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What to do about Noisy Diners

When there are noisy diners in the restuarant that you are eating in- be it other adults or children, do you say anything to the waiter or manager? If so, how much power does the waiter or manager really have in this situation?

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  1. I remember a lunch a few years ago at a restaurant in Kennebunkport ME. There were just 2 of us - and a table of about 15 near by. They were having a gay old time - laughing loudly and uproariously. We, OTOH could not hear ourselves think. After having a Bloody Mary we got up and left. This does not mean that we begrudged them their fun - we simply had a quiet lunch overlooking the river in mind.

    1. I don't think a restaurant can do much unless the customers are being unruly or not ordering anything. As much as I hate loud kids, I would truly be offended if someone shushed me/my party at a restaurant. Basically I would either ask to be moved or grit and bare it. Next time I go I would ask to be seated in a quiet area.

      2 Replies
      1. re: nathanac

        I can only get behind your being offended if you are literally "shush"ed. But, you and your party are not alone in the restaurant, and if you are disturbing other patrons, I think it is perfectly reasonable for someone to say "you are disturbing other patrons and infringing on their enjoyment ... please lower your voices". I see no reason for others to suffer so that you can have a rip-roarin' time.

        1. re: abowes

          I'm a veteran of the food bidness, and I've seen polite shushing done, or done it myself, half a dozen times, easy. There is no way for a competent manager to rationalize the potential loss of business that might result from one table being excruciatingly loud and boorish and thereby ruining the dining experience for everybody else in the place. Unfortunately, some folks are sorta exhibitionist, I think, and love the attention they get when the shriek with laughter or loudly exclaim their points....

      2. Servers can't do a whole lot especially if the unruly table is one they are taking care of!! A manager might be able to ask them to keep it down a little if it is yelling/screaming situation, but I think if it bothers you, maybe ask kindly yourself! A lot of times people don't realize how loud they are!

        1 Reply
        1. re: sweetnspicy

          Unless they are overly intoxicated and/or causing quite a scene it really isn't an issue that the restaurant can fix. Especially if they have already spent a good deal on dinner or are regulars that frequent that establishment often. I don't think that it would be too much of an inconvenience if you took the initiative and asked the table to keep the noise level down, maybe it would give them a "head's up" that they need to regulate their sound or children. But to ask that the management/servers to correct a noisy situation isn't right. If the table was approached by the server they would (more than likely) be extremely insulted and never bring their business back. On the other hand, the patrons disliking the noise might not frequent that restaurant again. So I suppose it can be a double-edged sword on both ends. Other noise factors can be changed, music level for example, but not actual people.

        2. We waiters are around the noisy people too, and will generally notice if a table is being obnoxiously loud. We are usually muttering to each other that we wish they would quiet down. It's quite difficult to get them to do so, since very often they have had plenty of social lubricants. If you're in a situation where an adjacent table is being too loud, ask your server if it would be possible to get a different table away from said noisy group. If you really like your server, ask if there's anywhere else you can sit to get away from the group but still be in the server's section. They likely won't be able to (our sections are a close together group of tables for a reason) but will appreciate the gesture.

          4 Replies
          1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

            Hubby and are friends are often that loud table. And for that reason, when we're a group of 8 or more, there are a handful of restaurants we will go to because we know we're going to be accepted for who we are, we are regulars and we spend a lot of money and tip well.

            1. re: Janet from Richmond

              I go out to dinner with a lovely friend of mine who is in her 90's (she's been 93 for years lol!!!). She has two hearing aids but you must speak up for her to hear you. We always sit away from other people but if someone sits next to us - so be it!

              1. re: Linda VH

                People are much more forgiving of your situation (or should be). My father couldn't really hear either. I also had to speak to him (well, yell) in Hakka, which even for San Francisco is a fairly unheard of language (hey, a pun!). People around me knew what was going on. It's the people purposely shrieking loudly because they think they're so special, the "hoodlums" who are trying to outswear each other (again to purposely annoy the rest of us), and the drunken folks who can't seem to control themselves that make me nuts.

                1. re: Linda VH

                  My sister was out with my father for lunch. He was hard of hearing, so she had to scream at him throughout the meal. Later, as they were leaving, a woman came up to her and reprimanded her for yelling at our father. She explained the situation. We have gotten lots of funny looks whenever we were out with our father and had to scream at him so he could hear us (he refused to wear a hearing aid).

