Restaurant Development & Design

January-February 2017

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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6 6 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 7 Form + Function Finding the right soundscape requires balancing art and science. Restaurant Acoustics BY DONNA BOSS, Contributing Editor A t this time of intense competi- tion for customers, designing a restaurant for comfortable acoustics is a must. "If diners come to a restaurant and it's too noisy, they'll leave or won't come back again," says Charles M. Salter, principal of Charles M. Salter Associates, Inc., San Francisco. He and his firm authored the reference book Acoustics: Architecture, Engineering, the Environment. "Yet, if a restaurant is too quiet and doesn't feel energetic, some customers may not be satisfied, either. But you can't general- ize what the perfect acoustics should be because it's subjective. There are no industry standards." Addressing acoustics up front during the initial design results in the best return on investment. "Not put- ting acoustics on a high priority design checklist from the beginning of the de- sign process is a huge mistake and can be outrageously expensive," says Tom Galvin, FCSI, president, Galvin Design Group Inc., Winter Garden, Fla. "The process of retrofitting and perhaps closing down the restaurant can also be very expensive and create great angst," adds David Shea, CID, NCRB principal, Shea, Inc., Minneapolis. Three primary areas of concern surface when designing acoustics: deter- mining the optimal acoustical levels for ambience and customer comfort, install- ing the right materials in dining areas, and controlling kitchen acoustics. The Changing Landscape "In the past 10 to 15 years, design- ers and architects have changed the landscape of restaurant design to create a clean, modern aesthetic in the environment they are creating, which leads to higher sound levels," says Shea. "People are eating out more often and want a relaxed, casual social experience. Designers are adding open theater-style kitchens and blending the dining room and the bar into the same space. They're also designing loft/ware- house spaces that offer a lot of space and oftentimes can be more economi- cal, but their hard surfaces contribute to much higher sound levels." Acceptable decibel levels vary enormously for different age groups and dayparts. Older customers who have a hard time hearing prefer quieter environments in which they can hear their companions sitting across a table. Customers of all ages dining in very expensive restaurants tend to want Salter's project, Boudin at the Wharf in San Francisco, has a sound-absorbing metal deck to absorb sound bouncing off the ceiling. Photo courtesy of Charles M. Salter Associates, Inc.

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