For restaurant owners, having a restaurant that is too loud can be one of the easiest ways to drive away customers. There are many contributing factors, but one common effect from noise is a diminished customer experience.
Zagat’s 2016 State of American Dining Survey listed noise complaints as the top complaint for 24 percent of survey takers. The only complaint to top noise was poor service. Nearly 80 percent of respondents said they loathe restaurant noise, while only seven percent claim to love it. Food critics have begun to include noise ratings in their reviews of restaurants. If approximately 70 percent of first time restaurant goers are unlikely to return, restaurants need to be cognizant of factors within their control.
Customers prefer restaurants that have a steady buzz, not one that makes it hard for them to have a conversation with each other. This is something all good restaurateurs need to be aware of. Remember, there is a large difference between spirited and ebullient sound levels and unnecessary noise. Striking the right balance is key.
Shifting restaurant aesthetics has played a part in increasing noise levels. In the past, restaurants had large curtains, table cloths, and carpet to help tame noise levels. Now, more rustic aesthetics amplify noise levels well beyond the comfort-range for customers. Finding ways to keep your design aesthetic while ensuring proper noise levels is key.
Prior to Build-out:
- Hire a sound consultant to ensure noise levels never become an issue after opening.
- Use sound blocking materials on exterior walls if you are on a noisy street.
- Orient windows towards quieter streets.
- If you have a front patio, use fences, shrubbery and trees to create a welcoming and quieter environment.
- Place louder areas of your restaurant (like the bar or kitchen) between the noise source and your dining room.
- Install sound absorbing baffles into your ceiling.
- Install acoustic panels – they even come in “art” form and can add to your restaurant design.
- If you have the space, you can add some sound absorbing partitions to a dining room.
- If you have a closed kitchen, a sound proof door can help reduce the noise emanating from your kitchen equipment or staff.
- Add carpeting to busy areas (outside the bathroom or the front entrance) to diminish foot noise.
After all of this soundproofing make sure to get certified as an “ear friendly” restaurant.
Noise levels are stereotypically a sign of energy in a restaurant. You can thank Chef Mario Batali for that. However, if you want your restaurant to be as successful as one of Batali’s, you’ll need to get a grip on the sound levels.