Restaurants can be very noisy places. Modern high class design thinking includes marble floors, plenty of glass, hard-surface tables, trendy ceilings, mirrors, etc. All of these contribute to a potentially painful dining experience, no matter how good the food.
Poor acoustic design means that it is quite common to have to shout at your dining partner(s) over a table which, in this day and age, is usually a distance of not much more than half a metre. Because of this, the occasion can prove to be stressful rather than relaxing.
Clattering cutlery, scraping chairs, coffee machines, etc. all add to the general noise level and often it is difficult to communicate with staff over the general hubbub, which can lead to mistakes in orders.
It has been suggested that restaurants deliberately foster high noise levels to discourage diners from lingering in order to serve more covers. However, research also suggests that many customers simply won't go back. In fact, some restaurants can be so noisy that the levels exceed the Noise at Work Guidelines
Good quality acoustic treatments can make a significant difference but unfortunately are not usually included at the design stage, even though they can contribute to the design and decor. Remedial works are often awkward to implement once all the services and fittings have been installed.
Carpets, unless at least 20mm thick, will make little improvement. Choosing tables and chairs that have rubber feet will reduce the scraping noise against a hard floor. Thick tablecloths are an improvement on bare metal tables as they will dampen the contact noise of cutlery and crockery.
Turning the sound system down slightly will mean that customers have to raise their voices less to be heard. Nobody wants to go home after a dining experience with a sore throat. But these are just small improvements. The best solution is to look also at the strategic placement of suitable acoustic treatment.
Inevitably, as a remedial solution, the ceiling is usually the only significant space available as a treatment option. Sometimes there is space for wall panels and acoustic screening should also be considered. Whatever the space, we can usually suggest a range of options, either standard or bespoke, but we would strongly urge owners who are thinking of a refit to consider the acoustic implications at the design stage, for cost savings and improved integration and performance.
After all, if customers feel relaxed and can dine in an atmosphere of acoustic comfort they are more likely to spend money, recommend the restaurant to others and stay longer. And that means better long term business.