Why Bad Acoustics are Costing Restaurants Money
In a visual industry, it’s easy to underestimate the importance of acoustics in a design plan whose function is not directly related to auditoriums, theaters, or sound production studios.
But too many hotels, restaurants, and offices do just that—only to find they have to make expensive retro-fixes, or, even worse, lose repeat business without understanding the role that poor acoustics played in a negative guest experience.
Once upon a time, the hallmarks of “upscale” dining included the hushed luxury of tablecloths, carpeted floors, and fully upholstered seating, so sound absorption took care of itself.
But today’s upscale restaurant décor is just as likely to be the opposite: sleek minimalist or industrial designs whose hard surfaces are virtual sound-wave boomerangs.
The din of conversation and clattering china that bounces back and forth between all those bare floors and exposed ceiling ductwork can make a place feel exciting and vibrant, but that quickly fades when people can’t hear their companions across the table. And that can be ultimately disastrous to a restaurant’s bottom line.
Not only are people unlikely to return to a too-noisy restaurant, they may avoid it altogether once word gets out that it has bad acoustics. Yelp reviews and the Soundprint app are alerting diners who are sensitive to high noise levels to stay away from the worst offenders.
And although this complaint is by no means limited to the over-50 crowd, it’s commonly known that our ability to filter out background noise diminishes with age, often more noticeably after 50. Interestingly, one thing that tends to increase with age is our ability to afford pricey restaurants, (often more noticeably after the very last tuition payment has been made) so any restauranteur with an ambitious menu should be very clear about the demographic they’ll need to attract—and consistently maintain—after that first blush of trendiness and popularity fades.
In short, the strategic placement of acoustical surfaces in the design stage can make all the difference in the guest experience and ultimate long-term success of a restaurant. Bad acoustics can lose money.
Which is a hard message for a restaurant designer to deliver when budget logic calls for maximizing the visual bang for the buck. In a world of tradeoffs, acoustical considerations often take a backseat to cosmetic priorities and other more tangible purchases. And after all, if there’s a chance noise won’t be an issue, most would opt to take a wait-and-see approach. But that can be financially risky, because applying sound abatement panels after a restaurant is finished is much more expensive than incorporating them into the design before construction.
Fortunately, there are solutions available today that allow designers to specify natural materials with hidden sound-absorbing layers that are as stunning as they are functional.
They offer all of the beauty and sustainability of regular wood panels while working double-duty to absorb and diffuse sound waves to create the optimum noise level for patron comfort.
In other words, acoustical panels no longer need to be viewed as an “extra”—they can instead be a key component of the look and feel of the space.
Good design means understanding the impact of surfaces on a space’s noise level. Visit the Murano Acoustics website to see more possibilities, or open the Murano Acoustics catalog on Steelyard to see all of their panel options and specs.