Tag Archive: restaurants

  1. The Noisy Restaurant

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    The noisy restaurant.

    If you think about it, having a noise problem in a restaurant is one of the best problems an owner can have.  Noise means people enjoying themselves.   A bigger problem, I suppose, would be if the place were completely empty all of the time.  As I have noted in a few other restaurant based articles, restaurants can be a tricky space to treat for a few reasons which I will do my best to explain.

    The room:  Imagine sitting in a restaurant.  You look around and see hard surfaces.  The floor is a sandy colored hardwood, the table in front of you is a polished cherry, the walls were built of drywall covered with pictures, posters, art work, trinkets, etc. and the ceiling is a textured sheetrock.  All of the surfaces in the room can easily be wiped down and cleaned, which makes sense.  If you are sitting there by yourself, you can probably hear the light fixtures making noise, maybe the hum of the HVAC system or an ice maker working.  How peaceful.  All of the sudden, it’s 6:30p on a Friday and the place is filled with people.  Big difference.  Everyone is talking, laughing etc.  I call situations like this the cocktail party effect.  Everyone in the room is making noise and talking, but to be heard, they have to increase the volume of their speech so that their listeners can hear them over the background noise.  Everyone continues to increase the volume of their voice until everyone is shouting.  We’ve all been in rooms like that and frankly, its uncomfortable.

    The two trickiest things about changing the acoustics of a restaurant and quieting a noisy restaurant are the décor and the amount of panels to get into the space.  To reduce echo and reverberation you need to cover a reflective surface with an absorptive surface and covering something inevitably means changing the way it looks.  Making that change while remaining within the existing look of the place can be extremely tricky.  The amount of treatment is also something that needs to be done very specifically so the “edge” is taken off without over deadening the acoustic of the room.

    One of the nice parts about reducing the overall noise level in a room is the fact that the panels ore treatment can, for all practical purposes, be installed anywhere in the room and have essentially the same result.  The panels can be placed on the walls or the ceiling and have the same effect.  Exposed room surfaces like the walls or ceilings will give a larger reduction than would panels on the under sides of tables and chairs.  So, the location is totally up to you and gives you the freedom to use the treatment as accent pieces in the room or install them in locations that blend into the background.

    Dialing in the exact square footage of panels to install is going to take some trial and error to get exactly right based on the right acoustic for your type of room.  Some rooms need to be and should be quieter than others and getting to the perfect sound level for your type of room isn’t something that anyone can tell you because it’s far too site specific.  With that said, I have been asked this question enough times that I’ve put together a simple equation that I have been very successful using.  Cubic Volume of the room (height x width x depth) x .03 (3%) = Square footage of panels to install into the room.  This relationship between room size and square footage of acoustical treatment is a middle of the road, educated guess that has worked very well in the past.  Will this treatment be ideal and perfect for you?  Maybe.  Will this treatment make a noticeable difference in the room?  Absolutely, without a doubt – and that is what your looking for or you wouldn’t still be reading this.
    Ok, so now that you have determined the cubic volume of your room and multiplied that by 3% (if you haven’t yet, do that now, I’ll wait) you have an idea of how much product you will need and how much total surface are you need to cover.  You also know that covering the ceiling will give you the same result as putting panels onto the walls.  This is where you need to help me help you.  Many people in the past have sent me a few digital pictures of the space which is a huge help and I’m happy to offer some suggestions.  But, really, you already know where you want the treatment.  Even right now, you’re thinking of where it will go, and you’re just wondering what effect it will have and “is it enough?”   How do I know these things – just ask my wife, I know everything…

    What products to use, you ask?  Well there are hundreds of different types of products out there that are possibilities for each room and each of these will have its own advantages and disadvantages.  To make both of our lives simple, I am going to narrow it down to two.  The first being a utilitarian and cost effective panel – the other being a decorative and custom (higher cost associated with it) panel.  Both offer the same basic absorption and will work within the equation that I noted above.  If you’ve already forgotten it, grab a yellow highlighter and go to town, it really works.

    The first option would be the Echo Eliminator panels which are made from recycled cotton.  These panels are available in ten different colors and come in a 2’x4’ panel size. They are the lowest cost, highest performing class A/1 panel on the market.  They are the utilitarian yet effective option and generally glued or attached in some way to the structure on site.  They ship in boxes via UPS at small quantities and installed by anyone.  These are not “ugly” panels, but the most common reason why they are declined is that they are not “finished looking” enough –which is understandable.  When I send a quote for both options, however, this panel usually becomes a bit more attractive.

