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weinoo

Restaurant Noise Is So Friggin' Important

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Well, I take issue with that. According to restaurant design guru Adam Tihany, who was interviewd by Zagat, which I found out by scanning Eater, Tihany believes the more noise the better. To whit:

In the restaurant industry, the more noise, the better.

Maybe it's just that I'm cranky (hey, it's hot here), but I like sedate places just as much as really noisy ones, if the food is good. As a matter of fact, I like them even more these days. And if the food sucks, I don't give a darn how loud or soft the place is...I'm not going back.

You?


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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If the food sucks then no way I'm going back. I really dislike the new trend of ultra loud restaurants. Situations where you can barely carry on a conversation without yelling. I assume it's the buzz that the restaurant wants to create by making the restaurant loud. Loud equates to a hopping, busy, successful restaurant which is where you want to be. Well not me.

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If you ever have Dim Sum in a busy dim-sum place, by 11:00 am you can't even hear yourself think, not for me, thanks.

For those who figure the more noise the better, I have a few questions:

A) Do you eat alone when dining out?

B) If the answer to the above is "No", then,

C) How the (deleted) can you carry on a (deleted) conversation with your dining partner?

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If my throat hurts when I come home - something is wrong. People miss nuances in conversation. Eating with people is as much, often times, about conversation as the food. I do not get that concept about noise equating to good.

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Noise for me doesn't matter, unless I can't hear my dining partner(s) over it. I'm more concerned by whether the food is good or not - if it's good, I'll go back even if the restaurant is hugely noisy, and if it's bad I'm not going back regardless of the ambience.


Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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There are places I won't go because they are just too damn loud. I don't know how it is in other cities, but in Austin, everyone has a complete fascination with live music. Which is great, I love music and I love music live, but I don't particularly love live music when it is in a restaurant, amp'ed up to bar/outdoor concert/arena levels of loudness. It's really freaking annoying. There is this one cajun/creole place that has the only truly good cajun food in town, but I refuse to go there after 7pm because that's when the damned Zydeco band starts playing, and I would rather be able to talk to the people I'm with, thanks. So irritating.


-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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If my throat hurts when I come home - something is wrong. People miss nuances in conversation. Eating with people is as much, often times, about conversation as the food. I do not get that concept about noise equating to good.

Hear, hear! :wink:

Usually I go out to eat to catch up with friends, find out what they're doing. I can go to a so-so restaurant with a good friend & have an enjoyable time. A couple years ago a large group of us had an annual reunion (various people had moved out of the Bay Area), & we went to a restaurant with superb food and a noise level that rivalled a rock concert. We could barely converse with each other. It didn't matter to me how great the food was, I was disappointed with the experience. When dining alone, I prefer the quiet restaurants. I like to hear myself think. Sometimes a waiter will come over to chat for a couple minutes, & we will share foodie news. I like that.

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If its noisy I walk out. I wont enjoy a noisy meal a bit. If I have a rez I ask for a quieter place, if they don't have it I walk out.

I suspect noisy places correlate with high bar bills and that's why restaurants like noise.

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I will not eat in a noisy restaurant. I hate loud noise in general, and I seem to have a lot more trouble with 'ambient' noise than most people - if there's too much noise in the background, I won't be able to hear my tablemate/s speaking to me, and I certainly won't enjoy my meal.

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Restaurants like hard surfaces for sanitary reasons. Unfortunately hard surface = noise.

Carpeted floors are a problem.

Acoustic ceiling tiles collect dirt.

Another factor is just economics. With real estate so expensive, restaurants have to pack tables as close as possible. Based on the law of radiation, I think if you half the distance, you quadruple the noise.

dcarch


Edited by dcarch (log)

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The intentionally noisy trend started in the 1980s and I have hated it for the entire time. It is bad enough that some restaurants are designed to have the noise bounce off the walls, but some add insult to injury by having intolerable techno music blaring. To me it is the opposite of cool. I just don't go. But I bet it turns the tables over fast.

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In Chinese culture 热闹 (rè nào; literally "Hot and noisy") is considered to be desirable, if not essential - especially at Dim Sum breakfasts. 8 o'clock in the morning in some not very good hotel restaurant with two hundred people screaming at the top of their voices is not the best start to my day. Unfortunately, due to work, I have to do it more often that I would want (i.e >0).

But I have noticed a recent trend for upmarket places to be quieter. I was even in a restaurant in Guangzhou recently where the management told one customer to shut the **** up or get out! Most of the other customers clapped. HeE left.

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Interesting you raise dim sum restaurants..I can't bear noisy restaurants, for much the same reason I can't stand talkback radio: I spend most of my working day bellowing, screaming at, cajoling, bossing and just generally talking at people and having them chatter incessantly at me in return, why would I want more of the same in my personal time??

