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Eating meals with the tv on

A lot of people I know love to eat meals wit the tv on. When I eat a meal alone I get tempted sometimes, but every single time I try it a gross commercial or part of a show always comes on! I end up diving for the off button. Plus I think watching tv distracts me from the taste of my good food. So it doesn't work for me. I figure what people do in the privacy of their own homes is their own business. But I am wondering what people do when one person wants the tv on and the other doesn't? Seems like it would be hard to compromise and stil eat together. More and more I see restaurants with tvs on. I was eating breakfast with a friend in the non smoking section of the Dublin Diner and there was a big tv with the news blaring. I negotiated with the waitress to please turn it off but I had to explain that we would be leaving before the morning show that her and the hostess always watched came on at ten am. On the other hand there is a bar I go to for the french dip sandwiches, and the tv is on during sporting events and that doesn't bother me at all. There is an electic energy in the bar during a Phillies or Eagles game that makes the experience all the more enjoyable. In other words I think it would be the height of stupidity to go to a sports bar or even a local bar and complain about the game being on. But tvs are popping uip in a lot of my favorite eateries, with just banal shows up. I like to eat out with friends and converse and enjoy the food. Is anyone else experiencing this disturbing trend of having tv rammed down your throat with your meal? I had to leave my favorite restaurant in the whole world on friday because I begged the lady twice to please please change the radio station, they were doing a fundraiser for a good cause but sad stories of poor sick kids were bringing me to tears. She would not change the channel. My friend and I were the only customers because we went at an off time and I left fuming and frustrated. Anyone else having issues or is it just me?

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  1. I too agree whatever you want to do at home is fine, but I absolutely loathe the presence of TVs in nearly every restaurant. It used to just be confined to "sports bars" but where I live, the sports fans are particularly rabid and now there are TVs EVERYWHERE. I cannot think of a restaurant I can go to where there are not TVs blaring, at least in the bar. And it's ALWAYS sports, always. Not everyone likes sports! this is yet another reason I don't like eating out.

    Edited to add: another curious trend is places that have a TV playing but the sound turned down while they play music overtop. Come ON. Is it so much for people to be expected to sit and make conversation while they wait for their food, instead they have to have a TV to stare at?

    4 Replies
    1. re: rockandroller1

      Love drinking. Love bars. Love food. Love restaurants. Not intereseted in sports. Shouldn't the sports TV be contained in the zillions of sports bars? And why should there be sports on TVs nearly everywhere, and TVs -- and numerous flatscreens -- everywhere? I just don't get it. Bars and restaurants are misinformed that they must have TV to be competitive. Sometimes people aren't even watching them. That's when my TV-B-Gone comes in handy. You can turn off the TV and usually nobody even notices.

      1. re: Up With Olives

        Wow! I am so buying one of those. Did not know it existed. Probably some of the staff would notice. Often the tv is for them. But it is so worth a shot. Too bad that wouldn't fly in my own home. He he!

        1. re: givemecarbs

          Great! That and a portable cell phone jammer and I'm all set!

          1. re: roadfix

            Absolutely. All things should be only as you wish them to be all the time. More points if you take a holier-than-thou attitude about it.

            What do you do if someone is watching the TV? What if that someone isn't on staff?

            You can't turn the TV off in your own home but feel that you should be able to in a restaurant? Really?

    2. My senior year of college my roommate and I were just beginning to develop our cooking skills, so we ate a lot of lousy food. It was common practice for us to watch Food Network during meals and pretend we were eating what was on the screen. It made the Totino's frozen pizzas and boxed wine more enjoyable.

      In any other circumstance I am against TV while eating, especially in a restaurant. However, I love to enjoy a fine meal while reading a good novel.

      1 Reply
      1. re: RealMenJulienne

        I am with you on reading. I don't know why, but i love to dine solo and read. In fact, if i am eating alone, i'm pretty much always reading something. It makes my food last longer, too.

      2. I admit, I am bad, after a 12 hour day of working and commuting, and then making dinner, I have only a few hours to relax, before starting the process over the next day. I do watch t.v. while I am eating on some nights while sitting on the couch, especially during baseball season, and the White Sox are playing a dinner time game. Other times the t.v. is left on in the other room while we eat at the table, especially if it is a meal that can be messy(ribs, pasta, etc).

