Restaurant Rants The Sequel
Posted by cmh gourmand on February 28, 2013
Comments on the last post, as well as some side conversations and apparently some displaced annoyances in my subconscious, brought some more rants to the surface. So here we go. This should really tie up the loose ends of the rants.
Sometime in the late 1980′s or early 1990′s a restaurant research company determined that loud restaurant environments help restaurants turn tables faster. Consider many of the mid to high-end restaurants built during that era and you will note some noisy constructs: high ceilings, open spaces, poured concrete, etc. To extroverted, marketing types, the energy, excitement and high decibels of a wall of sound probably does seem exhilarating. I hate it. I read several of the marketing studies and I get the need to turn tables to make a profit and how subconsciously noise may make us eat faster. However, my gut tells me that a noisy atmosphere gets a person through the door the first time, but does not get them back or at least discourages them from coming back at a peak time again. Maybe these environments are well suited for restaurants that serve tourists in places like Vegas, but the concept is not well suited to restaurants in the heartland that need regulars to survive and thrive. Silence is not expected and can be a bit awkward but too much noise is not my cup of tea. It seems like restaurants were trying to look and sound like nightclubs….but I don’t like loud bars or clubs either. Strangely, I am always a sucker for a restaurant with an old guy at the piano playing away in the style of Billy Joel, that is charming not dismaying.
I want to have a conversation during my meal with my dining companions. I don’t want to have to raise my voice or have to keep asking the person across the table to continue to repeat themselves through the night. Absorbing noise is not so hard. Restaurants can add cheap and simple cloth tiles or art work to the ceilings and walls to suck in the sound. Music, is always best when muted and just barely in earshot. In the realm of music, as a restaurant owner, I would worry that my patrons would not like my choice of music (which is exception and eclectic of course).
TV’s – always in sports bars, taverns and the ilk. I prefer having the closed captioning on and the volume off. At a place where multiple TV’s are blaring the drivel of multiple monosyllabic commentators, I don’t see how one can separate out what they want to hear from the background noise. I noticed background music for the first time at Alana’s last week. Maybe it was new or maybe I never noticed it before (I was there on a rare night, where I was early and few others were there). The music was light and instrumental and not obtrusive.
To summarize: Lots of noise sucks. Avoid it.
Young Children in finer dining establishments
Children should be exposed to different foods as often and as early as possible so they don’t become food isolationists at an early age. I admire and respect the work that it takes for parents to load up their children, navigate the nuances of high chairs, kid seats and etc, to have a night out that feels more adult than the Brady Bunch. But when the kids are running amuck around the table to the amusement of the family but to the dismay of those of us eating around you and the servers trying to accommodate you, I say “Go home and don’t come back until you can all act like young adults”.
Kids menus to me says that the children are by getting just want TV and their peers tell the they want. I get it, trying to get your kids to eat something other than chicken fingers and mac & cheese is hard. How about if you save some bucks and serve that crap at home and take the money saved to get a baby sitter. Some child sized meals and accommodations are a necessary evil, I am sure. However, the best child diners I know, including the well-respected Mr. Vincent, would never waste their time with a pedestrian kids menu when they can educate their palate with something new and different. I mean, hey, your parents are picking up the tab – live large and order with some abandon, one can’t get a free meal their whole life. There was an NPR story a while back, on one of my RSS feeds, relating that American Food changed – largely for the worse – when we started to let kids take control of the grocery lists from what they saw on TV. Fight the good fight parents of the world, and teach, your children well, to avoid the hell of canned beets, feed them on your dreams of CSA Brussels sprouts……. In the words of the Muse, dining duder and the partner in dine, Suck It.
Filling my glass, my cup doth not runneth over
I don’t like my glass being filled to often but I hate it not being filled enough. Where is the sweet spot of over half empty/under half full? As mentioned in Foodcast, a beverage filled too often becomes a distraction to the meal. If filled too infrequently, I become parched. If it is water, I would say, refill when it hits the 55% level but start to check less frequently and ardently after the 3/4 complete part of the meal. Always, top off water glasses before desserts are served. Back off if serving pop (not soda you fussy east coast people) and you have refilled more than two times. Although I must say, the servers at Adriaticos have this skill mastered. They always refill at the perfect time. They refill automatically without asking while I am consuming pizza, double checking what pop it is (regular or diet) as they walk away to fill the glass, sensing that this is a rare time when I am drinking pop and “living it up”, but they start to ask before securing my glass when consumption of pizza comes to a standstill. I don’t know if they teach a class in this, but if they do, restaurant owners, send your staff for some education.
Booze means big tips, but I have definitely seen servers pushing drinks too hard on some people. I have also seen bright servers, timing their trips and interactions in such away to avoid the unchaperoned and buzzed patron asking for more and thusly transforming into the drunk patron becoming a bore (AKA a Drunktard). It is an art and a science and it is hard to time it all right.