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robert brown

Noisy Restaurants

85 posts in this topic

I agree. Even here, in a small college town, restaurants tend to be very loud. And I hate that. I want relaxation and conversation not chaos!

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Not if you wear a hearing aid. My Dad was profoundly deaf. Wearing a hearing aid just amplifies sounds. The ear cannot hone in and be selective so you can hear a conversation. He used to lip-read a lot, but that only works when you are facing the person speaking.

If we were going out for a meal, I would ring and check to make sure they didn't have any music/tvs etc, so we knew we had a reasonable chance of holding a conversation. Once we went to an "a la carte" restaurant only to discover one of our fellow diners had a young child. Normally not a problem, but this one was allowed to run about between the tables and then stand behind its chair rocking it on the stone floor meaning that my Dad missed every fifth word that was being said.


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There are very few ways to keep noise down.

1. Tell everyone to shut the F up - You can give this a try. :-)

2. Distance between noise source and receiver - real estate, real estate, real estate -------

3. Barrier of noise sources - get yourself a private room.

In addition:

hard reflective surfaces are good for maintenance.

The louder the noise, the louder people talk.

dcarch

.


Edited by dcarch (log)

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I'm (relatively) young and have a similar problem that I can't filter out background noise very well. If people are not clearly louder than the surrounding, or if I am not focused on their voice I will miss what hey say at first. They have to have my attention - so my ear is 'tuned' to their voice, or it has to be quite quiet for me to absorb what they are saying.

I ask people to repeat themselves a lot. Seems to be nothing wrong with my hearing though - just my processing...

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Apparently in NYC, noise is a goal and not an accident.

I've been living in China nearly 20 years, but that is one thing I have never become used to. Noisy is a necessity. They call it 热闹 rè nào which literally translates as 'hot and noisy' and this is a most desirable quality in any restaurant.

Just a couple of days ago, I had dinner with a dear friend. We had stuff to discuss. Personal stuff. No chance. We were surrounded by a baying mob, yelling at each other, yelling at the wait staff who yelled back, screaming into their cell phones etc. While their kids ran around unchecked screaming at each other and crashing into the staff carrying scalding dishes of food.

Some drunken middle-aged male idiots playing a drinking game which involves screaming out numbers at the top of your voice always helps.

Situation normal.


Edited by liuzhou (log)

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Most of the upscale restaurants around here do try and give a more club-like atmosphere - with loud music and cocktail lounge waiting areas. To be honest, I kind of like it though - and I even have trouble filtering out background noise sometimes. Going to a noisy, popular restaurant just feels like more of an occasion to me than sitting in a quiet restaurant.

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In the New Restaurant you don't get to order and you are supposed to pay attention to the food (and your camera) and not your dining companions, so the excess noise makes perfect sense.

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I don't understand the trend. Both the not ordering and the loud noise, one may as well be eating at Cracker Barrel's buffet.

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Most of the upscale restaurants around here do try and give a more club-like atmosphere - with loud music and cocktail lounge waiting areas. To be honest, I kind of like it though - and I even have trouble filtering out background noise sometimes. Going to a noisy, popular restaurant just feels like more of an occasion to me than sitting in a quiet restaurant.

Well, Austin is just weird :raz: The whole city definitely caters to a younger demographic and with the exception of Congress, Jeffrey's, Trio and Jezebel you've pretty much described every good restaurant in town to a T.

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Here in our country (Philippines), most customers will consider it rude if the restaurant is so noisy. We just want to relax and eat peacefully. I think it's much better if restaurants would be a relaxing background music that's not loud. It will allow the customers to easily hear each other. Plus, customers will be more relaxed without realizing that it's because of the music. :)


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It is the curse of NYC dining.

There was a recent article, I think in the Times, pointing to research showing that people chew faster and eat more quickly in noisy settings, which of course enables restaurants to turn tables faster and make more money.

People also consume more alcohol in those settings - I know I do, it's one way to deal with the pounding chaos around you - and that is where the biggest profit margins are.

Sadly some of the restaurants serving the best food in New York these days have reflective surfaces, no carpeting, tables very close together, and loud music. The recent trend is also not to take reservations. So incredibly frustrating.

