Design Your Restaurant with an Ear for Acoustics

restaurant acoustics

Design Your Restaurant with an Ear for Acoustics

The modern-day restaurant, bar, or tasting room is a place to relax and enjoy food, drink, and the company of friends. While a great menu and excellent service can set the table for a memorable dining experience, the top restaurants—the ones people keep returning to again and again—usually offer something else: ambience.

For many restaurant designers, ambience centres around visual elements such as lighting, furniture, and decor. Beyond the visual, smells and sounds, of course, also contribute to ambience.

Acoustics and Ambience

Acoustics play an important role in making or breaking a room’s ambience. A space that’s too quiet can feel awkward, and leave the impression that others are listening to your conversation. Yet harsh sounds and loud noises can likewise detract from ambience. Background music, loud chatter, or clanging plates can overwhelm a space and cause diners to talk louder, even yell. This increases noise levels even further. All too often, a cacophony of sound leads to a negative dining experience, and for some customers, that means they’ll never return—regardless of how great the menu and service is.

Ideally, a restaurant should offer acoustical privacy in an atmosphere that doesn’t hinder speech communication.

restaurant acoustics


“Seafood linguini? I ordered a dirty martini!”

Many contemporary restaurants and bars are housed in large, open rooms with wood or concrete floors, bare tables, high ceilings, and lots of windows. These design features can increase the amount of reflected (or reverberant) sound within the space. The sound created by customers or staff never fully dissipates before more sounds join in, leaving a muddle of unpleasant noises.

If servers have to bend down to hear diners or ask them to repeat orders, it’s a sign people are having trouble communicating. Similarly, if customers are routinely leaning across tables, they might be having issues hearing each other. If people are straining or speaking louder to be heard, the noise levels in the room are probably just too loud for comfort.

With well-designed acoustics, your dining room can be bright and lively, and also be a space that allows private conversations to take place between individuals and groups with a high degree of speech intelligibility.

Improving the Acoustics in Your Restaurant, Bar, or Tasting Room

At BKL, we have working relationships with food and beverage industry professionals, as well as architects and interior designers. Through these relationships, we have developed effective acoustical design standards that can ensure your space feels energetic while also controlling reverberant sound. We can help improve speech clarity and intelligibility without compromising the dining experience.

Introducing more sound, such as background music or noise from air handling systems, will not make diners simply forget how loud it is. Adding more noise usually makes it harder for people to communicate, so they raise their voices and the noise levels increase further. In the end, customers still leave the premises thinking the restaurant or bar is just too loud.

Acoustical Finishes with Substance and Style

While installing sufficient sound absorption in the form of “soft” finishes within a space can achieve better acoustical conditions, the look of such finishes may not align with the overall style of a space. At BKL we understand that visual impact is no less important that the acoustical impact, so we work to provide solutions that seamlessly integrate into a design without unduly affecting the desired ambience.

We also understand that noise from mechanical air handling systems or the music playback systems can adversely affect someone’s dining experience. We can provide design measures that not only control mechanical and electrical noise but also optimize internal conditions for music or audible soundtracks in restaurants, bars, and tasting rooms.

Engineering Acoustical Ambience

If noise is an issue for your business, BKL can help. We have been providing design advice and solutions in acoustics since 1966, and we can work with you to identify attractive, effective, and affordable acoustical treatments that can upgrade the ambiance of your restaurant. So your customers can have the best aural conditions possible for their dining or drinking experience. Get in touch today. We’d love to hear from you.


Written by Paul Marks

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