Why Are Restaurants So Loud? Plus the Science Behind the Perfect Playlist

When you go out for a meal, it’s not just what's on your plate that matters, it's what's in your eardrums, too. From dining rooms so loud you have to shout to be heard, to playlists that sound like a generic Millennial Spotify account, it's not surprising that sound is the single most complained about aspect of restaurants. This episode, Gastropod explores the science behind the sonic experience of eating. Are restaurants really getting louder, and, if so, why? What does it take to create the perfect acoustic environment for dining? Can restaurateurs design their playlists to make customers order more or eat faster? Listen in now for the secrets to culinary acoustic bliss!

Tom Sietsema

The restaurant critic at The Washington Post for more than twenty years, Tom Sietsema was a pioneer in including noise levels in restaurant reviews.

Julia Belluz

Julia Belluz is a science and health journalist who covered the phenomenon of rising restaurant noise for Vox. You can also hear her on our episode about hunger.

Comal restaurant in Berkeley, California. The paintings above the bar are actually sound-dampening acoustic panels, while the speakers above them pipe back in the remixed sound of the room at the perfect level. (Image credit: Meyer Sound)
Look closely and you can spot the microphones hanging from the ceiling of Comal, collecting sound from the room to be remixed and reverbed. (Image credit: Meyer Sound)

Pierre Germain

Pierre Germain is an audio engineer at Meyer Sound, the creators of the Constellation reverb system responsible for the pure acoustic pleasure of eating at restaurants like Berkeley's Comal.

Janice Wang

Janice Wang is a experimental psychologist and computer scientist who studies flavor perception at the University of Copenhagen.

Doug Marshall

Doug Marshall is the founder of Altaura, a company that creates and manages targeted playlists for businesses.

Megan Pattison

Megan Pattison creates and maintains bespoke playlists for restaurants and hotels as part of the team at Uncanned Music.

Switched on Pop

Thanks to Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding, hosts of the Vox Media Podcast Network podcast Switched on Pop, as well as their producer Reanna Cruz, for collaborating with us to lend their music expertise to this episode.

Music to Your Mouth

Looking to create your very own dinner playlist? You can find all of the recommendations provided by our musical experts in our Spotify playlist! Sign up to support the show at the super-fan level or above to find out what Gastropod co-hosts Nicky and Cynthia like to listen to while enjoying a meal.