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Food for thought while you’re stuck in isolation

While we are missing the social dining-out experience and have to make do with limited take-away-only menus and higher prices, let us take a minute to consider one of the things that we do not miss so much about some dining out experiences. Noise.

We are extremely fortunate that we are usually spoilt for choice when it comes to dining out. Yet, we are also often drawn back to a few familiar cafes or restaurants that we enjoy going to most. It’s a combination of the food, service, atmosphere and general vibe which attract us to these places.

When you’re next in one of your favourite restaurants, cafes, or bars (hopefully not too far in the future) take note of the acoustic treatment around the room; ask yourself, what is the shape of the room?, how many people does it accommodate?, is the floor carpeted or hard?, how is the ceiling treated?, what’s on the walls?, are the furnishings plush or hard?, can you hear any noise from the kitchens or conversations between other customers? All these things have a complex relationship which result in your acoustic experience of the space, your acoustic comfort.

So, what is the right level of noise, and does loud mean more customers and revenue, or does it have the opposite effect?

This is not a simple question. To attempt to answer it, various approaches and tools have been established such as phone apps like Sound Print, experiences such as Silent dinner parties, and research studies on the effect of background noise on judgments relating to texture, smell, taste, and sensation.2.

Finding that balance between too quiet and too loud is by no means easy, especially when your customers are all individuals with different expectations and opinions about what level of noise is acceptable and comfortable. It is hard for architects and interior designers to take all of these aspects into account. For instance, take personal hearing ability. The prevalence of hearing loss in Australia (better ear) in 2017 was estimated to be 3.6 million people, that’s 2.2 million males and 1.4 million females. This represent 14.5% of the Australian population (estimated to be 18.9% in 2060).1.

Nevertheless, properly addressing the acoustics of restaurants, cafés, and bars, starting with addressing simple questions about the space (such as those presented above) during the design stage, makes all the difference between an uncomfortable venue, and a venue people are drawn to.

So, while we wait patiently for social distancing restrictions to be lifted, why not make a list of why we appreciate certain venues acoustically, or plan a silent dinner party?  These types of experiences allow you to establish your own better-informed opinions about the importance and impact acoustics plays in our self-isolation-free lives.

Interested in finding out more about Sound Print or silent dinner parties? Here are a couple of links to start you off:

 

References:

  1. Deloitte Access Economics for HCIA, June 2017, The Social and Economic Cost of Hearing Loss in Australia, https://www.hcia.com.au/about-hearing-loss/#.Xo086IhLguU
  2. Spence, Noise and its impact on the perception of food and drink, 2014, https://flavourjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2044-7248-3-9

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