The too-noisy restaurant revolution

The too-noisy restaurant revolution

Sound is an important element in restaurants and bars, impacting taste and customer satisfaction.

In the modern world, connection with others is necessary and restaurants and bars are great places to gather and relax. But often patrons find themselves exclaiming "I can't hear you!" According to numerous surveys like ones from Zagat and Consumer Reports, excessive noise is the top complaint many restaurants have - before service, size of crowds, or even food issues. High noise levels actually impact and affect those other three complaints.

Noise is also an important consideration when it comes to reputation. Studies suggest that too much background noise and loud music impairs taste, no matter how good the food. Data shows that excessive noise levels (70dB or higher), over a prolonged period of time, may even start to damage hearing.

Measuring sound in restaurants

Sound is measured in decibels (dB). Here are a few examples of different levels of noise:

  • 20 dB = whispering at 5 feet
  • 30 dB = soft whisper
  • 50 dB = rainfall
  • 60 dB = normal conversation
  • 110 dB = shouting in ear

What's alarming is that the sound levels of
many restaurants and bars today is typically between 70-85 dB - many being on the higher end of that range. This level of sound not only hurts the customer experience, but also has long term impacts on the employees that work there.

Why is it so loud in your restaurant?

Why is noise such an issue in today's dining world? The first reason is design. Many trendy restaurant designs are typically open spaces and open spaces do not allow for sound control. Tall ceilings and larger rooms amplify sound volume, while open kitchens and bars only add more noise to restaurant spaces. Additionally modern décor includes many hard surfaces like brick walls, concrete floors, and bare table surfaces that reflect sound giving it nowhere to go.

Another factor is sound's impact on table turn rates and alcohol consumption. Loud music with a faster rhythm can encourage guests to eat quicker. Evidence also shows that noisy spaces encourage people to drink more and faster. While these things might be good for the short term, irritating guests and potentially harming your staff is not a great business practice in the long run.

The recipe for optimal noise: function + design

With all of that said, the acoustical control within any restaurant should always be a top priority and lowering the noise within buildings can be done with acoustic ceilings and walls. With specific restaurant acoustic solutions, owners and managers can get the best noise results without sacrificing the unique look and lively vibe.

Most acoustic ceiling tiles and walls absorb sound from within the space (measured by NRC) while other ceilings can help block unwanted sound from leaving or entering a closed room - like a kitchen (measured by CAC). Many ceiling tiles can do both. Along with those sound features, different sizes, colors, textures, and customizable options are available to meet the aesthetic standards. With the ability to attach directly to different surfaces and structures or installed as a drop ceiling, the choices are endless.

Restaurant Noise Reduction Case studies

Here are a few examples of bars and restaurants that have successfully addressed their acoustical issues:

Max's Eatery, a small 2,800-square-foot restaurant with a seating capacity of 128, moved to a new location in Lancaster, PA.

Our Town
, a brewery and taproom opened in September 2020 in an old auto showroom.

Bert's Bottle Shop
, a 2,200-square foot bar and restaurant that specializes in craft beer.

The look, the feel, and the sound at any restaurant or bar impact the bottom line. Customers want to share time together, to enjoy conversations, and the acoustics can shape this situation for better or worse. The right restaurant sound design is critical to strengthening the guest experience. Finding that right balance enhances the atmosphere - and it all starts at the top.

Connect with our team of experts to find out if a new ceiling is right for your business or home.

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