The Guardian online have published an article about noise levels in eateries and restaurants. With someone actually creating reviews based upon volume.
Let’s be honest, dining out should be a pleasurable experience, one in which we ideally want conversation to at the least equal the cuisine and the wine list. You wouldn’t try to hold a conversation next to a someone using a jackhammer would you?
I realise that in some regards I have been very fortunate, I have travelled reasonably and I eaten in some very nice restaurants, both for business and pleasure. One of the most opulent restaurants in London Quaglinos has a wonderful entrance in which you descend into the dining area by way of a sweeping staircase. The noise levels (before the recent refit) were such that you simply couldn’t hold conversation at a normal level. Consider this when confronted with a bill which even 20 years ago was in the region of £60 a head.
An American study has found that noise levels can regularly reach 80 – 100 dB, (between operating a waste disposal and a power drill, for perspective) which is enough to cause permanent hearing damage. As a former litigator, I question whether this might leave the hospitality industry subject to litigation from staff who develop hearing problems in the course of their employment; afterall, we should not be put at health risk by our employers.
The science bit
Design places a large place in volume. Sound waves reflect off hard surfaces, such as bare plaster and painted walls, mirrors and glass. In most restaurants in the U.K. there’s are glass and mirrors everywhere. Therefore the current trend for stark and hard furnishings (which are, in the interests of hygiene, easy to clean), means that sound waves bounce back and thus the ambient noise level increases. People then have to talk louder and the ever decreasing circle begins.
Personally, because of my sensory issues, combined with both my partner and I have tinnitus, we tend to walk in and turn around and walk out of places that we go for pleasure which are too noisy. We go to eat out for pleasure of the food, wine and company, if neither of us can hear each other, it defeats the object of being together.
I advocate that other people do the same. Even if you have a reservation, maybe customers not willing to sit in an uncomfortable environment and pay good money will change restauranters policies and help influence a warmer, softer and more relaxing environment in which to dine.