Summary: Relaxing music can help enhance enjoyment while dining, a new study reports. However, normal background noise in restaurants can have a negative impact on the dining experience.
Source: Flinders University
Noise can make or break a dining experience, according to a laboratory study replicating common noise levels in restaurants.
The acoustic experts say the study proves that high noise levels can play a major part in a dining experience – along with the quality of the food and restaurant service.
“Our study not only shows that relaxing music at low noise levels increases food enjoyment but indicates that even ‘normal’ background noise levels in restaurants can be unpleasant to diners,” says lead author, Flinders University PhD candidate Mahmoud Alamir.
“We do not always recognise the cumulative effect of noise to our stress or annoyance levels, but we see how every one of us has sensitivity to noise in different ways.”
The study considered factors such as age, gender and noise sensitivity to background noise.
Accordingly, noise-sensitive people, as well as older people and females, reported lower enjoyment of food when there is elevated background noise.
Flinders University acoustic engineer and study co-author Dr Kristy Hansen says the results highlight the importance of noise management strategies in restaurants to provide better dining experiences.
“This could include more practical acoustic design of dining areas to suit different groups of people,” she says.
“Quiet dining areas should be considered for older and noise-sensitive people.”
The international research group plans to release more information and guidelines on ‘healthy’ noise levels.
The effect of type and level of background noise on food liking: A laboratory non-focused listening test
Previous studies have shown that background noise can affect the liking of food. However, little is known about the liking of food in the presence of different background noise types and levels. This paper investigated food liking, relative to the background noise in the room (i.e. no noise conditions), for three background noise types (relaxing music, road traffic noise and restaurant noise) and three noise levels (30, 40 and 50 dBA). Fifteen participants rated liking of food using an 11-point Likert scale. Dose-response relationships of food liking in the presence of different background noise types and levels were presented. The results indicated that the type of background noise affected the liking of food (F(2, 97) = 134, p < 0.001). The increase in the level of the noise also decreased the liking of food regardless of the noise type (F(2, 77) = 41, p < 0.001). Relaxing music increased the liking of food at 30 and 40 dBA relative to the background noise in the room (i.e. no noise condition) by (mean ± SE) 60 ± 10 and 38 ± 10%, respectively. Restaurant noise and road traffic noise decreased the liking of food at all levels, compared to the background noise in the room (p < 0.001). The findings can help identify and quantify types and levels of background noise that can increase the enjoyment of food. These results could also be helpful in choosing and designing dining areas with background noise that increase food enjoyment.