Loud music at restaurants may be hurting your waistline along with your ears. A new study from the Association of Consumer Research shows that diners who are subjected to loud ambient music are more likely to order high-calorie foods.
Ambient music playing at a high volume at restaurants can create an exciting atmosphere and a quickened heart rate in customers. People with higher levels of excitement are more likely to order fatty foods, because sweet and fatty foods reduce high levels of energy, according to the study.
“Moreover, when emotionally charged up or upset, internal restraints and self-control break down, leading to greater eating of unhealthy foods,” the study says.
Researchers noted the differences in food orders when the music volume was raised from 55 decibels to 70 decibels. Customers were 20 percent more likely to order fatty foods with the louder music.
Corby Kummer, food critic and senior editor at The Atlantic, told Boston Public Radio Tuesday that there are a multitude of reasons why restaurants pump loud music into their dining rooms. The fact that the music increases customers' unhealthy food orders is an unintended consequence.
“A lot of it is turn over, a lot of it is to create this exciting atmosphere,” Kummer said. “It is the dis-inhibition so you'll spend more on alcohol, which is the high profit margin item in bars and restaurants," said Kummer. "They are really making money on the alcohol — they want you to have some. They want you to get out fast, so it will become unbearable and you’ll leave, and they will have a high turnover.”
Corby Kummer is a senior editor at the Atlantic, a columnist for the New Republic and a restaurant critic.