Sep
09
2010

What is the right temperature and the right sound level in a restaurant?

Dear sensible reader,

Do you pay, like me, a very special attention to what makes a great atmosphere in a restaurant? Seeking the reaction of your companion to see if they are comfortable with the seat or the table you've been given – one is much more lenient when alone or with the company of large group of friends than with the loved one, on a tête-à-tête.

Do you often realized the level of stress one has to go though when booking at a new restaurant? Getting the right table, getting the proper welcome and anticipating all the rest: lighting (for me, with my thinning hair I hate the vertical spot light above my head), smell (what's the first smell you get in the lobby or entering the restaurant? Will it be toilet smell or oven baked pizza?) and sound level (will I have to shout to talk to my companion or will it be so dead silent that I will have to chew silently?)… And of course, most importantly, for those living in hot countries, the temperature of the aircon.

In temperate climates such as France for example, the problem is not so important as in hot countries. For, usually the restaurants are well heated during winter time, except of course for those who get the dreadful experience to sit by the door and feel the biting breeze seize their necks or their legs everytime the door opens.

In Thailand, personally, I don't go back to restaurants where the temperature is too cold. Cold temperature is the most discomfortable annoyance to me. I have no tolerance to very noisy restaurant, specially if the sound comes from the speaker rather than the general buzz of people eating and talking. I abhorre restaurants with strange scents although bad smell never really lingers, it's just very localized. And I am allergic to cold temperature in dining rooms. This curse of modern indoor restaurants is usually linked with the very bad placement of the aircon, which isn't just about freezing temperature but also the fact that the cold air is literally blown directly at you, as if it was intentionallly engineered to make sure you will get a stiff neck and the most unpleasant experience possible. We're in Thailand, a hot country, people dress accordingly to the climate, they're not prepared for the freezing air in some restaurants here. Make no mistake, I am talking about restaurants only, not clubs or bars where too cold is preferable to too hot. But that's another debate.

In a restaurant, the right temperature should be what is generally accepted as "room temperature" which is 22 degrees celsius. For sound levels here is a quick and easy rating:

Quiet (under 60 decibels)

Conversation is easy (60-70 decibels)

Must speak with raised voice (71-80 decibels)

Extremely loud (over 80 decibels)

For the sake of comparison, 50 decibels is equivalent to the sound of a moderate rain shower; 60 decibels represents normal conversation; 70 decibels is akin to the noise made by a vacuum cleaner; and noise levels higher than 80 decibels (conjure up city traffic) are potentially hazardous if listened to for a sustained period.

The brain registers every 10-decibel increase as a doubling of loudness. Thus, a restaurant that measures 80 decibels sounds twice as noisy as a place that measures 70 decibels.

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