Taking the ‘din’ out of dining out

Hi there. My name is Laura and I’m the creator of the Ambient Menu, a web app that guides people to quieter restaurants where they can connect and be social without straining to hear. We take the ‘din’ out of dining out.

Currently it’s available only in South Australia and is about to be launched on the Sunshine Coast. We guide our community to conversation-friendly restaurants and our accreditation system is based on the science of sound, and food, to ensure diners have a memorable evening.

But wait, there is more: while diners review restaurants on ambience, service and food, our patented accreditation system is like the heart foundation tick, but for the ears. Venues rated as quiet or low and inclusive, are offered the option of our grant funded Ambient Menu Accreditation service. This is where venues are assessed against our acoustic criterion to ensure diners will be able to converse without straining to hear. Our food scientist assesses them also, ensuring the taste is worthy of guiding our community to. So, we ensure the conversation and the quality of the food, but the quality of the company you bring – that’s up to you.

I currently work as an audiologist, and I am partway through my acoustic consultant qualification. I also struggle to hear speech in background noise due to auditory processing difficulties. So, I not only treat my community’s communication difficulties and guide them to quiet restaurants, I am my audience and I use the webapp whenever I dine out.

After spending over 20 years in SA Ambulance as a paramedic, I decided to transition from prehospital health to allied health and completed my Masters of Audiology. Whilst doing my research project my team investigated the topic of commensality, the act of sharing a meal with others. This is something close to my heart because I love food, my friends, good conversation, good wine, and enjoy these things together. What we discovered was what lead to the creation of the Ambient Menu. People we interviewed were all in their 50s and found restaurants were the main environment where they struggled to hear and felt neglected by many venues that made them feel ‘old’. I thought to myself, surely there is a website that guides people to quiet restaurants, and there wasn’t, so I created it myself.

And did you know that women in their 50s (and more mature) are statistically living their best life? Mentally and physically, research has found that they are fitter and happier than their peers in their 20s. Being in my late 40s myself I hate going into a restaurant and feeling old. I like some good ‘doof-doof’ when I’m working out, but not when I’m trying to eat and have a conversation. I also hate being completely ignored while the staff give all their attention to younger groups when I know that my demographic is the one venues should be targeting because we are more likely to:

  • Dine out more often than any other age group (2-3 times a week).
  • Spend more money in restaurants per sitting, than any other age group,
  • Are more likely to become advocates of places we love, and come back with friends.
  • And is the demographic that creates recurring income for venues and advocates for that venue.

Yet, the restaurant industry ignores us, why? Whilst the younger generations prefer livelier venues, research has found they are more likely to eat quickly, share a post on Instagram, but then leave. In many cases, they are unlikely to return – no matter how great the food was.

So, the Ambient Menu has created a community of diners who prefer conversation over buzz. We cater for more mature people looking for delicious food, superior service, and an ambience that allows easy conversation.

Since launching last year, we also found that many families are using this site and anyone who don’t want their dinner conversation drowned out by rowdy diners. Whilst our community is mainly women over the age of 50, we have many other diners who are use us for date nights, business meetings, or families with neuro-diverse children, and multigenerational families are all using our search function regularly. Hence why we also have the ‘family friendly’ and ‘senior friendly’ option (for those more senior people who require access friendly places).

What our community is saying

Stephen M: “The objectives of Ambient Menu appeal to me, as I know of no other way to find out in advance if new restaurants will suit my particular noise preferences….. I would rather not be the ‘grumpy old man’ who leaves restaurants or asks (politely) for music to be turned down. I prefer to know what to expect up-front and enjoy my meal and a chat without concerns… After all, you visit a restaurant and pay good money for an experience. Why experience a less than optimal lunch or dinner, if you can avoid it with a simple search on Ambient Menu?”

 Sarah L: “We visited this beautiful venue on Friday on your recommendation. Thanks so much, everything was stunning, food, service and atmosphere. 👏”

So these days I still work as an audiologist in an independent clinic, plus with an ENT doing diagnostic assessments, plus as a spin instructor, plus still working for SA Ambulance (but now as a casual transfer ambulance officer, 25 years in the emergency services is enough), plus running the Ambient Menu all while looking after my two boys (Mr Teen and a 53-year-old man-child). My favourite things are my family, friends, good food, good wine and creating memories with the special people in my life. I’m hoping the Ambient Menu will give others the opportunity to do that too.