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  The Herman Trend Alert

October 9, 2019

Improving Noise Levels in Restaurants

The other day I was dining with my husband in a restaurant onboard the World Odyssey, Semester at Sea®'s ship and my husband explained why it seemed the noise level was so high. He explained that the ambient noise level starts much lower, but that people want to hear each other, so they escalate their own voices to be heard. Others then raise their voices to be heard over the din and on the volume goes----becoming louder and louder.

The Smartest Restaurants are taking steps to Reduce their Noise Levels
Thankfully, some dining venues are now using a variety of noise dampening methods to cut their noise levels. Sometimes, restaurants have turned up their music to deafening levels which only makes matters worse. In 2015, a restaurant named Monteverde opened in Chicago's West Loop; the owner Meg Sahs looked for ways to calibrate the sound.

Monteverde demonstrated What Works
She used a variety of noise-dampening methods and materials, including heavy draperies, upholstered banquette seating and even panels stuck to the bottoms of tabletops. But for Monteverde, what worked best of all was the addition of sound-absorbing acoustical panels to the ceiling of the dining room. They blend in so well that no one notices them visually, but they significantly reduce the echo of sound. Not surprisingly, Monteverde is crowded every night and is one of Chicago's restaurant success stories. The restaurant has now become a role model for others.

The Number 2 Complaint of Restaurant Guests
After I read this mention in The Robb Report, I began researching what else restaurants could do. I learned that after poor service, excessive noise levels are the next most common complaint. After all, dining is about more than just the food---it is the whole experience!

What Else Restaurants Can Do
The acoustic panels that Sahs installed in the ceiling could also be installed elsewhere; in fact, they may be added to almost any wall space to reduce the noise. I can envision upholstered wall panels designed to add to the decor of the dining establishment or even works of art. Another suggestion is to install carpet in high-traffic areas. Surprisingly, the most important areas are not in the dining room, itself, but rather the lobby/waiting area, the bar area, the area in front of the kitchen, and the area by the restrooms. Another element that can make a difference is tablecloths. Heavy tablecloths also add to the sound absorption, even in more industrial-looking settings. Finally, keep loud machinery away from the dining area and even consider measuring the sound from the heating and air conditioning system.

What's next?
At some point, I believe that noise levels will be understood for the stress inducers they are. That moment is when restauranteurs will understand that investing in reducing those noise levels is one of the most important investments they may make. It will be particularly important to restauranteurs attracting older clientele who tend to have hearing challenges. There will come a time when you walk into a restaurant and heave a sigh of relief that the low noise level is not only calming but also conducive to your enhanced enjoyment of your time there.

Special thanks to The Robb Report for raising my consciousness to this important development.


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