Restaurant noise can impact diners and workers

waiter and diners

On exposure to noise above an intensity level of 75 decibels, the ear's sensitivity level will decrease. But, the level of noise in busy restaurants is getting louder, which can be a problem for both diners, and restaurant workers.

In 2011, Safe Work Australia received a submission from Restaurant and Catering Australia that said because “average noise levels in restaurants range between 50 and 90 decibels”, the acceptable standard for noise levels in the workplace should be lifted from 85 decibels to 100 decibels”.

This level of noise could be equated to standing close to a power drill.

Louise Tarrant, national secretary of hospitality union United Voice said noise has increased as minimalist restaurants have become more popular with bare glass, bare walls and bare tables with reflective surfaces and nothing to absorb the sound.

Russell Keast, an associate professor of food and sensory science at Deakin University, says that significant levels of background noise reduce a person’s ability to detect salt and sweet foods but improves their enjoyment of crunchy foods.

Restaurant owners like a certain noise level in their restaurants to create atmosphere and “buzz” and quiet restaurants, according to some, are solemn and not necessarily a great dining experience.

WorkCover Queensland Customer Services Manager, Food Services Richard Snelling, said restaurant owners had to get the balance right between a good dining experience, and acceptable levels of noise for their staff and their customers.

“As a customer, if your order can’t be heard by your waiter, then it can be frustrating. It might be because of background noise, but it might be because the worker has some hearing loss. The right amount of noise can actually support providing a good service to customers, while also supporting workers with a good work environment,” he said.

Here’s some tips on how restaurant owners can dampen noise:

- Physical barriers break up soundwaves and reduce the overall noise levels

- Line walls with materials that absorb sound rather than leaving them bare

- Use sound absorbing materials on the ceiling or use sound absorbing drop ceilings if the ceilings are high

- Fabrics and soft furnishings within the restaurant will absorb noise

- Reduce the level of any music that you may be playing during service

- Install soft floor coverings where people walk and add rubber caps to chair legs.

For more information on the hazards and dangers of noise, visit WHSQ website.

For information about injury management and how injury prevention can affect your WorkCover Premium, visit our website, or call us on 1300 362 128.

Last updated
12 July 2016