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Your views: on noisy Adelaide cafes and restaurants

Reader contributions

Rainer Jozeps certainly touched a nerve with his article bemoaning Adelaide’s plague of shouty cafes and restaurants. Our readers share a lack of appetite for deafening decibels when dining or catching up for coffee, and many yearn for a place where shouting isn’t on the menu. Perhaps a local dining revolution is, quietly, brewing.

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Thank you, Rainer Jozeps. You have nailed it perfectly.

So many places seem to work on “noise is great” as a formula for success.

My wife and I and many of our friends scour Adelaide for places where a quiet coffee or meal and conversation can occur.

We have disqualified many places because of the ambient noise, too loud music and or/TVs.

Surely the main reason for going out with friends is to have a conversation without having to yell at each other? – Paul Turner

Let me shout it from the Adelaide rooftops: Totally agree! – Paul Kolarovich

I couldn’t agree more. Noisy cafes and restaurants really detract from the experience.

I have been to a number of places (that I now avoid) because the hard, cold surfaces and resultant noise created an environment that was more like “MacDonalds with beer” than a pleasant cafe/restaurant.

Never mind “roll out the barrels”, just roll out the carpet! – Andrew Porter

This is such a valid story and something I have been banging on about for ages.

It’s good to have great food, but if the acoustics are so bad that you leave with a headache the experience is not worth it.

If you don’t want to ‘out’ the noisy venues in InDaily, perhaps you could provide a list of the nicer quieter places to have a coffee or something to eat? I would welcome that.

Only this week I was asked to organise a business dinner for about 8 people in a mid-priced quieter restaurant where the group could converse without shouting at each other, and it was a pain to trawl through reviews on Trip Advisor to find comments on noise and crowding. Sue Caust

Background noise has been a terrible fact of life for the last 20 years at least.

What we need is a restaurant guide to quiet restaurants. I know a few, but have sadly had to endure astronomical decibels in order to enjoy good food.

One night a few years ago at a well-known Italian eatery, a friend stood on a chair and shouted that everyone should shut up.

Customers carried on as before because no one heard her. – Norman Etherington

Mr Jozeps, I hear you! (because I’m not sitting in a hip cafe at peak hour…).

I love going out to cafes, but if I need to strain to hear my friends, it becomes the most exhausting one to two hours.

I’m a mum to three boys, I don’t have the head space, nor attention span, to be hyper-focusing on my friend trying to tell me of her cat Fluffy’s near-death experience whilst simultaneously erecting imaginary walls to block Jenna’s high-pitched whinging on the next table over, sharing her latest Tinder disaster in its juicy, expletive-filled glory.

Add to that all of the things you mentioned, and more – music, coffee bean grinding, cars zooming past, phones bleeping – and I’m seriously considering opening a cafe named “Shoosh!”.

Want to be my business partner…?! Silent, of course! Helen Carr

Perhaps Rainer Jozeps should make finding the less shouty good cafes his next project, and quietly letting us know. – Darryl Bullen

Hear Hear! Pardon the pun.

I now base my choice on how noisy an establishment might be, and find myself wanting. I’ve given up.

Also, my elderly mother loves to eat out (and has the money to spend) but we struggle to find somewhere appropriate. It’s almost discrimination.

Rather than a ‘rack-em, pack-em and stack-em’ mentality, how about restaurants providing a truly quality experience? – Jen Coulls

I couldn’t agree more, and I know that I’m not alone in this.

I stick to places where I know that my friends or kids and I can hear each other speak and have a decent conversation.

So many places are ruined by poor acoustics these days. Melanie Smith

I couldn’t agree more. My hearing aid-wearing partner and I only eat out early in the week, and often struggle to find somewhere quiet so we go home without ringing ears and sore throats.

We are in the demographic with time and money to spend in cafes and restaurants, so it’s a pity.

Perhaps there is an opportunity for someone to set up a website listing quiet places. – Alexandrea Cannon

We have to agree with Rainer, people seem to have got much louder over the past few years.  

Maybe they think they are enjoying it more the louder they are, but it means that many people find it so hard to converse and be heard over the noise, that they make the choice to not go back to that restaurant.

This is a shame because they are there to enjoy the good food provided.  

We’re finding now that when we decide where to eat, the noise factor is a prime reason for the choice of eatery and it can be quite limiting.

