Skip to main content

Friends cheers at a pubFor owners and managers of restaurants, bars, and family entertainment centers, crafting the perfect guest experience is an art form that engages all five senses, not just the taste buds. Think of your space as a stage, and every element—from the lighting to the layout—plays a crucial part. Today, Let’s crank up the volume on one key element that does more than just set the mood—it influences what your guests decide to order.

We’re diving into the world of playlists, transforming them from background filler to a dynamic force that enhances every dish and drink served. It’s time to explore how the right songs can elevate the entire dining experience.

The Impact of Music on Guest Experience

Music significantly affects the dining and entertainment experience. It can alter perceptions of taste and influence the pace of consumption. For example, research suggests that lower-pitched music might emphasize the bitterness in food, while higher-pitched music can enhance sweetness.

Adjust Speed and Tempo

Speed matters, and we’re not just talking service. Fast tracks can have patrons dining at double time, perfect for a quick lunch spot during that noon rush​. But when the sun sets and you’re looking to turn tables into long-term lounges, slower beats can keep diners sipping on that Pinot a little longer, boosting bar tabs and dessert orders alike​. Additionally, if there’s a long wait, customers are more inclined to stick around (up to 20% longer) if your music creates a calming atmosphere.

Play with Volume

The right volume is key to creating an inviting atmosphere. Music that’s too loud can be overwhelming, while a volume that’s too low might give the impression that you’re closing up for the day. It’s important to adjust the volume based on the size of the crowd and the time of day – increasing the volume slightly as your space fills up to maintain the energy and ambiance. Also, keep in mind that tolerance for loud music often decreases with age, so be sure to tailor the volume to fit your target demographic.

And on that note:

Keep Your Music Choices on Brand

Let’s get strategic. Matching music to your restaurant’s vibe isn’t just about keeping up with the Spotify charts. It’s about curating a playlist that syncs with your brand and your customer’s expectations. Research suggests that playing music that aligns with your brand can drive a 9.1% increase in overall sales compared to just shuffling through popular songs. Even more, sticking to brand-specific tunes can boost dessert sales by an impressive 15.1%! These are the kind of impactful numbers that can really boost your bottom line.

Genre Matters

Genre significantly impacts your guests’ spending habits. Classical music, for example, not only elevates the ambiance but also encourages guests to spend more, particularly on high-end wines and gourmet dishes. And if you’re operating a French bistro, consider playing some Édith Piaf to complement the atmosphere. This strategic use of music can subtly enhance the dining experience and boost your sales.


Building a Versatile Playlist

Maintain a dynamic selection of playlists, each tailored to match the current vibe and crowd dynamics, while still aligning with your brand’s identity. Given the fast pace of service, it’s essential to have playlists deep enough to cover multiple meal services without repetition. Consider a lively mix featuring artists like Drake and Dua Lipa for high-energy Friday nights, and switch to chill vibes with Norah Jones or Jack Johnson for a relaxed Sunday brunch. Regularly rotate and refresh these playlists to prevent your team and diners from experiencing a “vibe rut”.

Navigating Copyright Laws

Let’s talk music without the legal tangles. To play music legally, you need licenses from performance rights organizations like BMI, ASCAP, SOCAN, and SESAC. Subscribing to services like Control Play not only gets you the killer playlists but also sorts out all those licenses. It’s like having your own DJ who understands your customers, plays what they want to hear and also moonlights as a legal expert.

Interested in learning more about licensing? Check out these articles:

3 Steps to Simplifying Music Licensing In Your Bar or Restaurant

Avoiding the Five Common Missteps of Music Licensing in Bars and Restaurants

Live Music

Live music can transform a “regular evening” into a memorable event. While it requires extra planning and investment, the payoff is significant—live performances, whether jazz, indie, or cover bands, not only enhance the customer experience but also encourage guests to linger and spend more. Just a note – remember that point about tolerance for loud music? It’s important to ensure that the volume and style remain on-brand and appropriate for your patrons.

Selecting the Right Sound System

Invest in a high-quality sound system tailored to your venue’s size and acoustics. Ensure your music source and equipment (like mixers and amplifiers) are of good quality to avoid compromising sound. Don’t skimp on your sound system. A great setup can make all the difference in how music feels in your space. Whether it’s a state-of-the-art speaker system or a simple, high-quality setup, make sure it matches your needs.


At the end of the day, the tracks you play are as crucial as the dishes you serve. At Control Play, we’re dialed into the details that drive your success. Remember, in the restaurant business, great music is not just background noise—it’s a secret ingredient.

Lee Murphy

Lee is a Playlist Specialist at Control Play and a rockstar at helping businesses create and manage their vibe. His musical journey began in grade school with a mysterious mixtape circulated that featured an eclectic mix of rock artists like Queen, AC/DC, and Guns N' Roses, alongside hip hop icons like Digital Underground, Tone Loc, and the Wu Tang Clan. Despite the diverse genres, Lee was captivated by the tape's broad musical range. This early experience sparked a deep passion for music, leading him to learn various instruments and perform in bands throughout high school. Today, Lee continues to play lead guitar in bands, including the Control Play house band, and is an accomplished DJ known for reading the room and crafting mixes that perfectly align with the crowd’s energy.