How can I improve the acoustics in my bar or restaurant?

It's all about the base

The acoustics of your bar or restaurant are really important in helping to set the mood. Many bar/restaurant owners have misconceptions that purchasing a top of the range sound system will result in good acoustics but unfortunately there are a number of factors that affect acoustics.

In a bar, playing loud music has long been one strategy to encourage customers to feel in the party mood leading them to drink more- the underlining positive for the bar being increased sales. As a result, every bar owner wants quality acoustics to ensure the sounds in their bar project the right ambience. In a restaurant, however, research suggests that loud noises can affect the taste buds, suppressing the perception of sweetness or saltiness but enhancing umami flavours. Therefore, the choice about the acoustics, the type of music and the level of sound in a restaurant may be even more influential. Consequently, restaurant owners will want to consider their interiors particularly closely to ensure their food can be enjoyed without interference from these external factors.

How do the acoustics work in a room?

Sound is made by vibrations and those vibrations travel in waves but when the sound waves hit objects in a room, they can be absorbed and deflected back in a different direction causing the waves to bump into other waves and cascading them in different directions. Different materials cause different results in absorption of sound and the curvature of an object also plays it part too.

What affects the acoustics of a bar or restaurant?

There are a number of things that can affect the acoustics of a bar including its size, the layout of the walls, the ceiling and furniture. Beyond this, soft furnishings like the curtains, rugs and sofas also alter the acoustics of your bar. Hard and shiny surfaces are the worst culprits for poor acoustics and yet in recent years, it has been so fashionable to create a bar or restaurant with exposed concrete, brick and metal work. This is why more and more questions are being raised about how to improve the acoustics.

In a restaurant, on top of the effect of the room layout and the soft furnishings, there are the added issues of loud noises of plates, cutlery and pans clattering.

Whilst the above are all things you might be able to improve with careful choices of materials and positioning, there is one element that you are unable to change and that is the volume of your customers' voices. If they are chatting with friends, enjoying themselves, they are likely to continue in drinking/eating and ultimately spend more money and improve the takings. You don't want this noise level to drop as this might have the opposite effect; however, all this noise can make the acoustics somewhat challenging.

What can I do to improve the acoustics?

Improving the acoustics in your interior can be done through a number of ways. Firstly, introducing the right materials into your space such as acoustic panels will help absorb the unwanted background noise. They are specifically designed to do this job but can be created in numerous ways to help you keep the theme and mood of your bar or restaurant. They can be large enough to cover whole walls or ceilings or broken into sections to help specific areas of the room.

If you venue has high ceilings, this can give rise to poor acoustics and so to combat this issue, suspended ceiling panels can be introduced to absorb the echoes and reverberations.

The seating arrangements are another way to improve the acoustics. Positioning your tables and chairs too close together can have a negative effect to your acoustics whereas spaced out and almost enclosed areas help to reduce the noise. Creating little booths are not just inviting for customers, providing comfort and privacy, but their high backs and soft materials also lend themselves well to absorbing noise. Equally, having a variety of different levels of tables and chairs can help to reduce excessive noise as the sound waves will be absorbed at different heights across the room, whereas having all the same level, the waves can travel over the top and increase the problems with your acoustics.

Soft furnishings are another useful tool in improving acoustics. Curtains have been used time and time again to reduce the chance of echos as well as helping to make your establishment warm and friendly looking against the harsher exposed materials.

Indoor greenery is another solution to problems with acoustics. Plants have a natural ability to absorb sound so many bars and restaurants are now frequently adopting a natural theme. Living plants such as vines and suspended planters help to make a feature of vertical walls, alongside potted plants which can soften harsh walls and enclose seating areas.

Who can help me in finding the right fittings to improve the acoustics?

A specialist interior designer would be able to support you in making decisions about the fittings that would improve the acoustics for your business. They would be able to suggest solutions as to how you could create spaces that utilised furnishings and plants to eliminate or reduce the issues with your acoustics.