A Plea For Restaurant Design: CUT OUT THE NOISE!


A Plea For Restaurant Design: CUT OUT THE NOISE!


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We recently visited a restaurant that’s been making headlines for its swanky design, cool vibe, creative menu, and thoughtful little extras (embroidered linens, neat logo, and flavoured butter) that make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. Until, that is, we lost our hearing. We couldn’t hear ourselves, our guests, or the waitress. It was like an out-of-body experience.

Instead of being relaxing or refined, the environment was rowdy. We must be getting old, but our idea of a good time is not spitting steak across the table because you’re screaming to be heard above the din.

How can restaurant designers fuss and fret about tiny details, yet not consider one critical factor: the acoustics? And it’s an increasingly common beef among diners.  (Restaurateurs, listen up! It’s not only bad food or service that’ll keep people away.)

The common culprits? Open ceilings, hard wood and cement floors, linen-free tables, open kitchens and bar lounges that cause all forms of sounds to ricochet and echo through the space. In these recession-hit times, it seems that budget-minded designers are doing away with curtains, carpets, plush banquettes, padded seats and all manner of fixtures and soft furnishings that absorb sound.

Don’t get us wrong. We may be old, but there’s a difference between ambient sound – where you can still hear each other across the table above the chattering masses – versus ear-splitting noise where you need to bust a neck vein to be heard.

And yet all it takes is acoustical tiling, strategically placed on two perpendicular places — ie, the ceiling and floor — to prevent sound waves from bouncing back and forth. Go figure! A little investment in an acoustical expert at the beginning of the design phase helps.

So let’s make a noise about the noisiest restaurants in town! Tell us who they are.

Catherine Feliciano-Chon

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