(Photo by Sabine Albers )

Benjamin Hillion

Senior Acoustic Engineer

NORMAN DISNEY & YOUNG
Perth, WA
T +61 8 9281 6800
D +61 8 9281 6883
F +61 8 9281 6888
E b.hillion@ndy.com

Noise: at which point does it impede taste?

The recent trend for restaurants and bars is to incorporate mostly hard and reflective surfaces, but at what cost to customer experience?

Whilst these hard surfaces provide advantages such as sleek modern looks, and ease of cleaning as opposed to carpets and fabric table clothes, they also have an elevated impact on the noise climate of a venue. The move away from sound absorptive materials means that as these spaces fill up with patrons, general chatter coupled with cutlery noise, dragging of chairs and background music causes the floor noise to rise.

Hard reflective surfaces such as glass, wood and stone look sleek and appealing but – on their own – they have no sound reduction properties.

It has been documented that high noise levels reduce the perceived taste of salty and sweet flavours.

According to a BBC article, experiments have been conducted where people sample food with different levels of background noise and rate the taste accordingly[1]. Noisy environments were found to lead to people rating the same food as less sweet and less salty than in quieter ones. The implication of this is that the noisier the location the more numb our palates become, and the blander the food tastes.

Another BBC article also suggests that to compensate for the effects on our taste buds of excess cabin noise, “airlines have to give in-flight food an extra kick, by salting and spicing it much more than a restaurant on the ground ever would.“[2]

In quieter environments such as traditional restaurants, which have carpeted areas, thick curtains and fabric on tables – for example – patrons are able to enjoy the taste of food to a fuller potential, based purely on the prevalence of moderate noise levels.

The good news for the modern hospitality industry is that there are ways to mitigate noise: methods that do not necessarily require traditional treatment like carpets or curtains. NDY’s acoustics expertise has resulted in improved customer experience – and client profitability and turnover – at a number of leading hospitality and retail venues.

NDY works alongside the broader design team to incorporate acoustic considerations within the early design concepts. The most recent example of this is Bread in Common restaurant in Fremantle WA, pictured above, which incorporates functional acoustic treatments that compliment interior design and aesthetics.

[1] Background noise affects taste of foods, research shows; 14 October 2010
By Jason Palmer (http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-11525897)

[2] Why does food taste different on aeroplanes? 12 January 2015
By Katia Moskvitch (http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150112-why-in-flight-food-tastes-weird)

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