Our article in the last issue, Is your CLV really for socializing discussed how so many community leisure venues (CLVs), including FECs, bowling venues and restaurants, fail to be attractive social destinations, the primary reason people visit, due to their loud and reverberant acoustics. Now along comes a study out of the UK from Action on Hearing Loss that found that “Restaurants are becoming no-go areas for people with a hearing impairment, with would-be diners increasingly avoiding eating out to avoid intolerable noise. . . Nearly 80% of people have left a restaurant, café or pub early because of the noise.”

“Noise levels in some of the most popular restaurants chains in the UK top 90 decibels on busy nights - the equivalent of sitting next to a lawn mover.” An average smoke alarm is required to sound at 85dB from a distance of 10 feet.

Their survey of 1,461 people (not just people with hearing impairments) found that more than two in five (43%) have resigned themselves to ordering takeaway instead of going out for a meal. The vast majority of people surveyed without a hearing loss identified background noise as a key concern. Nine in ten said background noise is the biggest problem they face when eating out. 84% with no hearing loss said a lower level of noise was important to them when picking a restaurant.

Three in four (76%) of respondents said they would dine out more often if venues were quieter.

Most family entertainment centers (FECs) have even more challenging acoustics than restaurants due to the noise from their entertainment components and their larger cavernous spaces. The larger the volume of a space, the greater the problem with reverberant noise.

Cox Media Group Research's national survey of attitudes about bowling of 1,601 adults age 18-54 (Millennials and Gen X) in March 2016 found that one-sixth (17%) think of bowling as “loud and noisy.”

Our company has measured the sound levels in many FECs, and they are worse then the reported sound levels that the UK survey found in restaurants. In fact, they are often so loud that we once described it as spending time inside a pinball machine. We can only imagine the negative impact this is having on attendance, length of stay and revenues.

That is the reason our company pays serious attention for every CLV we design. We design so that guests can socialize by having conversations at normal levels, not having to YELL. Socialization is the primary reason that people not only visit restaurants and bars as a group, but also why they visit CLVs. That is a great FEC industry myth, or should we call it an “alternative fact,” that people visit for the entertainment. The entertainment, along with the food and drink, is the facilitator of the socialization. Humans basically need to be doing something together to socialize, whether it is eating, having a drink or hitting or rolling a ball (bowling, golf, billiards, miniature golf) or some group game like laser tag.

CLVs that ignore creating an enjoyable acoustic environment do so at their own peril. The impact is no different that having an air conditioning system that fails to adequately cool the space.