Sydneysiders Beg Restaurants To Stop Playing ‘Needlessly Loud’ Music

Restaurant or nightclub? Which is it?

Sydneysiders Beg Restaurants To Stop Playing ‘Needlessly Loud’ Music

Sydney is home to its fair share of incredible restaurants, but while they may deliver exquisite food and exceptional service, there appears to be one common complaint of Sydney diners that falls on deaf ears.

Have you ever been seated at a dining table, unable to properly hear what those across the table from you are saying, due to the music being blasted around the dining room? It’s all very well a restaurant trying to create an ambience, but when it crosses the line from relaxed atmosphere and into Ibiza levels of rave cave, it can be enough to put you off your food.

Loud music in Sydney restaurants appears to be a common complaint among the city’s restaurant clientele, as pointed out in a tweet by user @zoecabina. Zoe doesn’t target her frustration at Sydney directly – instead projecting her views onto Australia as a whole – but her complaint of our nation’s incessant desire to get diners dancing holds true with another Twitter user, Paul Cogan.

Paul doesn’t name and shame the Sydney restaurant in question, but he does point out that “cheap jazz standard covers that belong on the boomers’ deck of a cheap cruise ship” can spoil your evening, in his opinion, in Sydney.

It’s not just Paul who has noticed restaurants in Sydney turning things up to 11. This Reddit thread, posted 10 months ago (at time of publishing) was started by a Spanish man who had moved to Sydney. He too found that some bars and restaurants, “where the point should be have a beer and talk…[have] music levels [that require you to] literally shout or speak in the ear of someone to have a conversation.”

One user, ‘BrainNo2495,’ explained his beliefs as to why music is played so loudly, “Loud music makes the restaurant seems more lively then it is.”

“This leads to a vicious cycle where competitors notice that people are being attracted by the music and they also will play loud music.”

He also suggested music was played loudly so that customers would actually leave soon after they arrive, “They don’t want people sitting in restaurants and having a nice long chat. They want them to order their food, eat as quick as possible and leave so they have the table free for the next set of customers.”

But, there could also be another reason at play, and it doesn’t necessarily relate to giving off a more inviting image or to help maximise profits. Instead, it could be our incessant need to Instagram everywhere we go that is to blame.

A 2019 article published on Good Food says “Sound engineers and restaurateurs say the trend towards hard-surfaced fitouts caused sound to bounce around dining rooms with nowhere to be absorbed.”

And yet, while said restaurants will claim their decision to have exposed concrete walls and air conditioning ducts is because it’s on-trend, those in the know say it’s actually more down to economic reasons.

“If you acquire a building with exposed concrete walls and don’t have to do anything to them, and then don’t have to put a suspended ceiling in, you can save an awful lot of money,” restaurant advisor Tony Eldred told the publication.

“Fit-outs cost millions of dollars these days, so corners are cut, and acoustic costs are often the first to go.”

Image: Unsplash

There is research that also suggests the sound levels in a restaurant or cafe can actually affect the taste of your food and drink. A 2020 study looked into the “general effect of auditory noise control in individuals’ eating and drinking experiences,” for example, which ultimately found a cup of the same coffee, when consumed in quieter conditions, tasted better.

It’s claimed louder environments reduce our ability to notice sensory attributes of food; sweetness, bitterness, saltiness etc.

Indeed, the Good Food article references a 2011 study published in the British journal Food Quality and Preference, which asked 50 participants to taste potato chips, cheese, biscuits and pancakes. Participants tasted the foods in a room with music set to 50 decibels and then in a second room with sound levels at 80 decibels (similar to being inside an aeroplane cabin).

“Participants rated the salty foods as significantly less salty and sweet foods as tasting less sweet under conditions of loud background noise,” the study concluded.

Russell Keast, an associate professor of food and sensory science at Deakin University, says the loud music funnelled into our ears creates a “crowned-out” effect, whereby the brain doesn’t have the ability to focus on the flavours of the food we eat at the same time as it processes the music.

Does this imply loud Sydney restaurants think their food tastes like s**t and so blast out loud music as part of some elaborate illusion?

Food, quite literally, for thought.

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