The charity Action on Hearing Loss is launching a new ‘Speak Easy’ campaign today (7th July) calling for reduced background noise in restaurants, after finding that eight out of ten people have left a restaurant, café or pub early due to noise levels.
91% of those surveyed by the charity said they would not return to a venue they considered to be too noisy.
Background noise may come from other diners, the venue’s kitchen, or piped music. Regardless of the source, the adverse effects are far-reaching: Action on Hearing Loss’ survey, conducted on people with and without hearing loss, revealed 27% of diners have received an incorrect food or drink order as a result of excessive noise.
Restaurant chains being targeted for their high noise levels include Prezzo and Wagamama, whilst Costa is amongst the café names to make the list.
The aim is for background noise to reach no more than 50 decibels. “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,” said Paul Breckell, Chief Executive of Action on Hearing Loss.
As the charity has noted, high noise levels are exacerbated by minimalist interior design trends, which sees sound-absorbing furnishings and soft fabrics (such as carpets, curtains and tablecloths) rejected in favour of high ceilings and hard surfaces.
Another factor is background music, which can be irritating to customers seeking a quiet dining experience. Beyond the catering industry, even Marks & Spencer cut all in-store music from 1st June 2016 in response to customer feedback.
Such is the demand to cut the ‘muzak’, the campaign group Pipedown (or the Campaign for Freedom from Piped Music) which has voiced its support for Action on Hearing Loss, offers an online guide to pubs without canned music. Supporters of both Pipedown and Action on Hearing Loss are encouraged to post reviews on TripAdvisor celebrating music-free restaurants, pubs or cafes, and to contact venues via email or social media to complain about excessive noise.
“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,” said Breckell.
After conducting a survey of nearly 1,500 people across the UK, Action on Hearing Loss has produced a practical guide to help the catering industry improve customer experience levels with noise reduction measures. It’s hoped the guide, called Speak Easy: How to improve the customer experience, will lead to a more peaceful dining atmosphere for everyone.
The full Speak Easy report, based on the survey results, is available via the Action on Hearing Loss website.
Do you have a favourite noise-free place to dine? Tweet us your recommendations (@KCWToday).