1. Health

Music makes us happy, motivated, determined … and hungry?

A study published in the Journal of Academy of Marketing Sciences found that the volume of ambient music at restaurants and grocery stores has a "systematic effect" on consumers' preferences for specific kinds of food. It's the volume of the music, which directly impacts heart rate and arousal, that influences our choices to choose something healthy to eat or not, the study said. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published May 25, 2018

Music is the ultimate mood setter. Faster beats gets us pumped up to work out. A slower rhythm can set a romantic mood or help one unwind at the end of a long day.

Music can also influence the kinds of food we crave.

A study co-authored by a University of South Florida professor and published recently in the Journal of Academy of Marketing Sciences found that the volume of ambient music at restaurants and grocery stores has a "systematic effect" on consumers' preferences for specific kinds of food.

It's the volume of the music, which directly impacts heart rate and arousal, that influences our decisions to choose something healthy to eat or not, the study said. For example, louder environments increase stimulation and stress, which inspires diners at a busy restaurant to crave a greasy cheeseburger and fries over a salad.

ALSO READ: Miami restaurant faces charges for farm-to-table scam

"People tend to get more excited when the music is louder," said Dipayan Biswas, a marketing professor at USF's Muma College of Business who is a researcher on the study. He said that the findings can help restaurant owners and staff strategically manipulate music volume to influence sales.

"So when you're excited, you're more likely to order a more exciting meal, which likely has more calories. For example, fried chicken is more exciting than baked chicken."

Biswas conducted the study at a cafe in Stockholm, Sweden, which played various genres of music in a loop at different volume levels, 55 decibels and 70 decibels. The menu items at the cafe were ranked as healthy and non-healthy. Beverages like coffee and tea were considered neutral.

During the experiment, which lasted several hours over several days, researchers found that 20 percent more restaurant patrons ordered something unhealthy when exposed to louder ambient music compared to those who dined during a quieter time.

The study also examined the sales data of a supermarket in Sweden when various genres of music were played at different volumes, Biswas said.

The results of the study were what Biswas said he expected to find, but the data has practical implications for food service companies. For example, a brand like McDonald's might be better off playing music at louder volumes to encourage sales, he said, while a healthier brand, like some of the new independent eateries popping up in Tampa's hip neighborhoods, might benefit from lower volumes.

"There are a lot of restaurants that are already paying for a service that has done the research on music," said Darren Tristano, the CEO of CHD-Expert America, a Chicago-based food industry research firm. "Music is clearly built into the atmosphere and the experience of the restaurant, and while I think it will influence the experience slightly, it is very subliminal."

Tristano said there are companies that have studied the way music influences consumer preferences, and restaurants pay them to come up with specific play lists for their atmosphere.

"You're not going to be playing heavy metal music during a romantic meal," Tristano said. "But if you think music can positively influence you, you have to think that music can negatively influence you as well. More relaxing, soothing, familiar music seems to be the best choice, when taking into account the level of noise already, for conversation and the atmosphere."

The Tampa Bay Times reached out to grocery store chains Publix and Winn-Dixie, and also Tampa-based Bloomin' Brands, which owns restaurant chains Outback Steakhouse and Bonefish Grill, among others. None responded to requests for comment.

But Tristano was skeptical that music could influence what a consumer will choose to eat.

"I've heard that certain music can encourage consumers to buy more, but to say that somebody will eat less or more healthy when you're hungry, it's hard to imagine that music can influence that."

Researchers have studied other ambience features, like lightning, scent and decor, and their impact on food sales in restaurants and grocery stores. But, according to USF, this is the first study to specifically target how volume dictates healthy versus non-healthy food choices.

Contact Justine Griffin at or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.


