Restaurants really are louder than ever

Restaurants really are louder than ever. Here's what's being done about it.

What most customers want is to enjoy good conversation and great meal.

Between crowd noise, blaring music, and overall sound levels, “it’s harder to find places that make me want to return.”  First, a reality check: No, it’s not just because you’re getting older and crankier. Restaurants are louder than they used to be, and not just because some places deliberately turn up the music. The move away from tapestries and other soft décor elements, the end of the dropped-ceiling era, and other design trends, have all contributed to the din.

Sound is a wave that ripples through the atmosphere, as air molecules push against each other, moving like the circles on a pond’s surface radiating from a stone’s fall. Hard surfaces reflect sound waves, which continue bouncing around until something stops them.

The time it takes for the sound to diminish is called reverberation time, Battaglia said. When it comes to how it affects people’s happiness, research has shown reverberation time is an important factor, not just the sheer volume of the sound, he said.

“You want enough reverberation where it helps create a social atmosphere, where you sort of join in with other people talking and it all mixes together,” he said. “You want that at a decent level, but not overwhelming. You adjust that by dealing with reverberation time.”

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