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Sound: A Main Ingredient in Great Restaurant Architectural Design

acoustic solutions for restaurants

Dining out has changed quite a bit over the past few decades. We’ve grown from diners and dives to intentionally designed rooms built to set the scene for drool-worthy meals. From the music to the layout and decor to the menu and food presentation, everything must be well planned, because striking a balance is important.  By engaging all of our senses, restaurants today are creating fully-rounded sensory experiences that we are willing to pay top dollar for. They say you eat with your eyes first…we think you eat with all of your senses. 

What restaurateurs need to keep in mind is this: the way we experience each of the senses will affect the way we feel about our experience with the restaurant. When we go home and write our Yelp reviews, we are going to revert back to each sense. Was I able to carry on a conversation at normal volumes? Was the room too cold or hot? Did the food taste good? Each of the senses must leave satisfied.

How can I improve my acoustics in a restaurant?

The sound within a restaurant is definitely one of the more important things to get right, and it’s the reason we’re here today. You want to create a buzz that brings people in, but doesn’t drown out conversation. One of the best parts of trying new restaurants is sharing it with friends and family. We need to be able to communicate the things we are feeling. When a restaurant features too many hard surfaces or music that is too loud, the noise in the room gets amplified and makes it hard to hear each other over dinner. This isn’t what we’re striving for in the dining experience. 

Music choice is really up to each establishment, but you’ll want to make sure yours matches the specific vibe of your restaurant. On the other hand, don’t feel like you have to be too on-the-nose with music choices. Maybe you want an eclectic mix that changes with each meal of service: lunch, happy hour, brunch, dinner, or nightlife. Go for it! Just make sure it isn’t overly loud. You don’t want to give your guests anything they have to fight with to have an excellent experience.

ASI Architectural acoustic ceilings in restaurant

How to create balanced acoustics in the restaurant?

Beyond music style and volume, there are some choices you make that will affect patrons in their ability to connect with their friends. The way in which you lay out the room will play a huge role in how sound moves around the room. You still want the room to look dynamic, so a nice mix of creative arrangements and soft surfaces always works well. 

While hard surfaces are all the rage in the decorating world these days, they can be a nightmare when it comes to acoustics. Hard surfaces cause sound waves to bounce and amplify, which not only means diners have to talk louder to hear each other, but it also means that every sound within the restaurant operation gets its own echo. Once guests start talking more loudly or those dishes start clinking, those louder noises amplify, and the cycle starts all over again. Soft, absorbent surfaces will help keep reverberation to a minimum. 

If you are building the space from scratch, you can add acoustic backing to your drywall, but that gets a little complicated if you are retrofitting an existing space. If you don’t have the money to reinvent the whole room, there are affordable and very attractive products to help you bring the sound down.

A woman enjoys quiet dinning thanks to ASI Architectural acoustic wooden paneling

How do you reduce noise in walls?

Walls are some of the biggest sound reflectors in any building. Since we talk toward our friends, rather than at the floor or ceiling, hard walls can bounce the sound right back at us. We can decorate with artwork, but if that artwork is framed and covered in glass, you are simply replacing one smooth, hard surface with another. Nowadays, we’ve got much better solutions. If you’re going for the clean, simple look, you can add fabric-wrapped panels in just about any color and texture you could ask for. Not only do they look great, but they will reduce sound wave reflection and eliminate dead spots in the sound. If you have large windows, sound-absorbing curtains may help take the echo down.

ceiling tiles as acoustic solutions for restaurants?

Many people forget about the ceiling. While there are a few ceiling aficionados who would disagree, most folks don’t stare up all that often when we are indoors. This is another hard surface that can cause problems with sound. Not to mention, sometimes all the HVAC and wiring coexisting in the ceiling can add a lot of noise to the aesthetic. Think about adding some acoustic baffles or banners to spice things up a bit. Banners add flowing lines of color to keep the eyes moving around the room, and panels dropped from the ceiling add nice breaks in the space. Not only will each reduce echo in the room, but they will give your customers a reason to look up and admire some very cool functional art.

Noise pollution in restaurants is certainly a challenge, but it’s one that can inspire creativity while solving. There are entire lines of products that will help you get the look and sound you are looking for in one fell swoop – It just takes a little time and effort.