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In my personal opinion, for most fast-casual or even mildly casual restaurants, there should be a faint murmur of noise that will allow for certain activities to be overlooked, such as the clatter of tables being cleared and communication among the staff. There really is no "ideal design", the design needs to be amorphous, or able to adjust to the restaurant's architecture and demographic. If you have a dining room with high-vaulted ceilings that causes reverberation and amplifies noise, you will probably be trying to mitigate the noise through the use of tapestries or roof tiling. If the dining room is so quiet customers feel compelled to whisper, they probably feel awkward as well, so try to supplement it with non-lyrical music. The purpose of ambient noise is to create a gentle lull so that customers can focus on what matters most, the conversation at their table and not be distracted by everything surrounding them. 

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Some restaurants have noisy sections so that part of the restaurant can be avoided. Some otherwise noisy restaurants have off hours when they are fine to dine at. I don't like having to dine were the noise level makes me feel ill and I generally won't return to such restaurants. Noise levels that high are simply an example of bad management at work.

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Yes. Successful restaurants are often noisy, but I wonder if anyone can separate whether noise is a result of success or the cause of it. I think it is the former.  I am aware t hat restaurant consultants say it is part of the package that leads to success, but are they just bullshitting or do they actually know?

 

As an aside, I was in a painfully noisy place a while ago. My table was shouting to barely be heard. I measured the decibel level with an app on my android. After 20 minutes the noise seemed more bearable, I measured the sound again. It was exactly the same.  So we accommodated to the noise and it became tolerable if not desirable.

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http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/834646

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/731338

 

For myself, noisy restaurants - especially where the clientele is of a certain "beautiful people" type are places not for food but for being seen.  Young people also seem to equate quiet places with fuddy-duddy-ness --- well, dear people, that's fine, just stay out of such quiet places then and you can diss them to your heart's content - but I will not care one whit about your misplaced ramblings.

 

As for the other considerations - such as moving clientele along, as referred to above and in those links I gave - that is something that one can choose to acquiesce in or not.   In this context I would note that Hakkasan in NYC has been reported often as having a deafening modernist-type sound track quite unlike what one might think of as a serene Chinese atmosphere - and the "beautiful people" appear to like it.

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. . . . what one might think of as a serene Chinese atmosphere. . . .

 

In Indiana, Chinese restaurants may be havens of peace, but in NYC, some of the most spectacularly noisy restaurants are the authentically Chinese ones, and they know not serenity of any sort. They're packed, so clearly, this is at least accepted, and for all I know, the noise level is a deliberate aspect of the business model.


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In Indiana, Chinese restaurants may be havens of peace, but in NYC, some of the most spectacularly noisy restaurants are the authentically Chinese ones, and they know not serenity of any sort. They're packed, so clearly, this is at least accepted, and for all I know, the noise level is a deliberate aspect of the business model.

 

Yes, as I mentioned before, 热闹 rè nào (literally hot and noisy) is considered an essential part of restaurant culture in China.

 

The noise can be deafening. Especially at 饮茶 or "morning tea". where people eat dim sum. 


Edited by liuzhou (log)

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In Indiana, Chinese restaurants may be havens of peace, but in NYC, some of the most spectacularly noisy restaurants are the authentically Chinese ones, and they know not serenity of any sort. They're packed, so clearly, this is at least accepted, and for all I know, the noise level is a deliberate aspect of the business model.

 

But that is comparing apples to oranges. I suppose I should have placed double quotes around that phrase in question.  Even in Indiana there are Chinese restaurants that get pretty loud on the weekends when Chinese families pour in.  I've been in any number of Chinese restaurants in Chicago and (since we're talking about it) NYC with deafening noise levels.  But Hakkasan positions itself as high end sophisticated Chinese fine dining geared somewhat towards Western sensibilities and Michelin inspectors.  The appropriate comparison would be another high-end fine dining restaurant of that sort.  Maybe even something like Tin Lung Heen or Lung King Heen in Hong Kong, perhaps. (There are no other high-end Chinese restaurants with the sort of decor or aspirations in NYC, I think, that Hakkasan professes)


Edited by huiray (log)

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"------the noise level is a deliberate aspect of the business model.---"

 

I don't think so. It is about extreme real estate costs for retail space, so they pack the tables as closely as possible. It is about maintenance costs. Hard reflective surfaces are much easier for cleaning.

 

"----Chinese restaurants that get pretty loud on the weekends when Chinese families pour in---"

Table sharing is a common practice. They don't even ask you.

 

dcarch

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Yes. Successful restaurants are often noisy, but I wonder if anyone can separate whether noise is a result of success or the cause of it. I think it is the former.  I am aware t hat restaurant consultants say it is part of the package that leads to success, but are they just bullshitting or do they actually know?