    The second option would be the Fabric Wrapped Fiberglass panels which are exactly as the name says.  We cut boards of fiberglass to size and wrap them with fabric.  This panel offers the freedom of panel size and color.  The largest panels we can make are a 4’ x 10’ board and the panel sizes and shapes can be as creative as needed.  There are hundreds of fabric that we can use, all having different price points.  The cost for these panels is going to depend on the sizes, shapes, quantity and fabric that you need.  Because of the size, weight and more fragile nature of this product, they are usually shipped on wooden crates on the back of a semi-truck.

    Here is a great example, and I truly wish I lived in or near Crystal River, FL as their menu sounds awesome.  The E-mail below was sent to me by one of the owners of the Fat Cat Grill who were trying to fix a sound/noise problem on a budget.  The restaurant purchased 200 square feet of our 1” Beige Echo Eliminator panels and installed them onto the ceiling.

    We need sound control for our restaurant.  8 ft ceilings two areas, one 30 ft by 13 and the next is 13 by 13 in the bar area.  Two areas separated by a 2 ft drop down area housing the AC ducts. We need an affordable approach.
    Please advise.  We have a web site on www.fatcatgrill.com

    After the panels were installed, I received the following short description of the improvement: “It has knocked the echo off the room and we have had a full house and no noise complaints. It kills that high pitch.”

  2. Noisy Restaurant

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    Ted-
    We are looking for some panels for an existing restaurant with hard floors, walls and ceiling. Doing your cubic volume calculation, we need somewhere around 70 2’x4′ tiles. Let me know what kind of solutions, sizes and prices you have for black/charcoal fabric.
    Thanks,
    T.

    Thank you for the E-mail. The question is simple, but the answer may be lengthy fairly variable depending on the budget for the project and the aesthetic that you need to maintain. There are basically three main options, but there could be up to 10 options for different types of products. If I were to quickly suggest options, they would include the Echo Eliminator panels (in either charcoal or black), the Fabric-Wrapped-Fiberglass panels and the Sound Silencer panels. Also, possibly the WallMate stretch-wall system. The prices for the panels depend on the option, the size and the quantity. Additionally, each of these products has it’s own advantages and disadvantages. I could go on and explain each but that would turn into a lengthy E-mail. If you would like to discuss the options, please feel free to contact me.

    The Echo Eliminator is the most economical but as it is made from recycled cotton fibers, depending on the location of the installation, it may be least aesthetically pleasing and finished looking. With that said, it has been used MANY times in the past as a panel which blends into the background, especially the darker colors. The panels are 2’x4′ and are in the $4.00 range for the 1″ 3lb panels. Shipping is usually UPS and the panels are in stock. NCR: .80

    The Fabric Wrapped fiberglass panels are probably the most popular for restaurant type applications for two reasons, the freedom of size and color. These are boards of fiberglass cut to size (cut down from 4×8 or 4×10 boards) and wrapped with MANY different colors of fabric. The disadvantages of these is that because they are custom made, they are the most costly option. Additionally, because of the size, weight, and fairly fragile nature of the product, these are put onto pallets and shipped via LTL truck. These panels are usually in the $6.00-7.00 range for the 1″ thickness, but the cost depends completely on the size, shape, fabric, quantity, etc. The lead time is usually around two-weeks. NRC: .85

    The Sound Silencer panels are the least absorbent of these options but they do not have any particulation and are sometimes used for their aesthetic. There are really only certain rooms or areas that they should be used, but usually in areas like this, they are the only option. They are in the $5.50 range for the 1″ thickness, shipped via UPS and are in stock. NRC: .45

    As I said earlier, there are a few other potential products that would potentially fit the bill here, but in my years of working here these tend to be the most popular and likely options. I would be happy to discuss these, the options, or the whole situation with you if you would like, please feel free to contact me.

  3. Sound in a Bar

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    Hi Ted-

    Thanks for taking the time to post the blog. I enjoyed the posts so far and hope to enjoy more.

    I have a particular sound issue that I hope you can help me with. I need to dampen the noise in a bar in New York City. The ceilings are 18′ high, but the floors are wood and tile, the ceilings are tin, and the walls are mostly brick. The space itself if roughly 1200 sf; right now, if more than ten people are in the room, it sound like a big speaker.

    My idea thus far is to add panels–either on or perpendicular to–the ceiling to both keep the noise from my upstairs neighbor (important!) and to generally reduce the echo in the room. I’m also adding soft surfaces wherever possible (ie cloth or sound-absorbing material on the walls/windows), and looking to reduce the noise of the a/c to keep it from making people speak over it.

