Spence: Loud noise suppresses our ability to taste

While music is often used as a mood enhancer at restaurants, “loud noise can suppress our ability to taste”, according to Oxford professor Charles Spence.

Professor Charles Spence has found that loud music suppresses our ability to taste

In an article in The Telegraph exploring whether a cleverly curated playlist can increase our appreciation of food in restaurants, Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford, said venues that play their music too loud are at risk of dulling diners’ taste buds.

“Loud noise can suppress our ability to taste. Liked music means we will enjoy whatever we are tasting slightly more than if disliked music is playing,” he said.

Nigella Lawson believes music in restaurants drowns out the taste of the food

He also revealed to the paper that loud music can make it harder to discern a drink’s alcohol content, which may drive diners to buy more booze, while classical music makes diners spend more than they would listening to pop.

Spence believes certain restaurants are using music to alter diners’ moods – fast food restaurants are known for their high-octane soundtracks, which encourage diners to eat quickly and leave.

The topic of music in restaurants is divisive. Fergus Henderson of St. John has a no music policy at his Farringdon restaurant, and Nigella Lawson believes a thumping soundtrack detracts from the dining experience. “It’s utterly draining and drowns out the taste of the food,” she told The Telegraph.

Stephen Harris meanwhile, who owns and runs The Sportsman in Whitstable, is less extreme in his views than Lawson, but believes the key to a successful restaurant playlist is to pick songs that blend into the background rather than demand to be heard.

“You should keep music as unrecognisable as possible. No modern music, as it’s divisive. We play Delta blues, reggae and ska. These create moods rather than demand your attention. I also like French café music and I want to play Gregorian chants,” Harris told The Telegraph.

A number of venues are tapping into the power of music and take pride in their playlists. Meat Mecca, Black Axe Mangal in Highbury, is known for blasting out heavy metal, while Momofuku in New York has its own Spotify playlist that fans of the restaurant can tune into at home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note that comments are subject to our posting guidelines in accordance with the Defamation Act 2013. Posts containing swear words, discrimination, offensive language and libellous or defamatory comments will not be approved.

We encourage debate in the comments section and always welcome feedback, but if you spot something you don't think is right, we ask that you leave an accurate email address so we can get back to you if we need to.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Senior Sales Executive

Hush Heath Estate
London/ Kent

Staff Writer

The Drinks Business
London, UK

On-Trade Wine Sales Manager

Madeera Wines Ltd.
London, UK

Head of Sales & Marketing

IWSC & Club Oenologique

Buyer - Investment Grade Whisky

Dalkeith Brokerage
London, UK

Commercial Analyst

Australian Vintage
Croydon, UK

Supply Chain Assistant (Maternity Cover)

Speciality Drinks
Elixir House, Whitby Avenue, Park Royal, NW10 7SF

National Account Manager : Multiple On Trade Accounts

Speciality Brands
Whitby Avenue, London NW10 7SF, UK

Sales Director – Europe

Jackson Family Wines
Europe (UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland)

The Wine Show Chelsea 2019

London,United Kingdom
18th Oct 2019

WSTA Brexit Preparedness Seminar

London,United Kingdom
18th Oct 2019

Wines of Argentina - London

London,United Kingdom
22nd Oct 2019
Click to view more

The Global Malbec Masters 2019

Deadline : 25th October 2019

The Global Sauvignon Blanc Masters 2019

Deadline : 25th October 2019

Click to view more

The Global Cider Masters 2019

View Results

The Prosecco Masters 2019

View Results

Click to view more