            2. Unfortunately we all encounter these situations too often in our lives, like every day. The loud cell user in a public place working on a "big deal", the line cutters, the elitist assholes. When I was bartending I had a theory, I used to call it "the 5% factor", that the rude, arrogant people who yelled, "gimmee", when I said "Welcome, how are you tonight?", were the same people who didn't yield at rotaries or say thank you when you held the door for them. I used to think it was a small percentage (5%) of the population, but it's much greater. I believe it's gotten worse because people are afraid to speak up and management often has no guts to do the right thing. Rude obnoxious behavior should not be tolerated. Obviously you have to assess the situation and use good judgment, and each situation is unique. On many occassions the loud, boorish customers go unchecked, much to the chagrin of everyone else in the restauraunt(including the servers), because the manager isn't experienced enough to know how to handle the situation. Of course a manager can intervene, that's their job!!! Instead of saying, "some people have complained that you are being too loud", and inviting glaring looks at all surrounding tables, a manager should simply ask the table to be more respectful of everyone else in the room and lower their volume, and then monitor the situation carefully. It can be done in a nice way without alienating anyone if a manager is seasoned enough and "gets it". Loud people suck and need to be held accountable.

              4 Replies
              1. re: BostonBarGuy

                :-) I suspect just the population of folks who don't thank you for holding the door is more than 5%. There are times when I hold the door for the person behind me as I leave with the anticipation that they would hold the door themselves, and their entire family of 5 or 7 walk through and no one (1) thanked me or (2) put their hand on the door so that I can release! Hello! Do I look like the doorman to you? I'm a 40 year old woman, and 1/2 of you are younger than me! The funny thing is that it doesn't matter what age group, gender, or race. Of course I still hold the door - sometimes people prove me wrong.

                1. re: boltnut55

                  Absolutely, "BostonBarGuy".

                  There are so many people nowadays that have this totally unreal attitude of entitlement: anything goes, they have the right to do whatever pleases them - and "who cares about other people, as long as I am having fun".
                  Adults acting like rude toddlers: "Me! Me! Me!" The world centers around me!

                  1. re: boltnut55

                    I have had the same experience, so many times. And just like you, Boltnut, I also still hold the door open for people. I refuse to become rude. Not always easy though.

                    1. re: boltnut55

                      I do get totally annoyed at this, so when I think someone's not going to say thanks, I look them in the eye and warmly say, "Here you go" or "Let me get that for you." It often wakes them out of their daze, and they say thanks.

                      A few weeks ago, I held the door for a mom with a stroller who didn't say thanks at all, even though I stood there for a while as she got the stroller through the door. I thought, "what a way to teach your kid manners, lady." Then, just a few days later, I was babysitting for a friend's infant, and someone held a door for me -- I was so focused on maneuvering the awkward stroller and not scratching the door or pinching the baby's fingers in anything that I forgot to say thanks. I realized it too late. Humbling moment ;)

                  2. I typically do not complain to the waiter or manager, but I have asked to move tables before to put distance between myself and a particularly uncouth party.

                    1. Apropos of noise in a restaurant...What is the purpose of piped in music in a restaurant. And what is the purpose of LOUD piped in music?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: chaz

                        My experience has been that piped-in music is meant to set a particular mood. There's an old Italian place in DC that has this great old jukebox full of opera records. I've been to several upscale chichi places where the music sounded like you were supposed to be dancing in your seat. Can't see why I'm supposed to eat my tall food at 60-beats-per-minute. Maybe it's to encourage me to eat faster? Then there's the oddball juxtapositions of music and restaurant. I've been to Indian places that were playing mariachi music on the stereo, and a Chinese place that was playing French hiphop.

                        Maybe the loud music is supposed to drown out the conversations? People inevitably get louder after they've had a few. Interesting, the effect of alcohol on hearing.

                        But the odd thing is with the prevalence of televisions in bars and restaurants (sometimes you can't look anywhere without staring at a television), people STILL get upset at loud talkers/children, even though the televisions are just as loud! Have we gotten to the point where we can filter out television noise and it's only other human beings that upset us?

