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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J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 7 • 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 • 6 7 Form + Function reasonable soundscapes so they can converse with their companions and the waitstaff. On the other hand, Millenni- als and customers just out of college often enjoy louder dining and bar envi- ronments. Families often want some- thing in between, where they can talk but the kids don't have to be too quiet. For some restaurateurs, changing sound levels works best. "For example, some restaurateurs have a music program that changes throughout the evening, so it's quieter for diners earlier in the evening and louder for a bar focus later," Shea says. The best thing to do if you're designing a new restaurant or want to retrofit your existing space is to go to different restaurants and measure their sound level to determine if that level might be good for your concept, Shea suggests. He thinks acoustics is so important that he keeps a decibel noise meter app on his phone so he can check out the soundscape at every facility he walks into. Material Selection Figuring out which materials to use to achieve an acceptable noise level is like working with a kaleidoscope. Design- ers must find a way to allow acceptable noise from regular conversations, kitchen activity and music to come forth while re- ducing disturbing noise such as loud con- versations, as well as waiters and kitchen staff banging plates and equipment. Before selecting materials to create the right soundscape, designers review the noise reduction coefficient (NRC), a scalar representation of the amount of sound energy absorbed upon strik- ing a particular surface. An NRC of 0 indicates perfect reflection; an NRC of 1 indicates perfect absorption. Designers often recommend that their restaurant clients don't become penny-wise and pound-foolish when selecting materials. "People tend to be very attached to the ceilings and walls in an existing restaurant," Salter says. "But if the restaurant is too noisy, it doesn't matter how good it looks." In fine-dining and some casual-din- ing environments, upholstered seat cush- ions and banquettes work well to reduce noise. "Table size and how close guests sit next to one another affect sound lev- els," Salter says. "A private dining room or banquet space can often reverberate sound because so many people are talk- ing in a close environment." Tablecloths and drapes over win- dows minimize reverberating sound. "If the ceiling height is above 9 or 10 feet, consider treating the walls and ceil- ing," Salter says. For ceilings, adding material such as felt can be effective. However, selecting a material that is thick enough to absorb sound is crucial. "For example, one restaurant's owners installed quarter-inch felt in the ceiling but soon discovered it wasn't absorptive enough, so they had to go in and re- place it with thicker material," he adds. Large-format acoustic panels can be worked into an attractive solution. Cushioning a ceiling with two inches of sonic spray can also be effective. "One company makes ceiling panels that look metal but aren't, so we can get the Built in the 1980s, a kiln-dried-cedar slat ceiling with sound-absorbing material was installed at Mudd's restau- rant in San Ramon, Calif., in order to control reverberation. Photo courtesy of Charles M. Salter Associates, Inc.

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