Georgofili World

Newsletter of the Georgofili Academy

Noise and its impact on the perception of food and drink

Restaurants are getting noisier. At least that is what the critics are saying. If the increase in noise levels is anywhere near as widespread as has been suggested in the media, then the question we have to ask ourselves is why this is so. 
Oxford researchers first highlighted the growing problem of noise in restaurants and bars and looked at the possible causes. Charles Spence then critically evaluated the laboratory-based research that had examined the effect of loud background noise on taste perception. He distinguishes between the effect of noise on the taste, aroma/flavor, and the textural properties of food and drink. Taken together, the evidence now clearly demonstrates that both background noise and loud music can impair our ability to taste food and drink. It would appear that noise selectively impairs the ability to detect such tastes as sweet and sour while leaving certain other tastes and flavors relatively unaffected. Possible neuroscientific explanations for these effects have been outlined, and directions for future research highlighted. Finally, having identified the growing problem of noise in restaurants, an Oxford researcher ended by looking at some of the possible solutions and touched on the concept of silent dining. The available evidence suggests that the problem of too much noise while eating and drinking is affecting a growing number of us while dining out at popular restaurants and bars. While, to date, the majority of complaints have tended to come from the US, there is evidence that the problem is now spreading to many other Westernized countries as well. Although a number of solutions to combating noise in restaurant/bar settings are now available, they all tend to be fairly expensive to implement. Consequently, unless the diners really start to make some noise of their own, it is doubtful whether anything much will change, especially given the financial incentives associated with keeping the music level cranked up high.

By: TN International, 25 January 2015