        Dining out, at a white table cloth restaurant, there shouldnt be t.v.'s in the dining area, but in the bar area is ok.

        1 Reply
        1. re: swsidejim

          Ditto this post--all of it--except sub the Yankees (me) or the Phillies (DH) for the Sox.

          My place is so small, though, you're pretty much in the same room with the tv whether you're in the kitchen, dining area or living area :-/

        2. I've read this a couple of times and it comes down to you want what you want when and where you want it. Who doesn't, really?

          I can think of dozens of restaurants in my small-ish town of Charlottesville where there are no TVs. I can think of a handful where there are TVs, some of them showing sports, more of them showing 24 hour news.

          I also don't think one need admit to being bad if one watches television at home or at a restaurant while eating. What does it honestly matter? It doesn't, by itself, tell us anything about an individual.

          1. I usually have something on during dinner and sometimes have the weather on during breakfast. I usually have to read or look at something during my meals at home if I am alone, be it a book, newspaper, computer, or TV.

            As for restaurants, I am fine with them in the bar area or in more sports-bar/diner type places.

            The weirdest experience I had recently was going into a bar that had a big flatscreen up over the bar with the surveillance video of the sidewalk outside showing. It was a little too creepy for me.

            1. ok my .02 cents. Eating alone, as I do often 1 meals a day, at home most often, I may watch the morning news, or "Who wants to be a Millionaire" at lunch. However at dinnertime with family I loathe the TV being on. Moreover I despise it on while I am out PAYING for a meal. When I am at a restaurant, the last thing I want to see, is a television, or hear loud banging music or talk radio. I want to hear Muzak or the sound of the surf .. maybe soft sounds of raindrops... but not hearing about starving kids in Africa needing just 20 cents a day... I can understand how that would make you very upset.

              1. No, no, no! Pay attention to your food. If you've devoted the time to prepare it, it should be savored. Also, if you're watching TV/reading, you're much more likely to eat mindlessly, consuming more than you need to.

                1. I think when you are in a bar situation, you have to assume that aside from a TV, there will probably be numerous distractions from dining (read: other patrons). This also goes for dining in a pub. After that, if you go out, a TV is hopefully just something you walk by to your table. If dining along, at home, I think eating in front of the TV is OK - unless you are on a diet. If you are on a diet, focus on your meal. If you are distracted by the TV you are more likely to overeat. In situations where you agree to eat near a TV, I don't think you have much say on what is on. You walked in. You sat down. You are there. What's on the TV is the decision of the establishment - much like what is on the menu. Depressing news coverage is an eception - but even then - it's not YOUR TV - it's theirs. If it depresses you, settle up and move on.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: SamuelAt

                    I am not really getting this overeating argument. If I am eating at home and make a one-serving meal, that serving size isn't going to change merely because I am distracting myself in front of the TV. Even if I make multiple servings, I will dish out one serving onto my plate and the rest goes into a container for a later meal.

                    1. re: queencru

                      This has to do with mindful eating and portion control. It sounds like you're already planning this way by preparing a single serving size or by packing up all extra prior to start of meal-- all good ideas.

                      Even so, TV inspires snacking among many for reasons I do not know, but I have heard many times.

                    2. re: SamuelAt

                      It was a radio, and it was a really effective fundraiser for a very worthy cause, a children's hospital in Philadelphia. The sweet little children's voices were talking about how much pain they were in. Sigh. I told the lady how sad it was making me and she said "I know. I listened to it all the way to work." Since we were the only customers there the radio was obviously for the staff. When we went in the station was playing music, it was an interlude between the repeated requests for money. I think it was much harder to ignore than a tv somehow. The people at the restaurant with the radio blasting are complete accomodating dears in all other regards, we are regulars, that is why I was shocked to hit a brick wall that way. They also had a little flat screen tv suspended high near the kitchen area so I dunno why they needed the radio as well. At the diner where I negotiated a break from the depressing news the tv seemed to be for the staff too. At one new place I went to they even had a flat screen tv in the bathroom. Also the Acme has check out tv in their check out lines. My one dentist had a screen right in front of me with a commercial for the kinds of tooth work you could get playing over and over. I reached up when I was alone for a minute and turned that nonsense off. I was waiting for a root canal and there was just no way I was going to put up with that. Fear makes me assertive. The assistant came in and looked really surprised but let it stay off.

