Does It Matter How Loud a Restaurant Is? New York Times Readers Weigh In

Are restaurants leaning into the background noise in an attempt to distract you from the food?
Does It Matter How Loud a Restaurant Is? New York Times Readers Weigh In

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‘In some I can hear every detail of a conversation across the room but cannot hear the person sitting across from me,’ one patron wrote, describing an experience that is no doubt familiar to many of us. 

This week in The New York Times, Jeff Gordinier mulled over the ways in which a loud dining atmosphere can ruin one’s restaurant experience, no matter how transcendent the food.

Some restaurants, especially upscale ones where the bill aren’t small, have invested a lot of money into making their dining rooms as serene possible.

At the Four Horsemen, for example, the walls are covered in burlap to subdue the noise from the wine bar. At Untitled, the ceiling is covered in a special plaster that “mops up noise like a giant sponge.”

But not every restaurant puts as much effort into soothing the sounds of a packed restaurant. Just how much does excess noise affect the guests? Writing into the Times, readers were pretty uniformly anti-noise.

“Being hearing-impaired, most restaurants I won’t patronize for this very reason,” an Ohio resident wrote. “And most of them are just plain loud and chaotic. In some I can hear every detail of a conversation across the room but cannot hear the person sitting across from me. Guess it is good for spying. I have learned a lot of stuff about people who thought they were having a private and intimate conversation.”

One person speculated whether the noise of a restaurant might actually be an attempt to distract diners “from the inadequacies of the service and cuisine,” and another suggested that the perhaps was actually attempt to keep guests from getting too comfortable. “I always thought that noisy restaurants were taking a page from Benihana’s playbook: maximize revenue by increasing turnover. A number of restaurants in my town have remodeled their interiors, adding multiple hard surfaces, seemingly to discourage customer conversations and revenue-sapping lingering.”

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