wise to slow down your turnover in order to maximize your revenue from each table.

“We pride ourselves on providing an elegant atmosphere for our diners to enjoy their meal, and we prefer for them to experience every course so we can present our full vision,” said Jeffrey Trevino, Owner and Chef at Acú Bistro Bar in San Antonio, Texas, top photo. “We’ve found that slower music makes our customers more likely to finish with a dessert, after-dinner coffee, or cocktail, which makes for a more satisfying end to the meal for them, a more efficient use of the table for us, and a greater chance that they will return or tell their friends about the experience.”

Not Busy? Slow the Flow to Draw Customers In

Is there a time of day or week when your restaurant traffic is generally slow? Try dropping the tempo of your music so diners stay at their tables longer. You’ll likely get a bigger bill out of the customers you have, and you might even convince a few first-timers to come inside. It’s due to the psychological phenomenon of Social Proof, where people are more likely to choose a crowded restaurant over a quiet one because of an implied endorsement from the masses.

“Most of our business comes from foot traffic, and nobody wants to walk into an empty restaurant,” said Chase Waychoff, General Manager of SouthPark Grill in Charlotte, North Carolina. “When things are slow, we need to keep people around so that new customers don’t feel awkward about coming in. That said, we also don’t want to ruin our diners’ experience with slow service, so a well-timed switch to down-tempo music comes very much in handy. Our diners are naturally more inclined to stick around longer, so we can maximize their bill and maintain a busy atmosphere without compromising our service.”

Music Soothes the Savage Beast

Don’t worry about slower table flow encouraging those waiting in line to leave, as studies show that slowing your music tempo doesn’t result in increased walk-outs. That’s because an engaging, on-brand music experience makes your restaurant a more inviting place overall.

“We’ve always known that music would make our restaurant’s environment more welcoming, and we started using music with the expectation that it would help with awkward silences overall,” said Minh Wong, Director of GK Hawaii Restaurants’ Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ franchise. “What we learned was that the music also made things like wait times seem like they were going by much faster. Music provides a better ambience and gives our customers something pleasant to focus on while they wait. Once we realized that, we went all in and haven’t looked back!”

Just remember, whether the tempo is fast or slow, the songs you play must be engaging and on-brand. That’s why SoundMachine offers licensed, customizable, professionally curated music stations that can be mixed to create the perfect audio atmosphere for your restaurant. We can also create a personalized station just for your business, and offer scheduling tools for chains to control the music in their various locations from a single account.

So take charge of your music and, just like our clients above, control your flow.

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