Detroit noodle shop Ima uses a digital device that has nothing to do with food.

Credit: handsomepictures/Getty Images

A common complaint in restaurants is that the place is too damn loud. The reasons are multifold: It can be loud music, a loud kitchen, loud patrons, and sometimes just poor architecture or interior design that sends every little sound clattering about in every direction. But regardless of the cause, studies have shown not only can noise turn off some patrons, but it can also affect your meal. As a result, entire apps are dedicated to letting diners measure and track volume levels at eateries in the search for quiet spaces. But the Detroit Free Press recently highlighted a restaurant that took a simple approach to dealing with the problem: They installed a decibel meter themselves.

Full disclosure: Outside of a few teenage gigs washing dishes and bussing tables, I’ve barely worked in restaurants, so maybe decibel meters are more common than I realize. However, owner/chef Mike Ransom, who uses this simple noise control solution at his Detroit noodle shop Ima, presents it as a relatively novel idea. “It kinda is rooted in the fact that our music and playlists were such an important part of our dining experience,” he said of the digital sound meter that is perched above a window where the whole staff can see it. “And because we’re all music-minded, the levels are always something we’re very conscious of. And just like when you’re DJ-ing, the levels of music have to be adjusted and fine-tuned throughout the day or service.”

Aiding the cause, the entire staff is reportedly aware of the meter and told to keep it within certain ranges depending on the time of day (for instance, lunch is kept quieter than dinner). If things get too loud, everyone is allowed to tinker with the tunes to get the number back in line (a much different policy than you probably employ with your car stereo). Using the meter as a firm gauge keeps everyone on the same page and allows them to be conscious of what the guests are experiencing that they might not notice. As Ransom told the Free Press, “You want [the noise level] to be something people are experiencing but not noticing to the point where it interrupts their meal.”