                        1. re: monkeyrotica

                          I've been thinking about this thread for a while. Your response makes a lot of assumptions about what does and doesn't bother people. Many people don't find loud music as annoying as loud people. personally, i find anything loud enough that its intrusive in an ongoing way to be annoying and, well, intrusive in a restaurant. That includes music, television and people. In the matter of music and television, its much easier to ask a server or manager or bartender to turn the source down. In the case of people, if the loud group is entirely outside of the rest of the atmosphere (ie, they're not loud because the music is loud) but, rather are uniquely loud and disturbing other diners in an ongoing way then I think the restaurant has an obligation to say something to that party. If the party were constantly taking flash photos in a dim restaurant, the restaurant should have someone speak to them. If the party were to set a radio on their table and play a baseball game in the middle of a fine dining restaurant, the restaurant should have someone speak to them. To me, anything that is outside the established atmosphere that is continually occurring is likely something the restaurant should do something about. I know in the case of my wife and myself, if the restaurant did nothing at all (and we weren't already regulars) we'd likely not return because we'd almost certainly have had a bad experience. I don't expect restaurants to avoid anything I find unpleasant...just to keep a lid on the outlier sorts of things.

                      2. This post reminded me of a “noisy diner” incident in which I was involved a couple of years ago. My husband and I had invited our new parish priest out to dinner at one of the finer dining establishments in our area. We were having a wonderful meal enjoying the food, wine, and company. It all came to a grinding halt when a group of about ten 20-somethings were seated at the table next to us. It was obvious that the group had been imbibing quite a bit prior to their arrival at the restaurant. They were loud and obnoxious. Thank goodness we were in the middle of our dessert when they arrived.

                        When we finished and our server brought our check, he apologized for the behavior at the next table. Of course, he made no attempt to quiet the party. As it happened our priest, wearing his collar, was sitting with his back to the offensive table. As we stood to leave one of the young men shouted out, “I spent all night last night looking for a piece of ass.” Our new priest turned to the table and asked with his lovely Irish accent, “We are all wondering, son, were you able to find your donkey last night?”

                        The looks on the faces at the table were priceless.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Sister Sue

                          I love your anecdote sistersue. When you are not alone in your own home you take the risk of being offended by others. If you don't want to take the risk stay home. I have limited tolerance for noise, but I also understand that waiters and restaurant mangers are neither police nor public policy setters.

                          1. re: lucyis

                            What a great story, Sister Sue.
                            Talking about priests, I realized that I have a confession to make:
                            I actually once was a part of the annoying noisy group... (... blushing...)

                            It took place so many moons ago that I had totally forgotten:

                            It happened in Manhattan, in a rather popular restaurant (back then), probably still. We were part of a group that consisted of our business clients & their dates. We had fun, and forgot ourselves - and we were too loud. Not continuously, but too big a part of the evening anyway. I did not know any of my dining companions that well, and the host was our client, so I was not in a position to tell them to tone it down.

                            (Now I know what to do: I might get up, pretend to go to the bathroom, and apologetically ask the waiter if anyone had complained, and to maybe ask the waiter to tell the table to tone it down a bit).
                            Or -when returning to the table- I might say to my fellow diners that I was just asked if we could tone it down a bit...
                            But I do think it is absolutely the duty of the restaurant staff to -discreetly and politely- let the noisy diners know that other patrons would appreciate if they toned it down a bit. After all, the restaurant sells not only its food, but also its ambiance, right?

                            Today I know most of my fellow diners from that night, especially the host, well enough to know that absolutely none of them would have been offended if the waiter had politely asked us to "please be a bit less loud, because other patrons were unhappy with the noise". They would immediately have apologized and tried to keep the volume down. Every one of them is classy enough not to think that they for some -any- reason (not even their huge spending), had the right to keep disturbing other patrons.

                            Now that I remember this embarrassing incident, I also very vividly remember the very dirty looks an older lady gave us when we left the restaurant dining room. (Ma'am, if you read this and think it was you who gave us those looks, please accept my belated, humble apologies!)

                            Even though I have experienced quite a few really obnoxious groups out there, I believe that many noisy groups actually just get carried away, and would not get angry if their waiter -respectfully- asked them to tone it down.
                            You can sort of tell the difference pretty easily.
                            I know it is an unpleasant task for the restaurant staff, but I think it will be received much more positively, than if other patrons start shushing the noisy table down.

