Of the many ingredients that go into making a successful Restaurant is the correct acoustical environment is often the most elusive. While a noisy atmosphere can be very detrimental, so too can one which is too quiet. Striking the correct balance for each individual restaurant or dining facility is important to its success. While the ambience of some should be deliberately “busy and engaging,” others should be more subdued. Speech privacy is almost always an important consideration, at least for some part of the facility.
Restaurants present some of the more unique challenges relating to noise control. Often the design of the space does not lend itself to traditional approaches to controlling noise. Other limitations include the lack of barriers along with the close proximity of the diners. Background and foreground music may also present a problem. Often the bar areas, banquet areas and general dining areas are at conflict with one another. Noise from the kitchen and “make ready” (waiters’) station may also overflow into the dining area.
Sound (noise) travels between its source – people, kitchen equipment – and its receivers (people), by three paths: DIRECT, REFLECTED and DEFRACTED. We deal with sound by treating those paths so as to isolate, absorb, and neutralize sound.
Unlike other interior environments, in a restaurant there is usually no way to isolate diners from one another. Certain functions may be able to be separated. For example: the kitchen, if not a feature of the design, can be isolated by distance and barriers. Similarly the bar area can be situated so as to minimize the “overflow” of noise into the general dining area. The same holds true for banquet and meeting rooms.
If sound within a dining area is allowed to reflect from too many surfaces, the noise level can build up to a point where the patrons cannot conduct a conversation or conversation becomes stressful. Diners have to raise their voices to be heard and you will find people leaning forward and cupping their ear to listen. People with slight hearing deficiencies may be completely excluded from the conversation because others at the table are completely unaware of their problem.
Every restaurant seeks to create a sound atmosphere compatible with its cuisine and theme.