The generational battle over noisy restaurants
There's a growing movement to turn down the volume in Canadian eateries, and part of the problem may be a generational clash.
Emad Yacoub, president of the Glowbal Restaurant Group, a popular and loud collection of Vancouver eateries, says that noise equals success in his businesses.
"That means that the restaurant is busy, lively, it's fun," he said.
But Yacoub admits that he frequently gets requests to turn down the volume.
"We have these troubles all the time, people coming in and say, ‘You know what, the place is noisy.' [But] we don't believe it's noisy, we believe it's alive."
The international restaurant review website Zagat says next to bad customer service, too much noise is the number 1 complaint.
It's a generational clash. Younger B.C. residents like the loud music and clatter of a bustling restaurant but many Baby Boomers with fat wallets are looking for a reprieve from the noise.
That generational push and pull leaves restaurant owners like Yacoub stuck in the middle.
"What happen if I turn the music and the next 100 people tell me I'm not coming back to your restaurant because you shut down the music? Right? Both ways I'm going to lose," he said.
There are set limits on noise levels in restaurants, and complaints go up 35 per cent during the months of April to August.
City of Vancouver Director of Inspection Will Johnston said the complaints come from residents who live near noisy restaurants with patios.
"We typically don't hear about complaints within the restaurant -- so patrons complaining about the fact they were in a restaurant and the noise levels they thought were too high -- typically those complaints I would assume are going to the restaurant operators," he said.
Yacoub said the days of a romantic and quiet dining experience are over, with most people opting for a louder time.
"Classic, quiet, behind the scenes dining is gone," he said.
"People are not interested in it anymore. People want to be in the restaurant where you can hear the hustle and bustling of the kitchen and the staff, and the music and the people who are laughing and joking. It's a different environment."
Acoustic experts say the typical restaurant operates at an 80 decibel level but some can reach as high as 110 decibels. To put that in perspective, an ambulance with sirens blaring registers about 105 decibels.
Audiologists have some suggestions if you want a quieter dining experience:
- Avoid sitting by the bar or kitchen
- Stay away from large parties, which tend to talk more loudly
- Sit at tables in alcoves, which offer a barrier to the sound waves
- Ask to sit on the patio -- it's often quieter there
When all else fails, ask management to turn the music down. Not only will the noise level drop but people talk more softly when the music isn't as loud.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Lynda Steele