Ask The Salty Waitress: What Can I Do About This Crazy Loud Restaurant?

Hi Salty,

When I eat out in restaurants, it's usually to catch up with friends. So oftentimes, the priority is to find space where it's quiet enough where we can catch up. When I get to choose the locale, I'll avoid obvious locations where it'll be too loud, like sports bars. But I've noticed that quite a few restaurants tend to blast their music way up to the point where it's hard for me to hold a conversation with even three people, much less five or more.

Is there a reason why restaurants (even those that don't cater to the Saturday night/happy hour crowd) choose to blast their music up? Second, is there anything I can do? Would a polite request to my server that she ask whoever's in charge to lower the music a bit be okay, or am I nuts?

Thanks,Turn It Down

Dear Turn It Down, What's that? I can't hear your question! Speak up!

But seriously, I feel you on this complaint sometimes. Like you said, there are some restaurants where one could reasonably expect high volumes: sports bars, trendy club-ish places, busy bar-restaurants in the corporate district at happy hour. There's a difference, though, between crowd noise—which sometimes can't be helped—and blaring music that's purposefully making a restaurant loud.

Restaurants might turn up the dial for a few reasons. I think the primary one is because they want to create "energy" and avoid the space seeming dull or empty. I think that overly loud music tends to highlight a sparse room—"Oh cool, there's two tables in here at 1 p.m. but the speakers are blasting Kylie Minogue remixes on loop"—but not everyone sees it that way. Loud music might also intended to cover up kitchen noise, or street-traffic beeping and honking.

Your best bet is to keep choosing the restaurants you like that keep the soundtrack at a normal volume, or to steer clear of nightlife-type spots that will likely have thumping bass lines. But if you find yourself at a restaurant that's just inexplicably loud, maybe ask if you can be relocated to a part of the room that's not directly beneath a loudspeaker. Or, you can politely ask your server whether it's possible to adjust the music. They might not be willing to, but if enough customers are constantly mentioning it, it could get management to change its tune. Literally.

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