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NOVA Acoustics

Guide to Restaurant Acoustics

The UK eating out market is believed to be worth around £5.4billion - and it's growing.

However, that’s not to say that restaurants have an easy time carving out market share and remaining competitive. The creativity of new brands and the modern day “theatre” of dining out are all clear signs that restaurateurs and chains are having to do everything in their power to attract diners, and keep them coming back.

Every detail of a restaurant’s offering needs to be planned, to create the optimum dining out experience and to support staff in being efficient and effective.

But have you ever considered that the sounds and vibrations in your restaurant could be a secret assassin?


Why restaurant acoustics count

There’s strong evidence that the noise levels in restaurants is driving business away.

According to UK charity Action on Hearing Loss, 91% of the people they surveyed said they would avoid a restaurant that failed to manage noise levels. Around 43% of those questioned had chosen to get a takeaway, rather than eat in a noisy restaurant. (

Incidentally, there are 11 million people in the UK with some form of hearing deficit. Which is not a demographic that restaurant owners and executives can afford to ignore.

Even customers with standard hearing abilities can find noise levels unacceptable of course. To add context, a busy restaurant can generate sound levels of around 80db. This would be the same as trying to relax with family and friends, and eat your meal, while a motorbike revs up next to you.

Measuring the impact of restaurant noise

It’s easy to dismiss this subject as a natural offshoot of having a packed restaurant. Who wouldn’t want that when you’re building commercial success in the hospitality sector?

Plus, building your restaurant on a busy street makes sense if you rely on passing trade and easy access. Road traffic noise could be seen as a necessary evil.

There is also a design trend in the restaurant trade to create “industrial style” decors, with warehouse-like layouts, open ceilings, exposed brickwork and pipes, and wooden floors. None of these provide ideal soundproofing capabilities.

Nevertheless, the acoustics in your restaurant could be ranging from mildly irritating to wholly unacceptable. Customers may feel uncomfortable and unable to focus on conversations and the enjoyment of their food. There is even strong research to show that noise actually plays a role in how we experience our food. Excessive sound and vibrations can detract from our sense of taste, compromising our satisfaction.

Clearly, measuring the extent of the negative impact on your restaurant’s customer experience is highly complex. Many of the customers who “vote with their feet” and go to your competition may not be able to pinpoint sound issues as the problem, and may attribute their dissatisfaction to the general “ambiance and dining experience.”

Also, how many of your customers skip dessert and after dinner drinks because the sound levels are reducing their enjoyment?

Then, of course, there is a more obvious negative impact from having a restaurant with ill-managed noise levels – complaints from the neighbours. Of course, it’s hard to mandate for customers who decide to shout or sing in the street on the way out. However, it is possible to take steps to avoid time and reputation problems created by complaints to your local authority about the noise levels from inside your establishment.

What can be done to improve restaurant acoustics?

Restaurant owners, managers and chains need to take responsibility for regular noise and vibration assessments in their buildings.

Acoustic Consultants have the expertise, experience and equipment to provide accurate and qualitative data. This, in turn, can inform business strategies to manage restaurant noise more effectively.

To some degree, this may involve retrofitting materials and systems to dampen or contain noise. Something as simple as tablecloths, cushions on the bottom of chair legs or fabric across windows can make a noticeable difference. Changes in restaurant layout or operating procedures may also hold the key to improving the level of noise and vibration.

Getting Acoustic Consultants involved even earlier makes particularly strong commercial sense. If you are planning a new restaurant, an assessment can be made using the proposed location and structure, and Acoustic Consultant’s existing data and insights.

That way, you can avoid building a restaurant that will have an unacceptable level of noise pollution for neighbours and customers. Or, you can take strident measures during the design and fitting stage to ensure your restaurant is as tasteful and pleasurable to the ears as it is to the mouth.

The first step is to call Acoustic Consultants for a menu of services.

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