Monday, August 17, 2015

What did you say? Noise in restaurants


Among the top five complaints of diners about restaurants is noise. Considering that dining out is a social experience where you catch up with friends, families, or coworkers, the ability to hear the conversation is paramount. And yet today's diners are confronted with a cacophony of noise so that there is a constant battle of voices yelling in order to be heard.

Many restaurateurs cite various reasons for keeping it that way. A noisy restaurant denotes excitement and energy, creating a vibrant vibe that makes the place seem hip and trendy. Others mention that it's just the design; a brasserie or a brew pub wouldn't have carpeting, for instance. Cost is often an issue as well, where many don't have money in the budget for acoustic considerations. 

Mostly it seems today's restaurant designs kill any notion of conversation just by the way they are constructed — all hard surfaces that bounce sound all over the place. Exposed brick walls, concrete floors are coupled with wood tables and hard seating versus cushiony banquettes. Gone are carpeting and draperies that often evoke more of a fine dining atmosphere and added are open kitchens that add kitchen noise to the mix. 

Fabrics have always been the go-to solution for noise control, whether it was carpeting, drapery, or even tablecloths. They are also the first to go. Tablecloths add to a linen laundry bill while carpeting stains from spillage. 

Some restaurants hire acoustics experts to help design or augment a restaurant's layout. These experts know that having two hard surfaces directly across from each other, such as two opposing brick walls, results in sound waves bouncing back and forth with nowhere to go. The best way to absorb noise is to cover at least two perpendicular surfaces with sound-absorbing material. For instance, by covering both the ceiling and one wall with acoustical tiling, sound waves cannot bounce back and forth both horizontally and vertically.


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Acoustics can be creatively tempered. Large pieces of fabric based artwork can be used for decor while draping large tarps across the ceilings can create mood while dampening sound. Just be sure to have all fabrics treated with fire retardant so you pass inspection. Sometimes it's just a matter of the angles. Instead of a flat surface, create a raised surface with lots of angles. A simple example is the use of old window shutters. The shutters will help some, but for increased dampening add hidden acoustic tiles behind them. On the floor, cork is a great compromise from not having carpet but still having sound absorbancy. Contrary to common belief, cork flooring can be very durable, often used in public buildings such as libraries and courthouses.





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1 comment:

  1. No mention of piped music, the worst culprit as regards noise in restaurants. See http://www.quietedinburgh.co.uk

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