New figures released by the charity show that 43% of diners have opted to get a takeaway instead of going out for a meal, with 91% stating that they would not return to a noisy restaurant.
As part of its Speak Easy campaign, the charity investigated decibel levels in a selection of popular restaurants, and found that at busy times some restaurants’ noise levels reached above 90dB - the equivalent of a motorbike, a lawnmower, a whirring food processor or someone using a hand saw.
A Patisserie Valerie café was the worst offender, where a level of 97.89dB was recorded, followed by a recording of 90.1dB at a Wagamama, and 87.9dB in Pizza Express. Byron was the most quiet restaurant, with a recording of 81.9dB, followed by Zizzi, at 85.4dB.
The online survey, conducted by 1,200 members of the general public, found that the ideal sound level for a restaurant for 70% of people was some ‘conversational buzz’ with diners wanting a ‘low level of background noise at a level which enabled them to still hear their companions’.
“These results demonstrate the business case for restaurants putting some real consideration into their acoustics. There are over 11 million people in the UK have some degree of hearing loss and they are beginning to spend money elsewhere,” says Paul Breckell, Action on Hearing Loss chief executive.
“Everyone loves going out for a meal but with an increasing variety of takeaway options and the intrusive background noise levels exacerbated by fashionable hard surfaces, it’s no wonder customers are opting to stay in. It’s entirely reasonable for customers to expect to hear companions sat opposite them.”
They charity launched a guide for restaurants to help them dampen their noise levels, outlining ways to be more accessible using things such as soft furnishings to absorb sound, and investing in acoustic treatments.
The charity also encourages diners to take their own decibel readings at restaurants using a free app, and give feedback to restaurants on their sound levels by using the #DecibelSquad hashtag on social media.