What’s worse than bad food at a restaurant? According to a recent Zagat survey, it’s noise. Survey respondents said that they found a noisy dining experience more unpleasant than a disappointing order, and customers aren’t the only ones with such complaints. Many critics now include noise levels as a part of their overall review, and one New York Times reporter found the average noise level in a New York City restaurant to be around 94 to 102 decibels–about the same noise level as a hairdryer. 

Noise control has become a relevant issue for many restaurants as more industrial and open layout spaces have risen in trend. Most diners don’t prefer to yell across their table just to hold a conversation, and studies have shown that background noise and loud music impair customers’ ability to properly taste food and drink. Luckily, there are many ways to reduce unwanted background noise and improve your overall customer dining experience.

To the Windows,

In addition to blocking out noise from outside a restaurant, curtains also help absorb noise within a restaurant. The heavier the material, the larger its effect will be, but even thinner curtains can get the job done, especially when combined with other noise control methods. Curtains also give restaurants control over unwanted light, as well as additional privacy during non-business hours.

To the Walls,

Hard, flat surfaces act as springboards for noise, and restaurant walls are no exception. Wall panels, which are essentially fabric-covered boards, are designed to absorb such noise. For those who worry about wall panels affecting the aesthetic of their restaurant, custom-made wall panels can be a solution. Hanging a decorative rug can also have a similar effect.

To Everywhere in Between

Controlling noise does not have to be challenging. Other tactics for reducing restaurant noise include installing carpets or rugs, limiting the presence of loud machinery, and utilizing tablecloths.

Placing rugs in highly-trafficked areas such as the waiting area, the bar, and near the restrooms can help to absorb ambient noise such as the sounds of heels on hardwood or the squeaking of rain-soaked boots on tile. 

Tucking noisy machinery away, such as blenders, ice makers, and espresso machines reduces the presence of unavoidable operational noise. Likewise, investing in a high-quality heating and cooling system may also help you avert operational noise.

The use of a tablecloth lessens the clinking of silverware and glassware, in addition to softening a table’s conversational noise. The presence of tablecloths also works to add an element of luxury to customers’ dining experience.

“Soft ceilings” are also popular because of their near-invisibility — most customers don’t look up while dining. Composed of soundproof panels or draped decorative cloths, soft ceilings are a great noise-reduction option for restaurants with high ceilings that tend to serve as an echo chamber.

The Bottom Line

While noise control is essential for every restaurant, it’s important that restaurant owners find the method or methods that work best for their establishment. By doing this, restaurant owners are able to improve customers’ dining experience and land better reviews.