The importance of the ‘soundscape’ and ambiance in dining venues

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In Kamila Sitwell’s soon to be published ‘Bespoke. How to radically grow your bar and restaurant business through personalisation’ she discusses the importance of the ‘soundscape’ and ambiance in dining venues.

Remember that a restaurant or bar doesn’t only appeal to the taste buds or the eyes through its design. We are sentient beings, so sounds, too, can play an important role by evoking nostalgia, which can connect dishes to certain time periods. For example, if you’re offering more traditional, ‘homely’ style dishes, customers like to hear comforting music that reminds them of their early life.

The psychology of listening to music connects with the dining experience in fascinating ways. Music has its upside and downside, in my opinion, and needs careful planning so that it reflects the experience you want to create. If all you care about is making a fast profit, then playing loud music with a fast tempo may make your diners eat more quickly, but research shows that they enjoy their meal less, and drink and eat less, too.

What loud music does is tap into the reptilian brain that encourages ‘fight or flight’ responses and doesn’t leave much time for eating (or enjoying the experience). The opposite, soft and mellow music, helps customers relax and they’ll enjoy their food more. They may even experience new taste sensations as a result, where high notes are associated with sweet flavours and low notes associated with bitter tastes.

You need to consider the soundscape of your venue carefully.


Many restaurants already showcase cabaret acts and live music performances as part of their eatertainment offering. However, some venues are discovering that in raising the bar, they are reaping rewards.

For example, Circus in London’s Covent Garden never advertises what acts are appearing, so every night is a surprise. The acts can vary from aerialists to contortionists and acrobats, fire-breathers to hula-hoopers, burlesque and drag, all adding an extra drama to an evening out.

Bel Canto adds arias to opera lovers’ aperitifs, while Park Chinois delves into the exotic world of burlesque in what it describes as celebrating ‘the French love affair [with] the mystique of the Orient, resulting in a jaw-dropping interior and an unparalleled dining experience’. Quaglino’s Q Aperitivo evenings are glamourous reflections of the sultry side of music with a live band at the bar, which is themed to match the cocktails and menu on offer at the time.

The above is an extract from Kamila Sitwell’s upcoming book “Bespoke. How to radically grow your bar and restaurant business through personalisation”.  For more analysis and insights on how to respond in the competitive, changing world of hospitality by creating experiences,  Bespoke will help raise the restaurateur’s  game providing fresh insights needed to steer a course to customer delight, loyalty and ultimately business success.