Another feature of today’s restaurants that greatly increases the loudness inside are open kitchens—where the making of the food is on full display. This design used to be relegated to the lowly diner. But fine-dining restaurants began to expose their kitchens during the 1970s and early ’80s; Pearlman attributes the trend to Wolfgang Puck (though he didn’t invent the idea). Puck’s restaurant Spago, which opened in 1982, was one of the first high-profile restaurants to feature a centrally located brick oven, and was met with widespread critical acclaim. Other design trends that increased the volume of eating establishments also got their start at this time, including the communal table and full-service bar dining.
Bars and restaurants continued to merge through the 1990s and 2000s, and that’s a big reason restaurants, on the whole, got noticeably louder. Bars are raucous, and they present a different dining atmosphere from typical sit-down restaurants. As the bar and dining area began to occupy the same space, their clientele and atmospheres combined, and the result was a lot louder than either one alone. Open-concept restaurants and warehouse-style gourmet food courts have made dining out more casual and communal, but getting rid of the walls, ceilings, and soft goods that once defined luxury have also made them noisier.