                          2. re: Sister Sue

                            Your great story reminded me of a dinner I had with my 80 year old mother and 45 year old brother a few years ago. Brother choise resto - Macaroni Grill (gross and LOUD to begin with) and I, of course, paid (another story). Beside us was a group of drunk 20-something women celebrating one of the women's coming wedding. Their ear-piercing squeals totally ruined an already questionable meal. Management and servers did nothing initially, but comped our desserts for the added noise.

                          3. Wouldn't it be great if there was an answer?

                            But it's a public place and everyone has the right to be there. Should the manager tell them to quiet or leave, wouldn't that be great. Ain't happening. How about a good couple of shusshes? usually met by a glare and an increase in volume. So the choice is move or leave. not the answer we all want but reality always trumps dreaming.

                            Unfortunate that many view the resto, the airplane, the subway and many other public places as their personal space to make complete and total fools of themselves, usually trying to impress others, but unfortunately, public places do not always fall to the side of decorum and civility.

                            Jfood finds the most pleasant and quiet place to eat lunch is sitting outside on the steps of St Barts in NYC on one of the busiest streets in NY, Park Ave. It's amazing how peaceful and respectful people are sitting there.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: jfood

                              I'm not too sure about that "public place" part. The management has some say. Unfortunately, their options are limited to about 2. The either run the offensive parties out or say nothing. If the management or other diners say anything to the rowdies, things just escalate.

                              Sometimes people fall into the inappropriate place for their planned evening, either families out for a quiet dinner or guys and dolls out for a good time.

                              If the management has any idea of what kind of place they are running or want it to be, then they have to cater to the clientele to go with it. If they want to have a quiet joint, they run the party people out before the preferred clientele walks. If they want things a little looser, they don't worry about a few stick in the muds leaving.

                              But either way, it is not such a "public place" that management can't set the tone.

                              1. re: yayadave

                                I wonder if a respectful note on the menu would help, something like: we want all our patrons to enjoy their total experience here. If you are part of a large party, please be mindful of other guests regarding the volume of your conversation.

                                1. re: diva360

                                  It probably would get overlooked. Besides, it's still up to the management to determine what kind of joint they want.

                                  On another note, I always thought they could put a little reminder on the menu that "Gentlemen wearing baseball hats in the dinning room will be charged a 10% surcharge."

                                  1. re: yayadave

                                    I love the cap surcharge! Can that also be instituted at movie theaters and indoor sporting venues?

                                    1. re: yayadave

                                      Sounds good to me. Baseball caps in any type of restaurant are just sloppy and disrespectful.I hate it.!! But like father, like son. the tradition lives on.

                                  2. re: yayadave


                                    Fair point, but as you note the offense would have to be very egregious for mgt to step in. Similarly there are probably a bunch of yutz's that if they were asked to leave would file a lawsuit.

                                    1. re: jfood

                                      Probably true about the lawsuit. It would be interesting. I guess the rights of the few to act out in public (or sorta public) would be upheld by the sacrifice of the rights of the rest of the public to a peaceful evening at dinner, the show, a ballgame. a park bench, whatever.

                                2. Was it a Monday night in mid-March in Indianapolis? If so, it was me and I appoligize. I was enteratining a group of eight and they got a little out of my control. We did appoligize to the waitstaff and the hostess and of course they said it was fine. But I don't know how the other diners felt.

                                  1. I find this interesting since my usual approach is to either switch tables or just finish up our meal and leave.

                                    However the worst situation I've ever been in we had no choice for several days. We were on one of those fan club cruises where you got to see the band perform for you exclusively several times. They sat all the fan club members together in adjoining tables in the main dining room with regular cruise passengers. We were on one of the outer tables near the regular cruise passengers.

                                    The adjoining table was filled with a dozen extremely loud and drunk group every dinner. Twenty somethings whose goal was to get drunk all day and try to pick up members of the opposite sex outside their group. Loud enough that we couldn't hear our group talk to each other for the entire meal. We asked the headwaiter but he didn't wan't or could do anything. We overheard someone from that group shouting out repeatedly that they would tip heavily and to ignore their volume.

                                    A couple of guys from our group almost got into an altercation with them when on the third night after repeatedly asking them to tone it down, the other group started yelling at us and wanted to fight. We had a couple of ex-marines in our group and to their credit they stayed calm and refused to be drawn in.

                                    It was unfortunate because it ruined a part of the experience for us. We enjoyed bonding with other fan members and chatting over a meal is one of the best ways to do that.