 

 

Can't it be a little bit of both? In Melbourne we have many popular restaurants that deliberately adopt a 'club'-like atmosphere. The music is loud. The diners are loud. Small, tightly-packed tables. There's no attempt to deaden the noise. These places aren't fine dining: merely casual places. If you want to eat there the lunch/early evening is usually pleasant enough--even serene, for want of a better word--but as the crowd pours in the music is cranked. The atmosphere is clearly intended to be part of the appeal. And, you know what? It works in Melbourne just as well as it works in New York and DC and (probably) everywhere else. 


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Here is OSHAs noise reg. It wouldn't surprise me if many restaurants exceed it.

https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=standards&p_id=9735

 

I realise this post is old, but those numbers are unreasonably high, in England and the EU we have a limit of 80dBA and after that measures have to be taken to reduce the noise level. 90dBA is quite loud - I doubt many restaurants would be exceeding that. *Edit* forgot to ask - what's this standard for? Workplace noise I'd guess. Hope it's been updated recently to a lower level.

 

Also RE dcarch's comment about there not being many ways to keep noise down in a room - there are quite a lot, it's just that people don't usually bother to think of it, unfortunately. Noise transmission on the other hand, that's another beast entirely. That I would agree there aren't many ways to deal with it after construction. Considered in the design phase, it's doable. 


Edited by Michael Speleoto (log)

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"-----Also RE dcarch's comment about there not being many ways to keep noise down in a room - there are quite a lot, ----"

 

Let me put it in another way. Yes there is very effective way to cut down noise, but there is a problem you cannot change.

 

​In the science of hearing and acoustics, the problem is that our hearing sensibility is logarithmic in response.

 

Our hearing can detect a change in sound level every 3 dbs; however, every 3 dbs, it represents a 100% in acoustic power. In other words, if you manage to lower the noise somewhat, you need to cut the noise energy by 100%.

 

In reverse, 1 watt of power can give you acceptable music loudness, why do you need a 500 watt amplifier?  because 2 watts is a little louder, 4 watts, slightly louder, 8 watts, 16 watts, 32 watts ----------.

 

The factors I mentioned are the most effective, but not practical ways to control noise in a restaurant environment.

 

dcarch

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"-----Also RE dcarch's comment about there not being many ways to keep noise down in a room - there are quite a lot, ----"

 

Let me put it in another way. Yes there is very effective way to cut down noise, but there is a problem you cannot change.

 

​In the science of hearing and acoustics, the problem is that our hearing sensibility is logarithmic in response.

 

Our hearing can detect a change in sound level every 3 dbs; however, every 3 dbs, it represents a 100% in acoustic power. In other words, if you manage to lower the noise somewhat, you need to cut the noise energy by 100%.

 

In reverse, 1 watt of power can give you acceptable music loudness, why do you need a 500 watt amplifier?  because 2 watts is a little louder, 4 watts, slightly louder, 8 watts, 16 watts, 32 watts ----------.

 

The factors I mentioned are the most effective, but not practical ways to control noise in a restaurant environment.

 

dcarch

 

Going offtopic now a little bit but yes you are correct about the sound intensity (acoustic power) doubling with an increase of 3dB - but not sure why you would ever want to refer to sound intensity when discussing effects related to hearing. Sound pressure level is the appropriate unit for this (technically Phon/Sone should be used for loudness but SPL is more convenient).

2-3dB is the threshold that most people can perceive a change in loudness, but a doubling of loudness is a 10dB increase, not 3. 

 

Acoustic absorption materials are cheap and readily available and can usually be integrated into a space unintrusively and effectively. Since you're dealing with reflected sound energy adding some absorption in the right places in a room can be very effective as it's not only attenuating the first incident wave but also all subsequent ones. They also tend to be very effective around 1kHz and above - spanning the entire speech band. Lower frequencies are more difficult to treat effectively but this isn't something that should even need to be addressed in a restaurant anyway. 

Absorption should work very well for taming typical restaurant noise and shouldn't require too much of it to do a decent job. When the background noise decreases, people don't have to shout as much, and as such has a cascading effect.

There's many other things to consider but it'd probably derail the thread too much.

Keeping ontopic now -  loud restaurants were probably all designed to be that way/simply don't care/don't care enough to budget for it as it's not difficult to account for noise in a design/remodel scenario.

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