Want to Boost Your Table Turnover Rate? Try Music

restaurant exterior

This post was written by Patrick McGuire, freelance writer and musician, and was originally published on the Soundtrack Business blog.

It’s no secret that the restaurant business is one of the most competitive and brutal ventures out there. With around 80 percent of restaurants failing within their first five years, you need every advantage you can get if you’re interested in seeing yours thrive over the long term. One inexpensive, easy tool at your disposal is the type of music you play.

Music has been scientifically proven to be a reliable way for restaurants to increase their table turnover rates. In case you’re new to the restaurant game, your restaurant’s table turnover rate is a fancy way of saying how many times one of your tables is used by different parties during a given period of time.

Before we delve into the science behind how the right kind of music can bring your restaurant more cash, let’s talk about why table turnover rates are so crucial for owners and managers interested in keeping their restaurants profitable.

How table turnover rates could make or break your restaurant

Everything from razor-thin margins to fierce competition can make the restaurant business absolutely brutal. Something as seemingly minute as how many customers sit at your table every night might not seem like a huge deal, but it’s something that can make or break your restaurant over the long term.

Think of it from a customer’s perspective. After a long day at work, would you be willing to wait 15, 30, or 45 minutes for a table if you and your family were hungry? Probably not, even if you loved the food.

Having a packed restaurant seems like a good thing for owners and managers, but the longer patrons stay at your tables, the more your other customers are forced to wait. And rather than wait, really hungry customers might just leave and go to one of the other restaurants in the neighborhood instead.

Sure, losing a few customers on a Friday night isn’t the end of the world, but multiply that lost business over a period of months or years and suddenly you’ve got a huge problem on your hands.

Because the restaurant industry centers on human beings and our somewhat unpredictable behaviors, there’s not one sweeping solution to address low table turnover rates. So music alone isn’t capable of getting patrons up and out of their seats faster, but it is something that’s proven to be a cheap, reliable way to address the problem. By implementing other solutions –– like finding ways to make your waitstaff more attentive and the kitchen better equipped to handle the stress of increased demands –– the right kind of music might be just the thing you need to change the game.

The key here is the “right” kind of music. Playing just any sort of music won’t have an effect on your table turnover rate. Why? Because, like the customers who walk through your door every day, music and its effect on us is complex.

The complex messages music can send

Whether it’s a chart-topping song that gets you pumped and ready for work in the morning or the suspenseful music from your favorite horror movie, music influences us in ways that are both straightforward and complex. That’s because music is a blank canvas that listeners paint their own emotions and past experiences onto.

A 2015 Association of Psychological Science article profiled a study correlating the kind of music college students listened to with an increase in their buying habits:

“Groups of 180 Scottish college students heard either classical music, country music, or no music while viewing slides of 10 social identity products and also 10 utilitarian products. After each slide, participants wrote down the top price they would be willing to pay for each of the 20 products. Those listening to country music were prepared to pay more for utilitarian products than the participants in the other two groups, while those listening to classical music were willing to spend more on social identity products than the other participants.”

This study proves that the sort of music a business plays has a huge bearing on the purchases its customers make. But how can music boost table turnover rates? The answer may surprise you.

What science tells us about how music impacts restaurant customers

As it turns out, getting your tables to turn over faster has everything to do with how quickly your customers chew their food. Yes, you read that right. Getting food ordered and out to tables as soon as possible is half the battle, but finding ways to get customers to increase the rate at which they chew is a powerful way to get folks up and out of their seats quicker. And scientific research shows that your music selection could be just the trick.

“In the mid-1980s, researchers at Fairfield University demonstrated that people increased their rate of chewing by almost a third when listening to faster, louder music, accelerating from 3.83 bites a minute to 4.4 bites a minute,” wrote George Prochnik for The Daily Beast.

The increase might not seem like much to write home about, but like everything else in the restaurant business, small things in the short term inevitably translate to huge gains or losses in the context of months and years. Faster customer bites mean less time spent eating and more tables opening up during busy times.

Playing fast, exciting music during busy times is a good start toward improving your table turnover rate, but it won’t make a big difference if other parts of your restaurant aren’t working the way they should.

For example, making sure your waitstaff greets recently seated tables in under 60 seconds is critical for maintaining a fast table turnover rate on a busy night. The same goes with getting food to tables as soon as possible.

But if these aspects of your restaurant are already relatively strong, customizing the music you play at busy times could make a meaningful difference.

Where’s a good place to start if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to play the right kind of music to boost table turnover rates?

Soundtrack Business takes the time and guesswork out of creating playlists by delivering solid music selections designed to fit various busy restaurant settings. And it features playlists specially curated for busy restaurant spaces.

Want to go it alone and try figuring out the music thing on your own to save a few bucks? Cool, but it might end up costing you if you’re not careful. If your restaurant is caught playing music that’s not properly licensed, you could be fined thousands of dollars. Another massive benefit of streaming services like Soundtrack Business is that all the trouble of making sure your music licenses are in order is taken care of.

The music your restaurant plays might not seem like a big deal, but it could be a small missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to figuring out a way to get more business through the doors during busy times. If you’ve already got a solid kitchen and waitstaff, playing faster songs during busy times might just be music to your ears when it comes to finding crucial advantages in your restaurant.

About Soundtrack Business

Soundtrack Business is a music streaming platform and curation model, crafted by music experts and perfected with technology. It’s built by Soundtrack Your Brand, a Spotify-backed company founded in 2013 with a mission to build the world’s best music streaming service for brands.

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