    If you have any thoughts, I would love to hear them.

    Thanks,
    Michael

    Michael,

    Thank you for the E-mail and the comments about the blog stuff. 😀 I’m not sure exactly which articles that you found and read but I want to make sure that we start on the same page so we don’t get confused. You mention that you want to control sound within the bar AS WELL AS blocking it from making it’s way upstairs. These are two COMPLETELY different things. Eliminating the echo and reverberation is going to be really quite easy, but blocking the sound is always a lot more involved and will require altering the floor/ceiling assembly. Please keep in mind that the low frequencies/bass frequencies are likely going to make it upstairs much more than the mid and high frequencies no matter what you do.

    So, with that said, let’s talk about blocking the sound first. Please keep in mind that blocking sound can be tricky and in order to do this successfully it needs to be done correctly. This is always a slippery slope because one very small leak can shoot the whole assembly in the foot. The most effective way to keep the sound out is to rip out the floor of the upstairs neighbor and put down some kind of underlayment. I realize that this is just about always impossible, but I feel it’s important to note. For treating the ceiling of your bar, I would suggest at least looking at the RSIC-1 clip system. This system is designed to “float” a new sheetrock ceiling so that the ceiling is suspended by rubber and not “touching” the structure above. The cliff notes for the installation are: locate the joists, screw the clips into the joists, run a hat channel/furring channel perpendicular to the joists and screw the new layer of sheetrock to the channel. After the ceiling is in place, use an acoustical sealant and seal up the 1/8-1/4″ airspace that you left between the new sheetrock ceiling and the walls, tape, mud and paint.

    Treating the echo and reverberation within the bar is MUCH easier to do and I would be happy to put a couple of quotes together and send you some product samples if you would like. Although I don’t even pretend to be an interior designer, a lot of times a few digital pictures of the space are a great help for me to make a few product suggestions so if you have the ability to send a few, that would be great. Without knowing too much about the room, my first two suggestions are the Echo Eliminator panels and the Fabric Wrapped Fiberglass panels. These two options are going to have their respective advantages and disadvantages and I will do my best to quickly go thru them. Performance wise, these will both do the same job – and both are very absorptive. The Echo Eliminator panels are made from recycled cotton fiber and are probably some of the most cost effective, Class A panels on the market. They are in stock in 2′ x4′ panels and are usually shipped out in boxes via UPS ground. They easily adhere directly to the walls or the ceiling and are very easy to install. We have nine different colors to choose from. The disadvantage of the panels is that they are not the most decorative or aesthetically pleasing of the panels we can supply. They look kind of like a 1″ thick piece of felt. With that said, considering you have 18′ ceilings, I would HIGHLY doubt that anyone would be able to tell that they weren’t “decorative” panels if they were installed on the ceiling.

    The Fabric Wrapped Fiberglass panels are all custom made so we can make whatever size and color panels you want. The biggest piece of fiberglass that we can get is 4′ x 10′ , so that is the limitation on the size. We use acoustically invisible fabric so that the sound makes it into the fiberglass behind it. These are probably the most finished looking and aesthetically pleasing option that we have but considering they are all custom built (by hand) they are also some of the most expensive. Also, because of the size, fragile nature, and the weight, they have to be shipped in plywood crates on the back of a semi-truck which is clearly more expensive than UPS. In order to price these, I would need to know the size and quantity of the panes that you wanted because different amounts of labor and scrap generated by the sizes will affect the price.

    As far as thickness goes, I would probably suggest the 1″ thick panels to get the most absorption for the dollar. If you have a significant amount of bass/low frequencies in the bar, the 2″ would be a good option but this choice depends on the types of sounds that you are looking to absorb. Please keep in mind that absorption and blocking are two completely different things. To help people visualize this, I like to use the example of two fish tanks. For the first fish tank, you construct the walls made out of sponges. For the second fish tank you construct the walls out of glass. If you fill them both, what happens? The sponges absorb the water, but let it right thru. The glass doesn’t absorb any water but blocks it. The same thing happens with sound. Soft, light, fluffy surfaces (cotton, fiberglass, foam) absorb sound but do not block it. Air tight barriers like sheetrock or vinyl or concrete have a significant amount of mass and no air leaks so they do a decent job at blocking the sound but do not absorb it. Clearly it’s more complicated than that but hopefully you get the idea.