Noise is currently the second most common complaint amongst restaurant-goers, behind poor service. In fact, over the last decade or two, many restaurants have become so loud that some critics now regularly report on the noise levels alongside the quality of the food. In this review, I first highlight the growing problem of noise in restaurants and bars and look at the possible causes. I then critically evaluate the laboratory-based research that has examined the effect of loud background noise on taste perception. I distinguish between the effect of noise on the taste, aroma/flavour, and 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 tastes such as sweet and sour while leaving certain other taste and flavour experiences relatively unaffected. Possible neuroscientific explanations for such effects are outlined, and directions for future research highlighted. Finally, having identified the growing problem with noise in restaurants, I end by looking at some of the possible solutions and touch on the concept of silent dining.
Complete article: “Noise and its impact on the perception of food and drink“, Charles Spence.