By Mike Green (owner Customer Impact)

Like most people, I work very hard and work way more hours than I would like to admit.  My idea of relaxing is a nice quiet restaurant with quality food and service.   Finding quality food and service is not that hard any more.  Finding a restaurant where you can have a normal conversation however has become a real challenge.

Remember the days when a man could propose in a restaurant and everyone just stopped to watch and listen.  In today’s noisy restaurants, someone could drop dead and it would likely go totally unnoticed.   The days of white tablecloths and carpeting have given way to wooden tabletops covered with butcher paper, hardwood floors, loud open kitchens and even DJ’s.   Yes DJ’s. As a past restaurant manager and server, I am well aware that there is nothing worse than a dead restaurant, but today’s operators have gone to the extremes in the other direction to make their operations “LIVE.”   I call it obnoxiously “LOUD.”

Is this affecting how customers are picking restaurants?  It has now become a major criteria that I consider before deciding where to spend my money and I am not alone.  As I have mentioned this issue to friends and even restaurant clients, everyone seems to agree with me.  This has become a real issue that was created by restaurant owners themselves and one they can easily fix.

On a recent trip to Las Vegas I called two friends who are regulars out there and asked them for the best steakhouse in town.  They both told me STK so I took their advice.  I called to make a reservation and literally had to yell and repeat myself as the hostess could not hear me.  Why? Because the music was too loud.  That should have been my first clue that this was not going to be a relaxing dinner.  I searched on-line for reviews and found more than one person saying the steak was great but complaining it was like having a $200 dinner on a nightclub dance floor since there is in fact a DJ. Why is there a DJ?   I went anyway on my friends advice and it was so loud that I apologized to the hostess and left before we were seated.  I spent well over $200 down the strip at Michael’s steakhouse and it was worth every penny for the peace and quiet, and the ability to hold a normal conversation with my wife.

We recently had dinner at a very upscale restaurant in Houston.  The waiter was almost yelling the specials across the table to us. I asked him if he realized he was yelling and he said he had to raise his voice because the music was so loud.  I asked him if they could simply turn down the music so customers could actually talk to one another.  He did  and the rest of the dinner was a pure joy.  The waiter even thanked me because his job was now easier.

My company, Customer Impact works with more than 50 restaurant concepts around the U.S. to help measure their customer service, food quality, cleanliness and more.   I am seriously considering asking my full service and fine dining clients to allow us to also evaluate and comment on the noise comfort level in their units as part of our evaluations.  Am I crazy?  Before you ask I am only 52.



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