How noisy are our restaurants?

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Chili’s, Rockwell Power Plant

We must be getting old.

We’ve been finding ourselves avoiding certain restaurants because of excessive noise. To food quality, location, service and comfort, we have added sound levels to our criteria of a good restaurant.

Forget loud music, we like to be able to sit down and talk to our friends while enjoying our meal.

We’re not expecting restaurants to be as quiet as a library. We enjoy places with a good vibe, too. But there’s a difference between positive energy and noise.

And apparently, we’re not the only ones who feel this way.

According to The Audiology Awareness Campaign, “People with normal hearing also complain about noisy restaurants. According to Zagat Survey, noise is the second most common complaint of restaurant-goers (second only to poor service).”

Bulgogi Brothers, Greenbelt

With restaurants sprouting around the country, we wonder, how much time and effort do owners put into planning the acoustics of their establishments? Is that something they even put in the budget?

But the rising noise levels in restaurants cannot be attributed only to acoustics and architecture (all glass, concrete, no curtains or cushions to absorb the sound).

Restaurant owners could spend a fortune on concepts and decor, but hardly on acoustics design and engineering. This, even in fine-dining places.

In many restaurants today, to get a conversation going is an arduous effort.

In most places we visited, the primary contributing factor to the noise was other diners. When you are in a restaurant with other diners who do not care how much noise they’re making, you will get a headache, restaurant acoustics be damned.

Armed with our decibel meters, we hit different restaurants around the city to find out just how loud our restaurants are. And to put our decibel ratings in perspective—sitting inside a quiet car away from traffic will usually clock in an average of 49 decibels.

Chelsea (Podium)

Saturday, 6:20 p.m.

Notes: Chelsea was half-full when we visited on a Saturday afternoon. We were seated near the kitchen. Despite the kitchen noise and background music, we could hear our companions just fine and enjoy our risotto balls and egg salad sandwich with caviar without getting a headache.

Sumo Sam, Shangri-La Mall

Decibel level: 69

Yaku (Podium)

Saturday, 8:20 p.m.

Notes: Yaku’s ambience—dim lights, no music—makes it perfect for enjoying a good chat while having dinner. We’re fans of this restaurant because of its super-affordable Japanese fare (and the delicious chicken skin). And now, after realizing how quiet it is compared to most restaurants, we’ve become even bigger fans.

Decibel level: 63

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (Cubao)

Saturday, 10 p.m.

Notes: The noise at Coffee Bean cannot be blamed on the coffee shop. Our fingers are pointed toward that group of people who, with complete disregard for the other customers, decided to turn the place into their very own boardroom. Dudes, we heard you so loud and clear we could have taken the minutes of your meeting.

J.CO, Megamall

Decibel level: 71

Beso (Bonifacio Global City)

Sunday, 9:30 p.m.

Notes: We went to Beso on a Sunday evening expecting a mellow place where we could enjoy our sangrias. Noise shouldn’t be a problem, right? Wrong. When people at the next table were all talking and laughing so loudly and the only thing separating them from you was the back of your chair, you wouldn’t be able to carry your own conversation. You’d try but would soon get tired of raising your voice, and you’d spend the rest of your meal reminding yourself you’re not in a library and resisting the urge to shush them. Again, we can’t blame the resto. It’s the Coffee Bean theory—the table’s noise can mess with everyone else’s dining experience. But Beso’s paella is so good that we will keep coming back. We’ll just keep our fingers crossed that we don’t get noisy neighbors next time.

Decibel level: 75

Apartment 1B (Salcedo Village)

Wednesday, 12:30 p.m.

Notes: While we were able to hear our companions despite the long table (we were 12), the background noise of chatter from other diners was extremely loud, bordering on intolerable. Sound from the ground floor would travel up the second floor where we were seated, adding to the noise in the packed restaurant.

CHELSEA, Podium

Decibel Level: 87

The Taipan/The Continental,

Tower Club (Philamlife Tower, Paseo de Roxas, Makati)

Saturday, 7 p.m.

Notes: The restaurants at Tower Club have great acoustics. Even when full, the restaurants are still on the quiet side, and this is deliberate on their part. They even request diners to put phones on silent mode or turn it off altogether.

Decibel Level: 74

Chili’s (Rockwell Power Plant)

Monday, 8 p.m.

Notes: There were a lot of factors that contributed to the noise at Chili’s—the music, the kids running around, the chatter from the different tables, and the clatter of plates. Oddly, even though Chili’s restaurants are always buzzing with energy, we still managed to hear our companions with ease.

Decibel level: 71

Sumo Sam (Shangri-La Mall)

Wednesday, 9 p.m.

Notes: We headed to Sumo Sam for post-movie sushi but ended up wanting to cover our ears. The culprit—a wailing baby who just wouldn’t stop.

Decibel level: 73

Cibo (Rockwell)

Monday, 9:30 p.m.

Notes: Cibo’s low decibel rating can be attributed to a number of things. It was late on a Monday night, the place was almost empty and we were seated at a booth that shielded us from the rest of the place. The only noise we heard was from one waiter who seemed to be counting spoons and forks.

Decibel level: 59

J.Co (Megamall)

Saturday, 9 p.m.

Notes: The place was busy, packed with people who needed a dose of donuts. The chatter from the tables, the people placing their orders, cashiers ringing up sales—all these contributed to the high decibel rating. But we’ll take 77, we’ll take higher than 77 because that’s how much we love J.Co’s Alcapone donuts. Besides, there’s Wi-Fi. So instead of talking, we just got busy with our iPads while waiting for our boxes of donuts.

Decibel level: 77

Bulgogi Brothers (Greenbelt)

Friday, 7 p.m.

Notes: It was a very busy night at Bulgogi Brothers but luckily, we managed to snag a booth where we were able to enjoy our meal (and Korean ice cream) in peace.

Decibel level: 68

Pancake House (Metrowalk)

Friday, 8 p.m.

Notes: Pancake House should have been quiet. After all, only four tables in the restaurant were occupied. But the three people in the table adjacent to ours decided that the whole place should hear their conversation. To be fair, their stories were very interesting. We heard about someone’s philandering father and learned that their friend’s crazy girlfriend tried to stab him. That’s the way to do it, we guess. If you’re going to broadcast your conversation in a restaurant, you better make sure it’s telenovela-worthy.

Decibel level: 62

Masseto (Valero St., Salcedo

Village, Makati)

Thursday, 9:30 p.m.

This is one restaurant where not only is the food good, you can also enjoy good conversation.

Obviously, this was designed with dining comfort in mind. There are carpets, cushioned seats to absorb the sound.

Decibel level: 55

(To be continued)

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