Planning your visit
To find out whether an establishment is suitable for you, check its website before you go.
There should be a range of contact options, such as telephone, email, a web form, or the possibility of visiting in person. This can help you to answer any questions about the suitability of the venue and to book, if necessary, in advance of your visit.
When enquiring about the venue, you may wish to ask whether:
- music is played – and if so, what type and how loud
- a quiet area, or quiet tables, are available, away from speaker systems and other noise sources
- there are any tables with hearing loop systems available
- the furnishings include any of the following, which can help diminish background noise: tablecloths, carpets, soft surfaces or acoustically-treated products
- the lighting makes it possible to lipread
- it’s possible to bring a hearing dog.
If the information you require, or accessible contact methods, such as email, aren’t available, then let the establishment know, and advise on what improvements they could make.
What you can do if you have a bad experience
Currently there's a low level of awareness about acoustic design and its impact on the accessibility of cafés, pubs and restaurants. Informing staff about any problems you have can help them make improvements.
1. Raise your concerns directly with staff during your visit
If you’re finding it difficult to enjoy your meal or drink, it’s worth alerting a member of staff immediately. They may be able to make an adjustment there and then to improve your experience. For example, if you’re struggling to hear because of loud music being played, explaining this to staff may convince them to turn it down, or off.
2. Complain to the venue after your visit
Whether or not you feel comfortable complaining while at the venue, addressing the problems you experienced in an email or letter following your visit is important. This makes sure that both the manager and staff are aware of any issues. It also gives them the chance to resolve the problems you raise, so that you - and others - can enjoy your next visit.
We’ve prepared some great sample letter guidelines to help you complain effectively.
3. Complain to the head office of the chain
If the café, pub or restaurant branch is part of a chain, we recommend that you also send a letter or email to the head office. This will only require a small amount of tailoring from your complaint to the branch, and could lead to the head office making sure that all its branches are more accessible to people with hearing loss.
4. Share your experience on a review site
Online review sites, such as TripAdvisor, are monitored very closely by cafés, pubs and restaurants. Writing a review about your visit is, perhaps, the most effective way to have your complaint addressed – as the manager will not want future customers to see your complaint when they search online.
5. Share your experience on social media
Many establishments, particularly larger chain cafés, pubs and restaurants, have social media. Tagging their account in a tweet, or writing on their Facebook wall to complain, also has the advantage of making your concerns public. This should ensure that you receive a swift response and, hopefully, a resolution that you’re happy with.
What you can do if you have a great experience
As well as letting your friends and family know, you can use social media and review sites to broadcast that the venue in question was a good place to go for someone with hearing loss. This could be of great help to others with hearing loss when they're trying to find an accessible place to drink or dine.
How we're helping take noise off the menu
Our Speak Easy campaign is aimed at reducing background noise in cafés, pubs and restaurants. We've produced a pack of resources to help you give feedback on your experience to help the industry tackle excess background noise in their venues. You can download your Speak Easy pack here.
As part of our Speak Easy campaign, we'd also like to encourage you to share your feedback - good and bad - with us. We'll use it to build our evidence base on background noise and to approach the industry to encourage change. You can share your feedback here.