Proper sound design is your (and your restaurant’s) friend


We realize that music is essential for shaping our experiences:

Music is capable of producing some of the strongest emotional reactions in humans, whether it’s joy, sadness, fear or nostalgia. It’s interesting to note than people from a diverse range of cultures and backgrounds will often agree on whether a piece of music sounds happy or sad – for this reason music is often considered the universal “language of emotions”.

But how, exactly, does music and sound shape our dining experience?

Honey Paw - Portland ME

A recent piece in The Guardian examined how sound affects the taste of food:

I am sitting at my kitchen table eating chocolate in the name of science. (Turns out I’m pretty good at science.) I’m trying out some “sonic seasoning” whereby, if I listen to a low-pitched sound, my taste awareness somehow shrinks to the back of my tongue and focuses on the chocolate’s bitter elements. When I switch to a high frequency, the floodgates to sweetness open up and my entire mouth kicks back in a warm, sugary bath. (Try it yourself here.) It is a curious sensation because it doesn’t feel, to me at least, as if the chocolate tastes different. It is more that the sounds are twisting my grey matter, changing how it perceives the taste.

This piece at Flavour Journal offers an even more detailed breakdown of the studies on record, concluding:

The available evidence suggests that the problem of too much noise while eating and drinking is affecting a growing number of us while dining out at popular restaurants and bars.

What is more, research from the laboratory suggests that loud noise can indeed affect the taste, flavour, and texture of food, often in an adverse manner.

Because there are benefits to some forms of noise, and its impact on flavor, and some drawbacks by way of how it impacts overall experience, technological solutions are being experimented with to find an appropriate balance.

From the same analysis:

The restaurateur John Paluska has implemented another high-tech solution to combating the noise in his Mexican restaurant, Comal, in Berkeley, California. For, as well as utilizing sound-absorbing materials on the walls and ceilings (to create an ‘acoustically dry’ environment), this restaurant also incorporates an active auditory damping system. Twenty-eight microphones, situated over the heads of the guests, continuously sample the ambient noise in the restaurant. A digital processor then lengthens the sound and filters out all of those annoying high-pitched noises (such as the sound of forks hitting plates). The resulting sounds are then combined with music, amplified, and pumped back into the room via 95 speakers and sub-woofers mounted on the walls.

Diners at Paluska’s restaurant experience a diffuse wash of background sound. Crucially, what this high-tech solution allows the restaurateur to do is to separately modify the reverb near the bar and in the dining areas to adjust for occupancy levels and thus create a more exciting or relaxing atmosphere no matter where the guests happen to be congregating.

The most important takeaway:

Certainly, this constitutes yet one more example of how technology can be used to rescue the dining experience through better management of the sonic environment.

In other words, proper sound design is your (and your restaurant’s) friend.

(And don’t forget that we can have your logo custom printed on any of your speakers.)