During the last 20 years we have seen a number of different acoustical issues in retail / shopping areas – everything from blender noise for a juice bar at a now defunct Mexican restaurant chain prototype, to a restaurant so loud that guests had to shout to hear their dining partners, to the “noise” from a 15-dollar loudspeaker pointed into the mall.
However, when we analyze the issues, it always boils down to one or more of these core items: Room Acoustics, Sound Isolation, or Noise Control.
The “loud” restaurant is sometimes a design goal (or so they state). The owner wants the high-energy feel of activity in the space, but at what cost? How often do you go back to a restaurant if you cannot carry on a conversation at your table? Or you leave with a headache that lasts two days? The other extreme is the restaurant that is too “quiet” where you not only hear but also understand the conversations of everyone around you. From our point of view, the “perfect” environment, is somewhere between these two extremes and meets the goals and objectives of the owner. The selection of room finishes and table / booth arrangement is just one of the many design components that must be addressed.
Kitchen noise is another challenge. What is the best way to keep the food preparation process noise from reaching the guest? Can we put a barrier or maze at the entrance to the kitchen? How is this addressed in an open or demonstration kitchen? Also, in an open or demonstration kitchen we not only have the food preparation noise we also have the fume hood noise to address.
Fan noise and other equipment noise is typically not an issue for us when we work on retail or restaurant projects. We really need to look at the noise from entertainment systems. For example, the background music in a 50’s burger joint might not be what people want to hear in the mall’s main stage area, especially when Santa or the Easter Bunny is in town for pictures. “Johnny Be Good” and “Frosty the Snowman” just do not mix.
While “location, location, location” is the mantra of many restaurant / retail owners – the acoustics of the space often play a bigger role than many clients realize!