From our geographically central location, Soundscape Engineering LLC's acoustical consultants and noise and vibration control engineers serve clients located throughout North America - in Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Ann Arbor, and Petoskey, Michigan; Milwaukee and Madison Wisconsin; Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, South Bend, and Northwest Indiana; Los Angeles, California; Vancouver, British Columbia; Dayton and Cincinnati Ohio, Winnipeg Manitoba; Saskatoon and Regina Saskatchewan; and elsewhere. Our engineers consult on issues of room acoustics, sound isolation, speech privacy, HVAC noise control, building vibration, and exterior noise impact. They also provide acoustic and vibration measurement services.

News & Editorials

Soundscape Engineering's latest news,tips, and trends in the acoustic engineering and consulting trade.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login

Too loud to eat?! – The need for restaurant noise control

Posted by on in Uncategorized
  • Font size: Larger Smaller
  • Subscribe to this entry
  • Print

I have never been in a restaurant where it was too loud to eat. If I’m hungry enough, I can eat most anything, most anywhere – except plain cooked spinach. A few weeks ago, my wife and I decided to try a restaurant that had recently opened in our neighborhood. It was a themed restaurant, with a large scale train chugging along on tracks above diners, stopping at intervals to sound its incredibly loud whistle. The restaurant was busy. Noise from diners was very high. Music was loud in order to be heard over the other noises. Was it all too loud? I expect that most elderly people would take their money elsewhere. We all start to slowly loose our hearing early in our adult life.

By the time we reach retirement age, we all have some amount of hearing loss. The more the hearing loss, the more difficult it becomes to converse in a noisy restaurant. This is one of the reasons that the elderly avoid loud restaurants. And although I can eat anywhere, when I go to a restaurant, I am paying for the experience, not just the food. Like many people, there are times when I'm interested in eating in an energetic setting, a place that’s loud and exciting. But I rarely want to go hoarse talking to my dining companions. I’m not the only person that feels this way. When I tell people that I’m an acoustical consultant, they often want to talk to me about noisy restaurants. Last February 3rd (2010) the Wall Street Journal had an excellent article on restaurant noise. If you’re a restaurant owner or are in the process of opening or designing a new restaurant, I encourage you to have a look at the article.

The soundscape should be an important consideration when designing a new restaurant. The restaurant geometry and layout, finishes, seating density, and table size are all factors that help to create the acoustical environment experienced by patrons. Other, even more obvious factors, are the audio system design and the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system noise. All of these elements should be reviewed relative to the desired acoustical environment to help ensure that the resulting soundscape supports the restaurant format and elevates the dining experience.

If optimizing patrons' dining experience isn't reason enough to pay close attention to the acoustical design, I will also point out that it isn't unheard of for restaurants to be so loud that employees are exposed to sound levels which exceed Federal OSHA and State OSHA allowable noise exposure levels; limits intended to help protect employees from accelerated hearing loss.

To wrap-up this article, I will mention the one other noise issue that I omitted from the above description of my recent dining experience. Low frequency mechanical systems noise pervaded the area of the restaurant where we were seated and it quickly induced headaches in both myself and my wife. This was completely avoidable as it was most likely caused by rooftop mechanical equipment with poor vibration isolation mounts. It is a shame because the food was actually very good... way better than plane cooked spinach.

Whether you’re located in Chicago or elsewhere, if you are designing a new restaurant or need an acoustical expert to help assess noise in an existing restaurant, you can contact me at Soundscape Engineering (