pairing food with music

Dinner & a Tune – The Art of Pairing Food With Music

Gabby Zgrajewski
Gabby Zgrajewski

Have you ever found bliss in a song that captures a moment or a meal that was just to die for? Well, imagine pairing the two together and having the ultimate dining experience. As music and food are both universal languages, pairing the duo can provide an enthralling shared experience. As many people believe that sharing a live music experience exceeds the event, just think about the possibilities of linking food into the equation. 

The science behind the link between food and music is very in-depth and comes down to the nitty-gritty of the exact tempo of the track and how your chicken is cooked. Without going into all the small scientific details, think of this as a crash course into how your venue’s meals and music can provide a high-quality experience for your customers. 

Science for dummies – A simple breakdown of the link between music and food

There has been a lot of scientific research into how music and food go hand in hand, with the main component coming down to the senses. When eating a great meal, only four of the senses are used: sight, smell, taste, and touch. Although you may hear the crunch of your food every once in a while, there really is no sensory stimulation aside from the distant music that the venue may be playing or the broken conversation of others around you. 

In a research paper by the University of Arkansas, studies showed that sweet and bitter foods were paired with two music samples to test this theory. The study showed that eating toffee while listening to a “bitter” soundtrack affected the taste of the toffee negatively compared to the dedicated “sweet” soundtrack. 

Along with the taste of the meal itself, the atmosphere is also heavily regulated by the choice in music. In a similar study, a university cafeteria played different genres of music to their consumers and monitored their behaviors. 

When classical music was playing, customers were willing to spend more money on food and wine, rather than pairing pop music or no music. The music provided within the atmosphere had to be assimilated to the product that the consumer was purchasing. 

How has this concept been executed? 

A New York City woman, Barbara Werner decided to take this science into her own hands as she started to go out for meals alone with her headphones as her company. Experiencing the best meal of her life to one song, then losing the whole experience when another track started, Werner decided to experiment and discover why this may be. 

Assigning a number system to dishes, drinks and music, Werner would play around with the meals as the music was already set. Determining each component of the meal, a number would be designated before adding this up at the end. Finding a song with a similar number to the dish would be a great matching, for example, lighter music for a lighter meal. 

This music and food theory has been put to the test with a hosted dinner in London by Beats by Dre, overseen by famous chef Tom Sellers. Pairing a six-course meal with a playlist of genres from rap to rock, the goal was to provide a multi-sensory experience, similar to Werner. 

Marrying music & food in your venue

As mentioned by Werner, the easiest part is already done – the music. Although, compiling a playlist together for the meals is tricky. Depending on what your menu has to offer, the playlist will create itself. Although easy listening music like jazz or classical seems like the standard option for a meal, this may not make sense for a venue that hosts punk, pop or electronic. 

Considering the options, you may have seasonal menus or a standard menu that locals love, and this can open the chance to support music from locals by pairing local artists with local food produce, to international with a long playlist on the streaming platform of choice.

Doing the research

Have a listen to some other playlists that venues have and their menu to match. What kind of atmosphere does the venue have between the two? Have they paired classical music with a five-course meal or rock music with a burger? Although these can be obvious and popular linkings, think about how you felt when you ate the meal with the music playing. Put together your own playlist and try the same meal with tracks that you think fit. Practicing this at home with potential meals can also help, as you can chop and change the menu and the music as you go. 

How to match the atmosphere

Considering the venue and what it has to offer, whether it appeals to an audience who enjoy the finer things in life or a grunge venue. When curating the playlist, although it is great to experiment with genres very far off the radar from the expected, you would still like to create an experience that will benefit the targeted customer. 

Whilst getting creative in the kitchen, have staff, friends and family input as to what does and does not work due to the subjectivity of both music and food. Ideas and criticisms from external people can help pave a fresh idea of what to have on the menu and playlist. 

Tasty Tunes

Once you have found what kinds of music you would like to pair with the food, it’s time to find what exact tunes you would like. Curating a playlist that you can put on shuffle can be easy, but putting in the thought of how each song will flow through with pairings of the food and drink. Finding tracks that support locally as well as your larger artists can also provide a platform for free promotion from the locals. The excitement of being on a playlist for a local artist can boost the want to eat at your venue to hear their track and can then create popularity through word of mouth. 

Do the research into the genres you would like to play and find tracks that flow in rhythm and tempo. As Werner has paired “lighter” songs to a lighter meal, do have a deeper look into the science behind what type of food is paired to the genres you wish to play. 

Bon Appetit

Once your food and music pairing has been finalised, it’s time to let the world experience what the venue has to offer. If it’s an opening day or a private event to try out the magical pairings of dinner and tunes, make the moment out of your dishes and be open to the feedback customers provide. In a perfect world, the whole experience is magnificent, although if slight alterations are required, do not be disheartened as it can only be better for the customer’s satisfaction.

If you are wanting to engage with a wider customer range, explore the possibilities of how your customers can consume the music and menu. Whether it is take-away or curating a live music bill to your menu, look into different ways your venue can provide an innovative experience for your customer. 


Joining the next generation of venues taking local music to the forefront of the U.K. entertainment scene? Check out our Complete Live Music Rundown for Venues to help you get started. 


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