Acoustic synaesthesia in restaurants is an emerging concept that works to optimise room acoustics and augment the perfect dining experience through a combination of auditory techniques. Kyriakos Papanagiotou, Founder and Director of acoustics consultancy KP Acoustics Group, discusses the fundamentals of acoustic synaesthesia in restaurants, and the steps you should consider in order to optimise the auditory characteristics of a space to create the perfect dining experience.
Dining out should be an experience that’s not just for the tastebuds, but for all the senses combined – taste, feel, smell, sight and sound. Creating a harmonious sensory environment for restaurant customers is key to ensuring their return time and time again. Whilst chefs are able to successfully augment the first four senses, the final piece of the puzzle – sound – is too often overlooked. Acoustic synaesthesia in restaurants works to incorporate sound, through a number of techniques to create the optimal dining experience, and when carefully considered, can set your restaurant acoustic solutions apart from the competition.
But, what considerations should we be making to attain this level of singularity? The careful selection and manipulation of the acoustic environment (reverberation, genre of music, volume levels, tempo and rhythm), infused with the variety of sounds that can be heard from the kitchen when turning ingredients into flavourful dishes for the customer, are all important considerations. By creating a complementary soundscape, restaurateurs and designers can curate synaesthesia and level up the diners’ experience of the food.
There is an emerging school of thought suggesting that sound can trigger an affective response that, in turn, can influence a customer’s perception of taste. Although there is still much to be learned about acoustic synaesthesia in restaurants, embracing the concept early could well give restaurateurs a significant competitive edge. To give you a head start, we’ve outlined the steps that could be followed to take your restaurant’s auditory environment to the next level.
Step One: Near-field Audio Recordings
From the sizzling of the meat to the gurgling of boiling vegetables, from the pouring of the wine to the crunching sound of filo-pastry in the mouth, restaurants already offer a rich and emotive soundscape. Capturing near-field audio recordings, and reproducing sound in a way that provides a more immersive experience for diners, is the first step to optimising acoustic synaesthesia. Carefully designing near-field audio recordings with room acoustics can create a sense of proximity, allowing the sounds to be perceived as if they are originating from the specific direction of the kitchen within the restaurant space. By enhancing the sensory connection between sound and taste, you can generate increased anticipation for the diner.
Near-field audio techniques work to bring the sound closer to the listeners, capturing sound using specialised microphones. Recordings are then implemented through careful consideration of the acoustic properties of the space and loudspeaker placement – alongside a curated selection of music where appropriate – to combine sound design with the culinary arts and take a simple meal to a truly multisensory level.
Step Two: Mixing Audio Scenes
After gathering near-field audio recordings, an audio envelope must be created that complements the dining experience and enhances the sensory connection between sound and taste. But, before you can create an audio envelope, the theme and concept of your restaurant must be determined in order to select a successful mix of audio to support and enhance the intended atmosphere. From here. you should then consider a combination of the following:
1. A selection of music that complements the cuisine, theme of the restaurant and menu concept, taking into consideration genre, tempo and the desired emotional response of the customer.
2. Soundscapes and ambient sounds – such as sizzling pans and other culinary sounds or more natural sounds such as rainfall – that have the power to evoke the intended ambience of the space.
3. Volume levels and balance of the audio elements within the restaurant to ensure that sounds are audible but not overpowering.
4. Transitions and dynamics to curate the flow of the intended dining experience. This could even factor in different courses, from aperitifs to desserts and coffee.
This creative process requires a detailed and technical understanding of acoustics and sound design in order to successfully harmonise sound and taste to leave a lasting impression on the customer.
Step Three: Playback and Music Selection
The final piece of the puzzle is to play back your new mix, either on its own or alongside carefully selected music, through intentionally selected loudspeakers. Here, restaurant designers and acoustic consultants can strategically position loudspeakers throughout the restaurant, taking into account how sound behaves through the space. By integrating e.g. directional loudspeakers into the restaurant environment, you can create a seamless, yet unobtrusive, audio experience for the customer that compliments the culinary offering.
Our senses specify our reality. They direct what is real and what is not.
While visiting a place for a taste experience, you loosen yourself and trust the narration of the senses at the hands of the chef. The sound environment fulfils your realistic expectations, while the music is the only element to set the scenery. How can a creative soundscape add to the narration? Localized sound events of people chatting, walking, the soundscapes of different countries, landscapes, time of the day or time of the year, are all part of a creative narration. We need to be moved from what is expected to what is real. Let the immersive soundscape do it.
Acoustic synaesthesia in restaurants is still an emerging field, and part of my unified vision of Acoustic Singularity, but by experimenting with the concept it would be possible to create a meal that stimulates the full spectrum of senses and develop a truly immersive dining experience to which customers will be keen to return to.
As experts in the field, KP Acoustic Group offers full-spectrum acoustics consultancy, including working closely with restaurateurs to create successful restaurant acoustic solutions. To learn more, get in touch with our highly experienced consultants by calling 020 3820 5564 or visiting kpacoustics.com.