By Carolyn Heinze

The Rainforest Cafe's latest addition to the Canadian market was the opening of a restaurant in the upscale Yorkdale Mall in Toronto. The audio and lighting systems were designed by Frattalone and Associates, Inc. Westbury National Show Systems out of Toronto implemented Frattalone's audio design. "Our instructions were very defined" said Guy Wallace, project manager at Westbury. "Rainforest has particular standards that they're happy with, and they want all of their restaurants to match those standards. Our objective was to follow the Frattalone design so that Rainforest Yorkdale in Toronto sounds, operates and feels the same way that any other Rainforest Cafe' does across the United States. "

The audio system is divided into four main areas: the entryway, bar, retail area and dining room. Each section receives a separate audio mix. "Within each zone, we have multiple speaker systems. The speaker systems are broken down into Music, Vignette and Thunder," Wallace described. "Every half hour, a 'rainstorm' occurs, at which point the lights dim a bit, and there is a bit of flashing here and there, and the thunder comes crashing in. They also have some rain curtains that start the rain around the bar and certain areas of the dining room to give it the feel of being in a rainforest." When the thunderstorm abates, the background music resumes."

The thunder system combines 13 JBL 4647A subwoofers with JBL Control 25 and 28 loudspeakers, while the background music is distributed through JBL Control 25T's. The vignette effects, continually playing cricket, bird and various other jungle noises, are heard through Atlas/Soundolier W115T-BK loudspeakers.

Equipment List


The audio and lighting systems at the Rainforest Cafe' in Toronto's Yorkdale Mall needed to produce the same effect as at the other established restaurants in the chain. Following pre-ordained specifications, the design and installation process divided the restaurant into entryway, bar, retail and dining areas; each with its own environment.


The rainforest has, as any proper jungle should, animals. A pair of elephants, five gorillas, a hippopotamus and, unlike any real life jungles, a talking tree named Tracy, make up this rainforest. All of the animatronics come complete with blinking eyes, wiggling ears, and occasionally, stomping feet. The audio effects for this portion of the system are piped in through JBL Control 25s and 28s.

Amplification for the audio system is supplied by a number of QSC products-CX302s, CX302vs, CX602Vs and CX902s, along with a pair of Rane MA6s. A pair of Shure 515SBG microphones, a Shure UT14/20 wireless headset mic and two WH20-TQGs as replacements complete the microphone system. A BSS Soundweb 9088ML and a 9088 LL control the entire audio set-up.

Project Team

"It was a rather enjoyable install," Wallace reflected. "The largest problem that we had to overcome was that they tightened up the opening date by nine business days, and everyone's timeline got chopped for all of the trades. We were finally able to get on the floor at about 8 o'clock on a Saturday evening, and I tuned the system until early Sunday morning. On Monday, the restaurant opened.


Carolyn Heinze is a freelance writer based in Toronto, Canada.

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