Close to eight out of ten people have left a restaurant, café or pub early because of the noise, according to a new survey from Action on Hearing Loss.
The charity is today launching Speak Easy, a nation-wide campaign for a quieter dining experience.
The online poll that surveyed both people with and without hearing loss showed that 81% of respondents had difficulty holding a conversation because of the high level of environmental noise.
They were also united (91%) in saying that they will not make a return visit to a place where the noise levels were too high.
The high level of background noise, which includes noise made by other diners, noise from the kitchen and background music was also responsible for over a quarter (27%) of all respondents receiving the wrong order during a meal out.
The problem is exacerbated by recent interior design trends that have seen venues employ bold, sleek aesthetics with lots of hard surfaces and high ceilings, which have led to increased noise levels due to a lack of furnishings that absorb sound.
Paul Breckell, Chief Executive Action on Hearing Loss says:
‘Through our campaign we want to help the restaurant, café and pub industry to create a more welcoming dining experience for all customers. Whether you’re out for a meal with friends, or if you’re on a date, you should be able to enjoy it without having to repeat yourself, raise your voice or receive the wrong order due to high levels of background noise.
‘There are 11 million of people in the UK with hearing loss so financially, it’s a no-brainer for the industry to help make dining out even more enjoyable and accessible. Three-quarters of people believe that restaurants, cafés and pubs have become louder in the last five years and we look forward to working with the catering industry to help take noise off the menu.”
Tom Tanner, Sustainable Restaurant Association said: ‘Restaurants, pubs and cafes have a huge role to play at the very heart of their community and that means considering everyone’s needs, including the UK’s 11 million people with hearing loss. We will encourage all of our members and the industry as a whole to engage with the Speak Easy campaign, to ensure unnecessary noise doesn’t prevent anyone from enjoying eating out.’
The report’s companion guide, Speak Easy: How to improve the customer experience, details the following practical steps that restaurants, cafés and bars can take to reduce background noise:
- Turn down background noise – making it easier to hold conversations
- Have speaker free zones
- Provide designated quiet areas within a venue – customers would be assured of avoiding major background noise
- Add softer furnishings such as carpets and table cloths, or rubber-capped chair legs
- Implementing acoustic treatments, such as wall and ceiling panels, which are designed to reduce noise levels, either by absorbing or diffusing sounds. Acoustic treatments can be ‘retrofitted’ within existing venues, or incorporated into new builds
- Installing art panels which are types of wall or ceiling panels where a design of the client’s choosing is printed on the acoustic panel.
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