But when you are overseas, particularly Europe or the UK, people are quieter and any loud groups are generally frowned upon.

 Oh dear, we have so many fantastic eating places here but no point in having to strain to hear even 50% of your friends’ conversations and it really takes the enjoyment level down. – Sue Weston

I totally agree that far too many cafes and restaurants are too noisy.

I have even walked in and walked straight out.

I have memories of Kappy’s when there were high backed booths, and there must have been sufficient sound absorbing materials because it was a great to place and talk with my fiance and enjoy a coffee Vienna with a sense of basic privacy.

There are still a few places a bit like that, but far too few! Richard Wilson

A group of friends and I eat out every Wednesday night, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find somewhere with acoustics that allow for group conversations.

We love to support new local hospitality businesses but we find ourselves returning to ‘tried and true’ (sometimes tired) venues because of this issue. 

Almost all of the new restaurants are ridiculously noisy and it spoils the whole evening.  

Perhaps you have appropriate contacts within the industry body who could communicate with all of the local venues and advise them on ways to make themselves customer-friendly whilst still looking modern. Heather Dowling

A good and overdue article!

I have noticed, with increasing annoyance, this trend for many years now.

The first trend was the design of and materials used, when new restaurants were opened or older ones renovated. It was called the Mediterranean effect.

The “shouty” trend is more recent and unfortunately more prevalent with groups of younger women, talking and laughing at near nightclub noise levels.

This is compounded with another emerging trend of continuing  to talk whilst chewing food.

For me, with my lower ability to clearly hear with competing noise sources, the choice is the older, quieter restaurants and cafes. And that is still ok.  – Andrew Satterley

I so concur with Rainer’s article.

I lived off Hutt Street for 12 years and returned to the suburbs in 2008.

I enjoyed several Rundle Street East and Hutt Street cafes where the sound was not a noticeable factor in my enjoyment of their food or coffee.

Over the past four years when back to cafes in these locations, the noise has been unbearable!

I now hardly ever venture back there, preferring to visit a couple of quiet places in the suburbs.

But even there the noise is getting much more noticeable/louder, thanks to the harsh surfaces and lack of soft furnishing. – Luciano Guglielmin

The uncomfortable noise level of many/most places has been an issue with me for years.

Think of the staff who have to work in these environments.

My daughter worked for a few years in a very popular café and used to hurt her throat as she had to call out customer names over the din all day.

I would find the noise level very stressful and hard to focus in, if I had to work in it. – Patricia Chigwidden

Further to Rainer Jozeps’ article on noisy restaurants, I’d like to add to his commentary that at least in part we have only ourselves to blame for the noisy restaurant phenomenon.

As someone who worked 15 years in the hospitality industry as a professional waiter from 1982 to 1997, I was involved with restaurants at a time when dining out was was still a valued experience in and of itself.

The average spend in the better class of restaurant back then was much higher than it is now and diners would set aside two to three hours for a dining experience that included aperitifs, three course meals, a bottle of wine per person, and a good lingering over coffee and ports.

My customers in the 1980s (pre-FBT) would have spent $70 to $90 per head. I’m no expert on inflation adjustments but I think that would equate to about $110 – $140 per head in the current economy.

The restaurants were, as a necessity, softly furnished and focused on comfort. However, for various reasons – not least of them the introduction of Fringe Benefits Tax, which almost entirely killed off the long business lunch – lifestyle choices among diners changed, they stopped visiting restaurants in search of a dining experience, and a large portion of customers have found it challenging to enjoy a quality dining event because of their shrinking disposable income.

Consequently, restaurants have had to shift focus to a high turnover of covers (others known as “bums on seats”) to make the same profits they once enjoyed towards the end of last century.

The old school restaurants that still pander either to well-heeled customers or special occasion diners are now thin on the ground and, equally lamentable, the high standard of service that was promoted and encouraged by the likes of Stan Benjamin at Regency Park School of Food and Catering is now very hard to find.

Noisy restaurants, I would assert, are at least in part the penalty we pay for coercing the restaurant industry to focus more on speed and convenience than the pursuit of excellence.

No doubt, there are other forces at play, but our contemporary lifestyle choices are especially germane to the phenomenon of cacophonous dining rooms. Chris Oaten

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