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SoundScapeIssue 0252Take action by sharing this checklist with your favourite eateries and report your best and worst Sound Dining experiences to soundscape@noise-abatement.orgEmma Greenland is an Associate with WSP Acoustics and specialises in architectural and room acoustics, particularly design of rooms for speech and intelligibility, including schools, auditoria, broadcast studios, arenas, conference facilities, museums, and court buildings. Emma is also Chair of the UK Institute of Acoustics' Speech and Hearing group.Picture the scene - long glistening tables, metal frame chairs, tiled floors, mirrored walls, lofty chandeliers and a sweeping stone staircase. The perfect environment to showcase minimalist, modern art. And possibly 20 years ago, that is exactly how leading restauranteurs wanted to frame their culinary masterpieces. Now, however, let us consider the same prospect as a dining experience: fire up the open kitchen, shake up the optics bar, power up the espresso machine; cue the raucous office party, the clattering cutlery tray and the crashing bottle recycling. Now wash vigorously with throbbing music, and diners would be well advised to bring their ear defenders. Expect moreIt is against this cacophonous backdrop that the Noise Abatement Society has joined forces with the Institute of Acoustics to initiate the Sound Dining campaign. This movement exemplifies restaurants that achieve diner satisfaction through better soundscape quality: taking into account overall ambience and acoustic qualities. Sound Dining is launching with a list of top tips that any responsible restaurant manager can use to improve acoustics and help reduce the needless clatter all too typical in modern restaurants. These steps will help protect staff and patrons from the discomfort of poor acoustics; as well as help make eating out a more viable option for the vulnerable and hearing impaired.Sound Dining checklist. Absorb the build up of occupancy noise by providing moderate levels of sound absorption. Discrete areas such as acoustic baffles or wall panels, or moderate performance sound absorbing ceilings will reduce excessive noise without killing the atmosphere. A wide range of material types such as fabric, timber, metal, plastic and plaster are available.. Diffuse where you cannot provide absorption. This can be achieved by breaking up sound reflections using fixtures and fittings; and scattering surfaces to walls and ceilings. These do not have to be expensive, proprietary solutions - they could just be shelves with objects on, and could be incorporated into a decorative feature.. Dampen the clatter of crockery and cutlery by considering resilient, rubber type surfaces or table linen for tabletop and counter surfaces.. Stop chairs scraping on hard floors by providing simple rubber stops to chair and table legs.. Separate noisy bar/music areas and kitchens from dining areas using screens or partitioning wherever possible.. Control noise from kitchen equipment and noisy appliances within the dining area by providing a sound absorbent hood or enclosure.. Balance the background noise. In moderation, broadband noise from building services systems operating not too loudly in the background can be used to mask occupancy noise from other tables to maintain privacy, without interfering with speech intelligibility around the table.. Keep background music where it belongs - in the background - so that it can still be enjoyed without causing a spiralling rise in noise levels as diners raise their voices to be heard. It is also important to play only music which is appropriate to the type of restaurant and clientele your business wishes to attract - not necessarily the wait staff's favourite alternative chart topper.. Furnishings can help to provide sound absorption. Fabric or leather upholstered seating will help to attenuate noise, while metal and timber benches will add to the problem.. Size tables so that diners do not have to communicate across distances greater than 2 metres. This will reduce, the need to shout over the occupancy noise level (further contributing to the spiralling background noise).. Light dining areas appropriately, as diners in noisy environments will also rely on visual cues to understand speech.With even some of these steps taken into account, restaurant goers can be hopeful of enjoying a more pleasant dining experience - and happy diners mean repeat business for restauranteurs and greater enjoyment by patrons.Bon appétit.

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