Let me start out by saying “I love you, San Francisco Bay Area Restaurants!” You offer me unparalleled food quality, and a superb olfactory and gastronomic experience. I’d even say you’re worth the money and the sometimes crazy lines. You do food, customized and allergy friendly menus, personalized attention, crowd management, and sensationalism so well! You’ve even started creating custom kid play spaces where the kids can play while the grown ups eat and drink (which I love!) But there is an area you’re failing, and it’s letting my whole family down. You’re ASSAULTING our ears.
No, really, I get it. Your open-ceiling industrial-chic exposed ductwork looks awesome. I especially love the steam-punk dangling incandescent bulbs and the trendy back-lit bar. But that exposed celling, well; it’s a nightmare for acoustic reflections. Your un-covered concrete floors aren’t helping things either.
Since having a sensory child, we can’t go to trendy “family friendly” brew pubs in concrete buildings with echoing walls, blasting music, sports TV, foodies screaming at each other over the music, and dishes clanking in the back. Nor can we go into South American cuisine restaurants with blasting salsa music, low flat ceilings, and walkie talkies for taking orders and transmitting them to the kitchen. We now avoid Asian restaurants with oriental tunes, flickering florescent lights, and hard tile floors. Our new favorite spots are food trucks on a funky corner, outdoor beer gardens, or unpopular restaurants with bamboo flooring, cloth wall hangings and table coverings, and low lighting. Most often we just order to go and eat in the park.
The average noise level in restaurants has steadily increased. Many people have come accustomed to having a minimum noise level and are able to filter much of the noise out. However this isn’t, as many articles call out, a “young people vs old people” issue – this is a nuero-diversity issue. Some people CAN NOT filter this type of noise. Their nervous systems and brain functions work differently than other people, and there is no way they can simply ignore or filter the noise level. There are lots of possible solutions out there, and I really wish more restaurants would at least take into consideration noise level as part of their fundamental design.
Simple solutions include table cloths, cloth wall hangings, and carpeted floors. Consider skipping the background music, or using soothing sounds such as waterfalls, rain drops, or other natural and relaxing sounds. Acoustic tiles are around a dollar per square foot on Amazon, and 20 or more of these glued to your concrete walls and ceilings would go a long way to dampen the sound. More expensive options might include private dinning spaces, or high end designs including customized architecture and sound design, like these Oakland Restaurants!
However it is delivered, I would be a much happier restaurant patron if my little girl wasn’t so overwhelmed with noise that she turns into a terrified animal fleeing the scene (bolting out the door, just as I order my food, and running down the street). Please hold the side of decibels with my meal. I’d like to eat calmly with my family and enjoy the astonishing flavors in your food!