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Can you hear me now?

(article, Melanie Mesaros)

The issue of noisy restaurants has definitely given people something to talk about. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times says that between ambient music, clatters from the kitchen, and chatty cocktail sippers at the bar, noise is climbing to levels that have left some without an appetite. 

The blog The Knife recently conducted its own restaurant sound experiment. Armed with a sound-decibel reader, The Knife measured the noise level of a lunch crowd at Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles. The results? Noise levels hovered around 80 dB, which is comparable to an average factory. “The Noisy Restaurant Report” is now an ongoing feature of The Knife. 

As the L.A. Times story points out, the challenge isn’t to necessarily quiet a restaurant, but to achieve balance so as to not disrupt the mood or ambiance. Current restaurant design trends, according to the article, lean toward loft spaces and hard surfaces, which means noisier restaurants.

Restaurant reviews in the San Francisco Chronicle include decibel readings. Michael Bauer, a food critic and author of the “Between Meals” blog at the Chronicle, took a closer look:
bq. A quick search of the \[Chronicle\]_ restaurant database revealed that we have 69 restaurants that rated 80 decibels or more on our noise meter, which means that it's too noisy for normal conversations. Either you shout, or shut up and eat.

Want to hear more? Over at the Zagat forum, people are posting their views in a thread devoted to the subject.