June 1, 2017 |

Sound It Out

By Pizza Today

Take charge of noise control

dining room, acoustics, sound controls

All noise generating from within a pizzeria isn’t necessarily a bad thing –– until it becomes too loud and happens too often. Controlling unwanted noise can be achieved through smart restaurant design, installing noise buffers and ensuring the restaurant staff is aware of, and adheres to, noise control standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Any open-concept restaurant with a bar and a pizza station not located behind kitchen doors “will definitely be experiencing some noise,” says Brian Goewey, chef/owner of two Gia Mia restaurants in Geneva and Wheaton, Illinois. Each Neapolitan-style, wood-fired pizza restaurant seats up to 125 guests and offers pizza, small plates, fresh homemade pasta, antipasto, home-made mozzarella and more. Goewey also owns fire+wine restaurant in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and Livia Italian Eatery in Geneva.

Featuring “really cool, fun” urban décor, including custom-made tables and flooring focused on reclaimed woods and hickory, Gia Mia battles noise with acoustic panels on its ceilings, fabrics on booths, acoustic noise panels below its chairs, draperies and more.

Both kitchens were designed to be further away from tables so their noise wouldn’t disturb guests.

“Build side stations operating espresso machines and coffee grinders away from the main dining room,” he urges.

Pizzeria operators desiring quieter restaurants can partition one dining room into two or more using drywall.

“More walls catch the noise,” Goewey relays. “Install softer flooring and surfaces so noise isn’t echoing and bouncing around the room.”

Slyce Coal Fired Pizza Co. in Wauconda, Illinois offers coal-fired pizza, small plates, salads, sandwiches and desserts. Seating 88 in the main dining area, eight at the pizza bar plus eight at the bar, its open-kitchen concept lets guests observe coal-fired pizzas being created.

Those seated at the pizza bar interact with the kitchen staff while dining. This area has often been criticized for more noise, admits Emily DaValle, project manager/event coordinator, but it attracts customers who want to be involved and have a true culinary experience.

“It is the No. 1 requested seating area of the restaurant,” she says.

Slyce reduces noise by utilizing high booths, padding on dining chairs and via a design that ensures intimate dining anywhere in the restaurant.

Pizzeria Deville of Libertyville, Illinois, a wood-fired pizzeria that opened in August 2014, totals 4,000 square feet on two levels.

“Our lower level includes a prep kitchen, fish area, office and Cellar Room, which seats up to 56 guests. The main floor contains our production kitchen, 12-seat bar and 68-seat dining room,” says founder John Durning, who is usually found working the floor, in the kitchen or behind the bar.

Durning suggests keeping noisy operations (dough mixers, food mixers, coolers) far from the dining public. His prep/dish areas are staged in the basement while the upstairs kitchen allows customers to watch food being prepared.

Hard surfaces and low ceilings promote noise, says Dean Small, founder and chief executive officer of Synergy Restaurant Consultants, Newport Beach, California.

“Create softer surfaces to absorb noise, including fabric or carpet baffles under the table,” he adds. “You need to absorb noises so the combination of sounds, including dining room guest conversations, music, ambient noise, direct noise associated with operations and customer transactions at the pizza counter, don’t overwhelm guests walking into your pizzeria.

“If a pizzeria is hosting a lot of pizza parties where the average group size is 20, you might create a partially or fully glassed-in room so main dining room guests can see the festivities while the noise (remains) in the party room,” he continues.

Partitioning the main dining room with accordion or sliding doors curbs noise and allows operators flexibility to make the room large or small for private parties, business lunches or for unexpected over-flow guests.

Small suggests creating warmth by combining flooring types — use stone for high-traffic areas, but wood-simulating, inexpensive vinyl flooring with a softer surface in the dining area.

Eighty percent of the challenge in controlling restaurant noise involves addressing the ceiling, while 20 percent involves addressing flooring, says Robert Bleck, who is partner/owner along with his brother, Charles, of Bleck & Bleck Architects LLC, Libertyville, Illinois. A ceiling’s shape impacts sound more than height. The closer a room space resembles a cube, the worse it is for noise. Parallel surfaces also result in more echoes.

“If a ceiling is sloped, sound waves won’t bounce straight back down,” Bleck says.

Pizzerias containing hard ceilings can use either spray-on systems or acoustic ceiling tiles to soften the surface and noise.

“Acoustic ceiling tiles painted dark still maintain their acoustic properties and (disappear) into the background,” Bleck says. “A soffit coming down from the ceiling can also keep sound from projecting across a long dining room. And the quality and thickness of luxury vinyl tiles are much greater than they were three years ago.”

Slyce’s DeValle urges pizzeria owners to research the challenge of curbing unwanted noise within their restaurants.

“Go into your favorite restaurants or spaces and see what makes them great,” she advises. “Find the loud areas (at your pizzeria), trouble-shoot how they can be better and sound-proof where needed.”

Bryan Salvage is a freelance writer based in Elburn, Illinois.