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​More than Meets the Ear: How Sound Serves Up Success

​More than Meets the Ear: How Sound Serves Up Success

Posted by Stelios on 14th Aug 2023

Ever walked into an empty house, workplace or eatery and felt something was missing? Beyond the absence of furniture, the sound has an unmistakable emptiness - a stark, echoing tone. Yet, introduce some furnishings, and the place instantly feels more inviting.

I recall visiting a fish and chip shop that perplexed me. The service was impeccable, and the food was delicious. Yet, something felt amiss – the ambience. A quick survey revealed hard wooden floors, unadorned tables, cushionless chairs, and an eerily silent backdrop. The place seemed devoid of soul, coupled with lofty ceilings and extensive front-facing glass.

Conversations bounce around, inadvertently trespassing into others' private chats.

We gave the dessert a miss and skipped the coffee. I felt as if I was overstaying my welcome. Upon reflection, the role of sound in enhancing a dining experience truly dawned on me.

The root cause remains consistent – acoustics and rigid surfaces that clash. Noise tends to bounce off such materials. To draw a parallel when recording The Ceres Podcast in the early days, we always had terrible sound in rooms with hard furnishings and glass everywhere. The remedy? Soft furnishings. Not mere decorative pieces, they play a pivotal role in sound absorption, preventing a room from morphing into a sonic chamber.

Several professionals offer complimentary acoustic assessments, proposing myriad sound-absorbent solutions – wall panels, fabric linings, ceiling tiles, and acoustic rafts. Esteemed establishments like Chez Fred have employed such services, recognising the paramountcy of sound in customer experience.

DIY steps can also work wonders. Consider carpets or strategic rug placements. Take The Magpie Cafe in Whitby, for instance. The inherently snug atmosphere is no coincidence – segmented dining areas and thorough carpeting make the difference, but even in rooms without carpet, it feels cosy.

Ponder upon the difference in vibe between McDonald's and Costa Coffee. The former, with its stark furnishings, nudge customers to vacate promptly. Meanwhile, with its plush(er) decor, the latter entices you to linger, perhaps tempting you with another brew or treat.

Tablecloths can diminish the clatter of cutlery. Cushioned chairs add comfort and absorb sound. If you opt for background music, remember the importance of volume and acquiring the necessary licence from PPL PRS. Consider soft material artwork or wooden wall panels – they're not just decorative but practical sound absorbers.

Guests who feel at ease will likely indulge more, increasing sales. Who wouldn't want that? An enhanced acoustic environment not only retains customers but also augments staff well-being.

A recent perusal of Tripadvisor shocked me - numerous reviews touched upon sound and acoustics. While many praised the culinary offerings, some felt unsatisfactory acoustics marred the overall experience. In contrast, words like 'welcoming', 'cosy', and 'warm' often cropped up. Such sentiments are influenced not just by visuals but by the auditory atmosphere as well.

In essence, the sound of a space is as instrumental as its visual allure. Prioritising acoustics in business design doesn't just elevate the customer experience, it harmonises the environment, creating spaces where memories are made, conversations thrive, and patrons return. The symphony of sound and design is a recipe for success.