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Music: Experience

Music on the menu: tasting with your ears

Music plays a part in defining the flavour of your wines and your meals. Read more about the influence volume and types of music have in bars and restaurants.


There has been a lot written about the link between how your food looks and how it tastes. A lot less is known about the influence of sound on how something tastes. Does having a little or a lot of background sound make a difference? Does the sort of music being played in a restaurant have an impact? We share a few fascinating scientific discoveries with you.

Noise influences sweetness and saltiness

Depending on the acoustics and how busy and crowded it is, you might find a restaurant to be intrusively noisy or awfully quiet. Researchers at Oxford University examined whether the sound volume in restaurants has an impact on taste. The findings? In an environment with a lot of background music, test subjects found chips and biscuits were less sweet and less salty than they were for test subjects who ate with little or no background noise.

This means that in a loud restaurant, you need to be more liberal with the sugar bowl and the salt shaker to create the same taste experience as in a quieter room. And that’s simply not good business: it’s likely a lot of restaurant diners are planning to eat more healthily this year. Help them by limiting the music, salt and sugar volume in your business.

Wine with a taste of music

A different experiment linked the taste of wine to different types of music. Participants were asked to listen to ‘powerful and robust’, ‘subtle and refined’, ‘spicy and refreshing’ or ‘warm and soft’ music. Not by coincidence, these terms also all describe wine.

Result: without realising it themselves, the participants described the taste of their wines with terms that linked it to the music they were hearing at the time. They were not aware they were doing this. No one made even one comment about the music. If you’re in the restaurant trade, you can use music to give your wines a little push to reach the desired experience.

Seafood and the sounds of the sea

It’s not just the taste of wine that’s influenced by what you hear. Scientist Charles Spence, who was also behind the first experiment in this blog, worked with Chef Heston Blumenthal to develop the dish Sound of the Sea. You eat this while the sounds of waves and seagulls come to you through headphones.

Spence later replaced the sea sounds with a recording of jangling cutlery. The value of the meal suddenly plummeted. It tasted better for clients who could hear the sea. It pays off to play music in your restaurant that’s tuned to the menu.

Try Tunify and/or read more

Are you using Tunify yet? Ask about your free trial period and discover how easy it is to use the music player to complement your culinary range. For example, the Tunify Green subscription offers you the musical agenda ‘Ristorante Italiano’, with music that primarily comes from the land of pizza and pasta.

Would you like to know more about the link between taste and sound? Read the article Does Sound Affect the Way We Taste?’ It contains further fascinating facts about the research above, as well as additional information about, for example, the umami flavour.

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