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Noisy Restaurant – Problem & Solution.

 

Look Up! All too common life story.

Have you perhaps had a restaurant dining experience where the flavor of your entrée, or wine bouquet helped create a favorite memory? Such moments often include being surrounded by family or friends.  Talking, laughing, and hopefully enjoying excellent service and the perfect ambiance – everyone in the party is genuinely happy sharing the experience. 

Surely it is every restaurant owner’s dreams to provide that type of “enabling ambiance” simply because patrons will most likely return again and again, ultimately building a very loyal customer base.

Problem.

But.

Within minutes, everything in this peaceful moment could change.

Imagine a second, third, fourth, or fifth group of people arrive who are also laughing, talking and enjoying themselves at the same time. Everyone quickly finds themselves in a competition trying to speak louder and louder – finally that “perfect ambiance” is transformed into an overbearing roar. If you are able to tough it out and survive such an evening, will you likely come back? Even if the service and cuisine are wonderful, would you suggest this venue for a future gathering of family or friends?

Let’s think through the answer.

Crux of this problem, to the restaurateur – Direct Customer Complaints.

While preparing this article and investigating customers’ concerns, consultation with the famous TripAdvisor website uncovered what many restaurant patrons are saying:

Timing is everything

“We have visited [XX] on ten occasions since opening day. And yes, we have encountered “noise problems.” Timing is the “secret” to enjoying [XX] noise problem.”

Nominations for noisiest establishment
“I would, without a doubt, have to nominate the [XX] in nearby Springdale, Ohio. It’s so loud that, after a typical meal there (usually lasting upwards of two hours), my ears are ringing. I’m left wondering what genius designed the main dining room.”

Dance club or pleasant dining?
“I have been in 4 or 5 of their [XX] stores across the country, and will not go into another, if I can avoid it. The blaring music in ALL parts of the building (including the restrooms) make it impossible to hear any conversations carried on at lower than a screaming level.”

Explanation of Problem.

The main problem with noisy facilities stems from A.) Sound bouncing and reflecting off hard surfaces, and B.) Lack of sound absorptive materials in the space. These two factors combine to effectively turn a restaurant dining area into an “echo chamber”. Given trends in today’s interior designs, this particular combination of factors is becoming much more commonplace.
Walls and ceilings are being finished with hard surfaces like wood, metal, gypsum wallboard, and ceramic. While visually exciting and attractive, these materials reflect rather than absorb sound. And in a restaurant environment this can lead to noise levels easily reaching 90 dB and higher during peak dining times. What does this mean in everyday life?

Normal decibel levels in typical offices or residence areas range between 40dB-50dB. By comparison, restaurant patrons are being exposed to sound intensities similar to those found in more objectionable (and dangerous!) settings and sources – for example, industrial punch presses, freight trains, noisy factories, trucks without mufflers, thunder, diesel engine rooms, fireworks displays, etc. In addition to being uncomfortable, regular exposure to decibel levels at or above 90 dB can cause hearing impairment.

Solution to Problem.

Candidly, owners and designers are not generally happy with obvious options like standard ceiling tiles and T-Bar grid systems (generally priced from $2.40 per tile).  Alternatively, heavy acoustical wood or metal panels (costing $100.00 or more per tile) may not provide appreciable sound absorption. Thus restaurant designers and owners need a solution that lives somewhere ‘between’ those options. They need solutions that allow customers to enjoy their private conversation and are aesthetically pleasing, ones that encourage customers to ‘look up’ and that create an impression of spaciousness and originality.  Ideal solutions serve as a backdrop that compliments the cuisine and service and creates ‘emotional and cultural’ connections between customers and place.

Perceptions can lead restaurant owners to feel their choices are ‘black and white’, that is, either ‘expensive or cheap’, but don’t despair! Rest assured, however, there are custom design ceiling companies that are eager to work with you on complex projects to tailor solutions that meet unique performance and budget challenges.  Their goal is to provide excellent sound control, help create impressive interior designs and, moreover, help patrons remember good times they shared with family and friends so they can come back…again and again.

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