Why restaurants are so loud nowadays

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/11/28/why-restaurants-are-so-loud-no.html


Thus why Luby’s has carpet. Nasty to clean but easy on those with hearing aids.
Small mom and pop places tend to be quieter because stuff gets stacked around. So why is this basic element of design still a surprise to ppl?


Seems like every week around Boston area, a new ultra-hip cheffy restaurant opens, and they seem to follow the same sort of layout every time: wood or laminate floors, exposed beams and brick, funky stuff on the walls, exposed kitchen, and a bar smack dab in the middle of the room. Add the requisite thumping beats over the sound system, turn down the lights to a bare flicker, and you get to squint at barely-visible food while shouting at your friends. Fun!

A snazzy restaurant opened in my neighborhood not long ago with all of the above; I remember my server and I passing a notebook back and forth just to place my order. Six months after they opened, they closed off the kitchen, relocated the bar to a separate room, and added soundproofing to the walls, ceiling, and undersides of the tables. It’s infinitely more pleasant.


I’m looking at the silverware used to illustrate the post and thinking: Well the main reason it’s so loud is that you are zooming across the Atlantic at twice the speed of sound… (because that is the silverware designed by Raymond Loewy for use on the Concorde)

More seriously, I figure that it makes you less likely to sit around at the table and talk for an extended period, clearing it for new paying customers.


Noticed this also in a luxury hotel recently because I had the opportunity to stay in one (not my personal expense mercifully). It was attractive in photos but literally the most comfortable place to sit was in the bath. Everything was made of metal, stone, or glass… cold hard floors, cold hard beds, and no place for anything even remotely personal or comfortable. The same problem too… so much noise. You could hear everything throughout the suite but also since the adjacent rooms were similar you could hear every single thing in the next rooms too – To the point where we had a stilted conversation through a wall at one point. I long for the days when designers of these spaces thought about anything besides the visuals.


How I feel in Buca Di Beppo:


The new modernist trend has essentially rendered minimalism into a new type of kitsch.

My hunch is that the internet allows for the proliferation of trends faster than a print based world ever could. Good designers are under more pressure from clients demanding conformity to perceived elements of luxury because said images are so prolific. Similarly, bad designers easily copy trends because said images make it easier to quickly follow the crowd.

I also believe that we are only now starting to recognize the complete loss western culture is suffering from the passing of the WWII i.e. “greatest” generation. Many of the greatest artists and designers from that era where extensively schooled and had a deep respect for history and context.

We are in an odd time in history were more and more of everything ever created by humans is available to us (history, art, design, ect), yet we act more and more ignorant of it because it’s so easy to quickly consume it and then pose as a faux expert that has spent time with it.

The power of the market prevails!


Although the silverware in the illustration above that I mentioned is an example of what happens when designers prize clean and neat over functional design elements that have been iteratively refined for 100s of years. The hemispherical bowl on the spoon is more difficult to empty with your upper lip than a more conventional design and the small round handles are more likely to turn in your hand. They were designed by Raymond Loewy, one of the most famous designers of the 20th century. At least later versions had flat handles.


This is a big issue in my life. My spouse has a hearing deficit, and is fine in a normal restaurant, but can literally not hear a thing in these new loud spaces.

I need a yelp add-on that tells me if a space is loud, because nothing is worse than sitting down to dinner and realize you can’t even hardly speak to each other.


This isn’t usually a problem for me, but OMG, this one new BBQ restaurant is sooooo fucking loud. It’s nuts. You really can’t have a conversation when it is busy.


I feel like we are missing why the minimalist decor came about. First to the point @Rachel_Hall made…carpet in a restaurant is GROSS. It is never going to be clean properly. Second…look at the late 80’s and 90’s and early 00’s…Chili’s, Applebee’s, TGIF’s, Cracker Barrel, and a host of other local/regional places cropped up and they were FILLED TO THE BRIM with crap. They had more nick-nacks in each restaurant than every grandmother combined.

Good restaurants specifically went minimal to avoid looking or feeling like these places, to reduce the costs they spend on decor and shift that time and money to things that mattered to making good food, and in the mid 00’s through today our society has pushed over and over a more minimalist mindset!

While that minimalist design for restaurants does contribute to the noise levels…its not just on them.

It is also the patrons! People do not know how to have a hushed or “inside voice” conversation anymore. They are raucous at times without giving a damn about anyone else around them. Multiple tables of people talking on their damn cell phones, or cell phones beeping and whizzing because idiots don’t know how or refuse to mute them or even turn down the volume. “Hey, check this video out on instagram!!! Hold on, let me turn it up so you can hear it!!”

The patrons are as much to blame.


The weirdest experience for me was my visit to Babbo in NYC. I didn’t expect to walk in to rock-stadium levels of Guns n’ Roses pumping over the speakers and Def Leppard playing so loudly that we were screaming to be heard over our fancy pasta dishes.


It’s not just the trend to hard surfaces. It’s also a deliberate profit-maximizing choice on the part of restaurant owners and designers.

“Loud restaurants draw people in. Restaurateurs have found that louder restaurants are perceived as lively and successful.”

“Loud music makes us “drunk.” There’s scientific proof that the louder and faster the music, the faster (and often more) people eat and drink. In the past, corporate restaurant chains have even developed soundtracks that switch to higher tempo music at a louder volume when they want to turn tables.”


I wonder if their is any noise correlation between a restaurant and the quality of it’s food. A quick Googling of restaurant noise levels in my part of the world returns several loud joints that are not very good food wise.


I would have had to leave. My spouse would have been rendered unable to hear at all. Wow.


Presumably they figured out that the people who enjoy that sort of atmosphere aren’t old enough to be able to afford it.


I am not sure what this means…this is already a feature in Yelp reviews…

Right side > More Business Info > Noise Level: Average


I just scanned through the last pile of restaurants I’ve been to on Yelp, and they did not list the noise level. I don’t know if it’s because it’s geographically specific, or if it’s a feature someone has to fill out, and nobody around here does. Maybe the restaurants I go to are too small to have anyone interested in filling that out?

It seems hit or miss.


Its the later. Reviewers have to fill the fields out, if even one person does it will populate. So…make an account and start reviewing!!