I’ve had an earful of restaurant noise

woman's face photograph

Bare floorboards, exposed beams, hard concrete floors and stark industrial lights. This is the look that every eatery worth its Pepe Saya butter follows. Forget carpets, table cloths, curtains and light fittings. So vintage. Quaint even! No, a bare concrete shell and reverberating ceiling is part of the modern dining experience. It’s also the place of nightmares – the one where you keep yelling and no-one can hear above the ear-popping cacophony. That nightmare (and pretty much an average night out in Sydney).

Restauranteurs will shrug their shoulders and talk up their reverberating industrial chic refurb. They might even call it atmosphere. But I reckon it is an elaborate plot, worthy of a SMH investigative journalist sting. Think about it: bare bones spaces require less cleaning – no curtains, carpets, table cloths. Also because of the small problem of not actually hearing a bloody thing your dining companions are saying and ditto them you, means you buy more drinks. May as well get a little buzzed as there’s certainly no conversation going down.

This is especially the case in bars as it keeps the clientele turnover high. Even millennials don’t stay that long in a deafening bar; they just move on to the next deafening bar and catch up for a chat on the way. It’s the perfect plot, keep the slam-bam volume up and maybe even pump out loud music as well and you’ll have a steady stream of people coming in and out all night for a $30 cocktail.

This “atmosphere” is a slow-motion screamfest waiting to happen. An ageing deaf millennial of the future will not be a pretty sight. I’m waiting for the first lawsuit filed by waitstaff because of industrial deafness. I’m waiting for the payouts and contrite restauranteurs doing a mea culpa, promising to do better. I’m waiting for the war on restaurant noise. I’m waiting for the sound level entry in restaurant reviews.

After all, it’s worth remembering the word restaurant comes from restore – and there’s nothing restorative about yelling at the top of your lungs at friends and not hearing them reply.


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