The Impact of Music on Productivity in Hospitality

Music has the potential to improve or disrupt our concentration. It can lift our mood, get us dancing, and bring back powerful memories. 

Nearly every job I’ve worked has had background music of some kind. From my days working in retail to the ones spent in hospitality, there were always tunes playing throughout my shifts. Now, working at Control Play, there’s never a moment of silence—and it’s fantastic.

I’m surrounded by music aficionados and professionals who craft amazing playlists, and I get to appreciate my favorite music videos all day. 

I haven’t always been so lucky.

The right music for the right people

One of my first jobs was in a mature women’s clothing store. The music was an entire generation apart from what I was raised with, but our target demographic loved stepping into our shop and hearing the same songs they listened to as teenagers. Younger women would come in, look around, and leave all within a matter of minutes, but the older women would linger, hum, and sway as they browsed the racks of new arrivals in depth. In addition to spending more time, they also spent more money. And they did it with big smiles.

It’s no wonder, too. Music can be “a powerful stress management tool in our lives,” according to Psych Central. It might even contribute to the pleasure of indulging in a little “retail therapy.”

“Listening to music can have a tremendously relaxing effect on our minds and bodies,” Jane Collingwood of Psych Central writes. “[Music] can have a beneficial effect on our physiological functions, slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the levels of stress hormones.” 

However, because everyone has different tastes in genre and artist preferences, not all songs impact people the same way. Someone who enjoys classical music may find that Mozart relaxes them, whereas those who connect with folk music or rap may find their stress dissolve when listening to Gordon Lightfoot or Eminem. And when stress is reduced, productivity skyrockets. 

Music and productivity

Several studies indicate that music can boost creativity, happiness, and efficiency at work. This is great news for business owners who actively hire upbeat, customer-focused employees. Think of your business as a delicious martini; good background music is the lemon twist garnish that complements your happy workers.

Providing your employees with a healthy atmosphere is imperative to production, and it overlaps with your design for the ideal guest experience. When the servers at a restaurant are happy, the guests can sense it, and it’s scientifically proven that smiling is contagious. So, if you own a restaurant, bar, or nightclub, your goal should be to find music that can make both your bartenders and your customers grin.

Music that resonates with your target clientele can impact your bottom line. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I now understand that choosing classic oldies was a strategic decision made by clothing store’s head office. And I wish the restaurant I worked at after had someone making those decisions, too, because the music was simply awful.

Torturous music and distressed employees

While I don’t want to date myself, I will mention that early Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift were popular at the time. Everyone—staff and guests alike—had to endure listening to the same handful of songs over and over again! While it wasn’t quite on the same level of music torture tactics used by the CIA, it did have similar effects. 

“If you play [the same song] for 24 hours, your brain and body functions start to slide, your train of thought slows down, and your will is broken.” Sgt. Mark Hadsell of the U.S. Psychological Operations team revealed.

I’m grateful I didn’t work any 24-hour shifts, but if you’ve ever had to listen to Justin Bieber’s “Baby” twice an hour every hour, you might’ve felt like your brain was slowly dripping out of your ears, too.

My former co-workers can tell you that I wasn’t the most productive team member during this time. I was still a junior, learning how to multi-task, but the terrible music did not help. When the CBC published a story about Starbucks employees labeling the repetitive music as a worker’s rights issue, I related 100%. 

Eventually I moved on and helped open a new restaurant in the area. Here the music was always fresh, there were limited repeats of popular songs, and my table capacity and tips doubled. 

The impact of excellent background music

At this new restaurant, I would shimmy from the kitchen to the POS, and had several comment cards mention how much they loved my attitude and how infectious my energy was. If my co-workers could have written me comment cards, they might have complained about my terrible singing voice, since I would often sing along to the music while grabbing plates of hot food from the kitchen. 

Now that I’m in the entertainment side of hospitality, I understand more of the psychology behind why I experienced such a drastic shift in professional performance. Ambiance played a key role in setting my mood, which in turn impacted how I treated my tables and how my guests treated me. I’m naturally optimistic and helpful, but once I was fueled by the right atmosphere, my skills kicked into turbo-mode.

Good background music in bars and restaurants boosts your workers’ productivity. In his novel This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, neuroscientist Daniel J Levitin says that music can not only make repetitive tasks more enjoyable, but also boosts your concentration while you’re performing them. 

Having fun while you work

Employees at restaurants that roll cutlery into napkins are well acquainted with repetition. When faced with roll-up duty, I turned it into a game. I’d work in time with the music until my hands performed a dance with the silverware with the efficiency of a factory machine. By the end of one song I’d have a satisfying, full bin of tableware burritos. In fact, I found it almost therapeutic, and when I introduced the concept to my co-workers, we would race to see who could roll the fastest—without compromising quality, of course. 

Having worked in the industry and having done my research on the topic, I now understand that good background music in restaurants goes beyond providing an epic guest experience: It has the power to influence your workers’ moods and the way they treat guests. 

The best brands want the best music

Since I started working at Control Play, which provides innovative digital audio/video entertainment solutions to bars and restaurants, I’ve had the opportunity to visit venues that use our systems. I’ve seen our service in action and the way it constantly exceeds guest expectations, but I’ve also spoken to multiple restaurateurs, bar managers, and executives who love the flexibility Control Play offers.

Not only do we have an expansive and data-driven library of over 120,000 songs (70,000 of which are music videos) and 65 prebuilt playlists designed specifically for bars and restaurants, but we also provide our subscribers with admin abilities that lets them decide which team members have access to what controls. 

Some subscribers, like RollHouse CEO Glenn Gable, prefer to let their employees read the room and change the genre based on their ever-evolving clientele at each of their seven locations in Ohio. Others, like John Plew, the President and CEO of Concept Entertainment Group, work intimately with our Playlist team to create the perfect sound for their brands, and lock access to keep the tone consistent (Plew is the mastermind behind the classic Grand Central Restaurant & Bowling Lounge in Portland, Oregon, and the quickly expanding Thirsty Lion Gastropub & Grill)

Whichever method they prefer, Control Play subscribers know just how powerful the right playlist can be. Our team of professional Mixologists take pride and pleasure in providing your brand with music that boosts your employees’ productivity and exceeds your guests’ expectations. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Want to learn how Control Play can elevate your brand with strategic, scheduled digital signage and HD music video playlists? Schedule a live demo using the button below!

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Nicki Ogaki

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