Eater NY restaurant critic Robert Sietsema addresses disturbing trends in the New York City restaurant industry in his recent piece, “Charting the Decline of Restaurant Comfortability.”
The focus of Sietsema’s article is on the restaurant industry’s attempt to cram as many diners as possible into the smallest possible space, but he also notes the role noise has played in the decline in restaurant comfortability:
Other features of declining comfortability involve noise levels and meal speed. The modern restaurant is noisy as hell, making meaningful conversation impossible and potentially leading to outright hearing loss. This prompts you to want to leave sooner, I contend, though others believe deafening noise is synonymous with having fun and eating well.
Sietsema concludes by stating that “it will probably take a real estate crash — or laws that prevent greedy real estate operators from letting restaurant spaces stand empty for long periods in anticipation of ridiculous rents — to return the average eating establishment to the level of comfort it displayed just 20 years ago.” He may be right, at least with regard to the pressure on restaurant owners to squeeze as many customers as he or she can to satisfy the rapacious rents demanded by New York City commercial real estate moguls. But there is something that can be done to address loud restaurants. Namely, if “background” music is a big factor in the noise level, ask that it be lowered. If management refuses–and yes, they occasionally refuse–either get up and leave or, if you have already ordered, vow never to return again. And do write the owner and tell him or her that they’ve lost a customer. Eventually some restauranteurs will recognize the value in providing a comfortable and quiet space.