According to a Zagat National Trends Survey, noise is the top complaint that patrons have against restaurants these days. A nice quiet dinner conversation at a restaurant with friends or family may be becoming a thing of the past. Restaurant noise routinely climbs into the high 70-decibel range (the noise level of a vacuum cleaner) and sometimes hits the mid-80s (equivalent to the sound from a blender or garbage disposal).
Many restaurants these days seem to have multiple screens alive with music videos, sports, or news. If there is background music it is likely to be quite loud. If you add to that the typical restaurant noise of competing conversations, the clatter of silverware, and a staff bustling about, it can mean enjoying and even just understanding what your dinner companions have to say can be a challenge. It becomes even more challenging if you have any kind of hearing loss.
There are actions you can take to offset restaurant noise. Here are some tips from audiologists:
- Pick the right restaurant. Open indoor environments with high ceilings, especially those with a decidedly industrial feel to them are likely to be noisy. Smaller, more intimate restaurants with carpet, tablecloths, and curtains will offer better acoustics.
- Schedule your visit to avoid busy times like happy hour and traditional dinner times.
- Before you go, call or email the restaurant and ask to be seated in the quietest part of the eatery.
- Sit at the perimeter of the room where there will be fewer tables and fewer competing conversations and fewer staff members and customers walking around.
- If they are available, ask to be seated in a booth with upholstered high-backed seats to block the din.
- It is a given that you should avoid sitting near the kitchen which is easily the noisiest place in any food establishment.
- If you wear hearing aids, sit with the majority of the room space behind you.
- If you are part of a large group, ask to be seated at round table. Being able to see who you are talking to makes it easier to understand them.