“Nice restaurant, but too noisy”. Read any restaurant review and this is a line you wouldn’t be surprised to see. Many restaurants seem to be missing a trick when designing their dining spaces – everything else seems to be considered apart from one very important factor – noise.

The modern day restaurant has become the epitome of minimalist living. Out are the carpets, curtains, tablecloths and plush cushions; in are brick walls, bare tables, stripped floors and metal counters. However unfashionable the textile-laden style of restaurant now seems, all the fabrics and soft furnishings were great for absorbing sound. The minimalist look of today provides a plethora of hard surfaces for sound to bounce off, which results in sound bouncing and echoing round a room (reverberation).

And what about the noise itself? Lots of people talking, walking, using phones and eating create enough background noise to raise the overall sound levels in a room considerably. Then add to this open kitchens, lively bars and loud music (which only makes diners talk even louder), and you’ve got the recipe for a deafening cacophony of noise.

In the UK, there aren’t any direct regulations regarding excessive noise inside restaurants. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (based on EU Directives), state that the level at which employers must provide hearing protection and hearing protection zones is now 85 decibels (if employees are subjected to constant daily or weekly average exposure). It’s not unheard of for noise in restaurants to peak at 85-90 decibels, but as this noise is not constant, restaurant owners aren’t breaching regulations. In terms of acoustic comfort for diners, there are no regulations or even recommendations on how loud a restaurant needs to get before it becomes an unpleasant place to eat and socialise. Given that 70 decibels is equal to a vacuum cleaner, and you wouldn’t want to sit next to one during a meal, it seems unnecessary that noise levels in some restaurants exceeds this by another 15-20 decibels.

Ironically, despite noise in restaurants being an ever-growing issue, it’s not a particularly difficult issue to resolve if dealt with in the right way. Cleverly placed specialist absorptive materials can massively reduce the reverberation and noise in a room.  The best way to absorb reverberant noise is to cover at least one surface with sound-absorbing material. A FabricWall solution is an ideal solution for absorbing noise in restaurants as it’s a wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-ceiling solution that covers a large area and can absorb up to 90% of the sound that hits it. Covering such a large area with sound absorbent materials is not only acoustically effective, but it creates a design feature that can suit the appearance of any space. For restaurants looking for a minimalist look, there are hundreds of fabrics to choose from that can create a sleek, discreet finish.  Anyone wanting to make a feature wall of their acoustic solution could choose from any number of bright and fabulous colours, choose a colour tone close to their brand colour or even create a true feature wall with a custom printed FabricWall.

We tell our client to think of a FabricWall treatment as an alternative to decorative wall-coverings, which uses attractive fabrics rather than fabric backed wallpapers. The system allows wall lighting, services, sockets and switches to be incorporated. Furthermore, fabrics can be easily cleaned or replaced at a later date to refresh the look and design of a restaurant, more cost effectively and less disruptively than stripping and re-covering walls.

What’s certain is that excessive noise in restaurants is an unnecessary issue that’s a result of dining spaces being designed poorly. If you want more information about restaurant acoustics or a FabricWall solution for your dining space, contact us.