Chipotle is exploring the connection between music and the dining experience, reports Claire Suddath in Bloomberg Businessweek (10/21/13). "There are studies that show music with higher BPMs [beats per minute] causes people to eat faster, and if you play classical music in a wine store, people will buy more expensive wine," says Charles Spence of Oxford University. "It’s surprising how many Michelin-starred restaurants don’t even think of music at all." Chipotle, the Mexican-food chain, is thinking about music a lot, however.
Chipotle CEO Steve Ells retained Chris Golub, "the founder and sole employee of Studio Orca," to create a customized playlist for his restaurants. In the past, says Chris, Chipotle featured "mostly blues and classic rock – fine stuff but you’d heard it everywhere." Chris now spends "8 to 10 hours a day researching music for Chipotle, which lets him play whatever he wants. "I’m looking for songs that make you want to dance around your kitchen in your socks and underwear before you’ve even had your second cup of coffee."
That’s a rare find – Chris "listens to about 500 songs before he finds one that will work." But when he does, that song gets played in all 1,500 Chipotle locations. One challenge is that Chipotle restaurants have "a lot of hard surfaces – windows, metal, wood – and sound really bounces off them. You need something with a warm tonality," says Chris. "The lunch and dinner rush have songs with higher BPMs because they need to keep the customer moving," he adds. The mix has also given Chipotle "some music cred," including a Facebook page, where customers "can ask for help identifying the restaurant’s songs."