But yum cha restaurants I have the inverse reaction to, and will withstand and even expect a level of noise I couldn't otherwise bear. Absence of ear-splitting noise in that context is quite unsettling to me. In fact, one of the oddest experiences I had on one trip I made to Hong Kong was sitting in a nearly full yum cha restaurant and noticing how deadly silent it was for some reason, despite the crowd..something I didn't think was really possible. Spooky!


Edited by rarerollingobject (log)

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I have more tolerance for noise when it's the byproduct of the space that's otherwise difficult to alter. Dinner last night was in an old industrial space--brick walls, high ceilings, concrete floors. Loud but I'd still go back, knowing that it is not the place for a quiet meal. On the other hand, a couple of weeks ago I tried a new sushi place fitted out with plush banquettes, low lighting, and blaring techno music that made it impossible converse in the otherwise comfortable space. No chance I will go there again.



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I suppose the importance of noise has a lot to do with how many decibels bother you and the weight you give talking with dining companions versus being there mostly for the food.

For me all great meals have included ambiance and the company. Food is necessary but insufficient on its own.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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I would rarely return (no matter how wonderful the food is) to a restaurant that has a high ambient noise level and/or high decibel music. If I was going to a place that was primarily a live music venue or a night club that happens to also serve food that would be a different story. I guess I can appreciate that an atmosphere that is 'lively' and 'vibrant' can be a good place to hang out but I just don't understand it in a venue that whose focus is FOOD. When one can barely hear the wait staff let alone the person sitting beside you (don't even try to speak to someone across the table!) it is just plain irritating and rude. I have always assumed (perhaps cynically) that the high noise levels are designed to ensure that the restaurant gets more and faster turns of tables - get the clients in and out as quick as possible. I agree with the previous poster about having a sore throat by the end of a meal in a noisy restaurant - not a good sign.

Hardwood floors, exposed brick, no soft furnishings are certainly practical elements and I can cope with them (but probably not enjoy or return often). I will try to go early before the place fills up and conversation levels rise as everyone begins to compete with each other to be heard over the ever increasing decibels. But when a place adds really really loud music/muzak to the mix it becomes intolerable.

I have asked for the music to be turned down on several occasions and most places will oblige - or at least be able to control the sound level on a section by section basis.


Llyn Strelau

Calgary, Alberta

Canada

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Too loud is a deal killer for me, too. One of the most important functions of food is to bring people together. Some of us met yesterday at a local winery for wine and snacks on their beautiful terrace. There was live music which can be a great idea, but it was cranked up way to loud for that type of event. We retreated to the most distant table available, but could only converse during the breaks taken by the band. On a recent trip to the Bay area my wife and I learned to dine much earlier than our norm to avoid the crowds of hipsters who are not deterred by noise in the least. In fact it seems to attract them. Noise seems to signal a certain demographic the "this place is a happening scene." Maybe that is why some restauranteurs feel that noise is so friggin' important.

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I don't dine out alone. When I dine out I am there for food AND conversation with my fellow diners. If the noise makes conversation difficult I won't be back. I refuse to go to the local Red Robin for a burger meal for precisely that reason.

I will say that the old saying "If the music's too loud then you're too old" does probably come into play a little bit.


Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

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In fact, one of the oddest experiences I had on one trip I made to Hong Kong was sitting in a nearly full yum cha restaurant and noticing how deadly silent it was for some reason, despite the crowd..something I didn't think was really possible. Spooky!

That happened to me too when I went to a multi level yum cha restaurant and wound up on the level that seemed to exclude Europeans. The reason for the quietness was everyone was looking at my partner and I. That really was disconcerting.

On the more general question, I think it is a by-product of modern, minimalist design principles.

As I get older my hearing is not what it used to be (too many heavy rock concerts as a youth). Loud restaurants make it very difficult for me to hear my dining companions, which is an unpleasant experience that will lead me not to return to restaurant, no matter how good the food is.


Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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I find that some notoriously noisy restaurants are nowhere near as bad on weeknights or during the day. I don't think I'd line up for two hours at Mamasita to endure the supposed noise level on a Saturday night.


Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org

 

I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Melbourne
Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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A totally silent restaurant is disconcerting tho. I feel like we have to whisper or force everyone to listen in . Some level of white noise actually provides privacy.


"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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The whole idea that "noise is good because it's noise" seems goofy to me. Are we advocating Cheesecake Factory now? Perhaps my least favorite restaurant, period. The answer, unfortunately, seems to be "it depends" - yes, a noisy dim sum restaurant is fine, and a silent, precious, fussy restaurant sucks, but very quiet restaurants can be lovely and very noisy ones can be awful. Personally, it depends upon my mood and the style of food. I've also known people to go to a restaurant that is well and widely known for being noisy-to-raucous and then complaining (loudly) about how noisy it was. Duh.


"Life itself is the proper binge" Julia Child

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It really seems as if we're not the target demographic of these restaurant designers. Yet, you would think the restaurant owners would want us as repeat customers.

Only if we sit where nobody can see us.

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