  1. The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County identified a positive case of hepatitis A in a food service worker at Hamburger Mary's in Ybor City on Oct. 22, 2018. [JOSH FIALLO | Times] JOSH FIALLO | TIMES  |  JOSH FIALLO | Times
    Slightly more than 200,000 people have been vaccinated this year — a huge jump from the 49,324 people vaccinated in all of 2018.
  2. FILE - In this Feb. 20, 2014, file photo, a patron exhales vapor from an e-cigarette at a store in New York. Under the Trump administration, former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb kicked off his tenure in 2017 with the goal of making cigarettes less addictive by drastically cutting nicotine levels. He also rebooted the agency’s effort to ban menthol flavoring in cigarettes. But those efforts have been largely eclipsed by the need to respond to an unexpected explosion in e-cigarette use by teens. AP
    Hundreds of people nationwide have come down with lung illness related to vaping.
  3. This May 2018, photo provided by Joseph Jenkins shows his son, Jay, in the emergency room of the Lexington Medical Center in Lexington, S.C. Jay Jenkins suffered acute respiratory failure and drifted into a coma, according to his medical records, after he says he vaped a product labeled as a smokable form of the cannabis extract CBD. Lab testing commissioned as part of an Associated Press investigation into CBD vapes showed the cartridge that Jenkins says he puffed contained a synthetic marijuana compound blamed for at least 11 deaths in Europe. JOSEPH JENKINS  |  AP
    The vapor that Jenkins inhaled didn’t relax him. After two puffs, he ended up in a coma.
  4. H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute is the centerpiece of Project Arthur, an 800-acre corporate park that could include up 24 million square feet of office and industrial space on nearly 7,000 acres of what is now ranch land, but targeted for development in central Pasco. Times
    The H. Lee Moffitt facility is the centerpiece of an economic development effort in a proposed 800-acre corporate park.
  5. Taylor Bland-Ball, 22, posted this photo and open letter to Judge Thomas Palermo to her Instagram account on September 10, the day after she lost custody of her 4-year-old son Noah McAdams. The boy's parents wanted to treat his leukemia with natural health care remedies instead of chemotherapy. [Instagram] ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  Instagram
    The couple refused chemotherapy for their son, instead seeking alternative treatments including dietary plans, alkaline water and THC and CBD oil treatments
  6. Sharon Hayes, the new chief executive officer at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, says she will draw on her roots in nursing as she engineers a turnaround for the hospital. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    The city’s largest hospital has suffered setbacks under a corporate owner, but a new leader says it’s time for an infusion of “love and attention.”
  7. An architect's rendering shows part of a planned research center and hospital on N McKinley Drive in Tampa for the Moffitt Cancer Center. During the 2020 legislative session in Tallahassee, the center will seek an increased share of Florida's cigarette tax to finance the McKinley Drive project and other improvements. Moffitt officials said Thursday that the increase initially would finance $205 million, to be paired with $332 million they have already allocated for the project. Moffitt Cancer Center
    Florida lawmakers are the key to unlocking the money, which would pay for more hospital beds and research space.
  8. Ashlynn NesSmith, 16, with her mother, Erin NesSmith, at Thursday's news conference in Tampa about the dangers of vaping. MARLENE SOKOL  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The legislation discussed in Tampa is ‘aimed at saving lives and addressing the current vaping health crisis.’
  9. FILE - In this Feb. 20, 2014 file photo, a liquid nicotine solution is poured into a vaping device at a store in New York. In September 2019, U.S. health officials are investigating what might be causing hundreds of serious breathing illnesses in people who use e-cigarettes and other vaping devices. They have identified about 450 possible cases in 33 states, including six deaths. FRANK FRANKLIN II  |  AP
    U.S. health officials have identified about 450 possible cases in 33 states, including six deaths.
  10. The owners of Centurion Compounding of Wesley Chapel have pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to commit health care fraud with the owners of the now-closed Lifecare Pharmacy in St. Petersburg (shown here) and Dr. Anthony Baldizzi of Tierra Verde. Google street view
    Centurion Compounding owners Frank Monte and Kimberly Anderson used profits from the conspiracy to buy real estate and high-end sports cars.