Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Sounds Appetising

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Sounds Appetising

Article excerpt

Byline: By Bill Oldfield

I'm not known for my subtlety. I'm not known for my intelligence, good looks or sporting prowess either. But when judging my subtlety a flying mallet comes to mind.

A couple of months ago I was in a super restaurant in Glasgow with a business associate. As is so often the case on these occasions I got very enthusiastic about whatever it was we were talking about (I am known for my enthusiasm ( even if it is often misplaced) and no doubt was not very subtle when it came to controlling my volume.

The restaurant was experiencing a quiet lunchtime and there were perhaps three other tables. You've probably experienced it ( when it's quiet diners tend to whisper to each other which doesn't make for a particularly relaxed ambience. As a result of my largesse, even though I wasn't aware of it at the time, I was experiencing glances from a particularly large male diner seated nearby.

Before I continue, some time ago my wife and I went with a couple of friends to a hotel in Teesdale for Sunday lunch. As we were lead into the fairly full dining room all we could hear was the chink of cutlery on plates and, I can't swear to this, chewing sounds not unlike that heard in a field of cows.

I felt like tiptoeing to my table but, proving I'm not known for my subtlety, said in what could be described in relative terms as a loud voice: "It's very quiet in here." This earned me a glare from a few dozen pairs of eyes.

But it was interesting to note that as we, initially alone in the room, chatted to each other at our table, only a few minutes later everyone in the room was talking at a much more normal volume. The room now had an atmosphere and was generally a much more relaxing place to be. So I achieved something that day.

Anyway, back in Glasgow, suddenly I noticed that my companion was looking nervously past me as a shadow fell over my shoulder. And this particularly large diner spoke to me in an accent so strong that I didn't understand a word, but which my associate translated as "be quiet," or something to that effect.

Not wishing to show him up with a brave, witty riposte, I nervously apologised and, from that moment on sat whispering in what had become a very uncomfortable environment; not just because he'd scared me half to death but also because there was absolutely no atmosphere.

That's why we play music in our restaurants. It's not because we all love music ( even though I'm sure we do. It's to make people talk and at a sensible volume. Most people don't like to think that they can be overheard.

So if it's quiet they whisper but if there's plenty of other noise they don't have to. Some buildings have such natural acoustics that you don't think you are being overheard when you talk, and so music is not necessary for that purpose. But if it is necessary, there's quite a skill to managing its volume, depending on the number and mix of people in your restaurant. …

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