WHAT? Remember when you went to a restaurant and you didn’t come home with a raging headache and hoarse from a night out? Remember when you could talk to your dinner partners and have a meaningful conversation – and not have to shout above the music playing at inhuman sound levels? Can anyone remember those good old days?
Pounding baselines: It’s not just the music in some restaurants that beats your ear into submission. It’s the noise bouncing off the naked surfaces. Somewhere along the line, carpets, tablecloths and soft ceilings disappeared and were replaced with stone floors, wooden tables, gleaming chrome fixtures and unfinished ceilings. So there’s absolutely nothing to absorb the sound as it ricochets from one hard surface to another in booming echoes around the room.
Is it just me? What’s happening out there with this new dining trend? It used to be that I would research a menu carefully before making a reservation to eat out. Now, the menu is secondary, as my first question is always, “Do you have live entertainment?” A live band is the worst, but playlists can be piped-in at absurd volume levels too.
Up close and personal: Did you know that many restaurants play a certain type of music on purpose? First of all, research has shown that a noisy restaurant draws people in because it sounds like a fun place…and we all like fun! Second, studies have also shown that when they speed up the beat, the sound waves energize us, so we eat faster and drink more. That means they make more money on food and drink that we may not have otherwise consumed. Plus, if we eat at turbo speed, they get to turn the tables faster with more butts in the seats. Certainly a win win for them, but not for our waistlines or our wallets.
I can’t hear you! The basic principles of going to a restaurant is to enjoy a shared meal and have a conversation – not to sit mute while we listen to music or scream at our partners to be heard. In my view, the guest experience is ruined, when the restaurant is cluttered with room noise. Now I’m not talking about the normal buzz of conversation, the clattering of dishes or the lovely jazz trio in the corner playing soft background music. I’m talking about the musicians who crank up their amps like they’re playing a rock concert for a bunch of teeny boppers. The same goes for music blasting through speaker systems. And even if you ask the wait staff or management to turn it down, my experience is that it won’t happen.
Tweets not talk: Maybe I’m just too old-fashioned about this whole thing and people today like to speak in “tweets” mirroring their online interactions. Maybe people prefer to live more on the surface these days, without the added burden of actually being interested in connecting with another human being. And again…the less you talk, the more you eat…the more you eat, the more you drink…and so it goes around and around. Are you seeing a pattern here? But if the younger generations are becoming accustomed to communicating in this way, are we losing the art of conversation in the process? This is another whole issue for another day.
What can we do?
If we, as paying guests are dissatisfied with any of the above, we should speak up:
1. Be vocal and tell the restaurant management that we are dissatisfied.
2. Encourage more food critics to add a new category for sound levels in their reviews.
3. Boycott the establishment and tell them why.
4. Post our complaints on restaurant review sites, to draw attention to the issues.
5. Choose a table farthest from music amps and speakers, and near soft surfaces if they have any.
Final word: What do you think people? Have I just passed my best before date or do I have a point here?
See you between the lines,
Follow me on Twitter @PatSkene