                      1. re: givemecarbs

                        Good for you for turning it off. Minutes after giving birth, I was rolled into a room and given dinner on a tray while a nurse washed my baby. She had the TV news on and it was about a school shooting. I found it really upsetting -- dead kids and all -- during my first moments of motherhood and I still wish I'd had the guts to turn it off. PLUS (to keep this food-related) someone had stolen the tiramisu that was supposed to be on the tray!

                        1. re: Glencora

                          Wow that's harsh on both counts. From what I have read and heard you are really vulnerable right after giving birth, hormones going wild and stuff so that was really callous. Not to mention the food theft! A lot of times the tv or radio is on for the employees' benefit. I imagine it would be harder to be assertive in a hospital setting. You are there for a bit and don't want to be pegged as "difficult." Plus she was handling your baby. Gah. That's just a tough situation all around.

                          1. re: Glencora

                            I'm just curious which hospital serves tiramisu! Actually I found some hospital food to be absolutely delicious... some not so much. *G*

                            That's awful about the t.v. being on. The focus should have been on YOU, the patient, not bad news going on outside the hospital. I find t.v. to be very distracting and I dislike it very much.

                            1. re: Catskillgirl

                              It was a Kaiser hospital in N. CA. I don't remember the rest of the dinner, but it wasn't bad. The fake scrambled eggs for breakfast were horrible. Didn't have lunch because they kicked me out before noon.

                      2. I ate dinner with the TV on and my laptop on my lap.

                        1. My wife made me install a 40" Sony flatscreen in the kitchen. I told her this is highly abnormal but after a while I got used to the big screen in the kitchen. It's usually on while we cook and eat in the kitchen.

                          Here's a photo of our kitchen:

                          But when we eat in the dining room, that's another story. No TV and no elbows on the table.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: roadfix

                            Nice kitchen. Nice TV. NICE CORN & BBQ! Serve me up! :-)

                            1. re: roadfix

                              Nice lookin' ribs!! We always have a TV in the kitchen too. I love the TV on when I am in the kitchen. We also watch tv in our dining room (50" Pioneer Elite). But, I only like "pleasant" things - not just when I eat. If my DH wants to watch something gross or gory, he has to find another TV in the house! But, when eating, I've heard that the TV really should not be on. You don't really taste your food, you may overeat, etc.

                            2. I'm not a big fan of TVs in restaurants. I've definitely gotten caught up/had the other people get caught up in the TV and lose the conversation.
                              In general, I don't like to watch TV when I'm eating if I'm eating w/other people. My ex liked having the TV on, though, so we'd always eat in front of the TV. Now that I live alone, I always eat w/the TV or radio on.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Lucia

                                I agree that they are very distracting in restaurants. Especially if they are on something like CNN or ESPN with a news crawl or scores across the bottom of the screen. I try to sit with my back to it, so I don't get drawn into looking.

                                At home, we generally eat dinner while watching TV. No kids and we both work close to home, so there is plenty of time to talk when we get home and while preparing dinner. Sometimes we end up pausing what we are watching because we are distracted by the food being so good.

                              2. Doesn't bother me if I am at a pub. And sometimes I go to sports bar just to watch the games ( red sox) and have a burger. At home, we do not have a tv in our kitchen or in our dining room, so it is a moot point!

                                1. I often eat two meals a day with the tv on - lunch in the lunchroom at my office with CNN on while I read the paper and dinner in front of some silly show I tivo'd. I like the news dose at lunch and by the time I get home at night I just want to unwind and zone out, so tv helps. If there's someone with me for a meal and I am not dead tired, I'd rather talk to him/her without the tv.

                                  I dislike sports on tvs in restaurants when I'm eating a meal because it's so easy to zone out (my SO does this all the time) and ignore the other person (and take WAY too long to finish your meal). If we're just there to hang out and have drinks and snacks, it's fine.

                                  I agree with the OP that watching sad things on tv while eating out is a major bummer, but I find that when I'm home I have no problem watching even the grossest Bones episode while eating.

                                  1. What I don't do is watch the Food Network while eating.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: roadfix

                                      If it is just my wife and I having dinner at home, we use the time to catch up on news - we have a small tv in the kitchen that can be viewed from the breakfast bar where we eat most of our meals. When we moved into our house, we had a small table in a nook off the kitchen, but found we didn't use it so we converted that space to a reading lounge. When we have guests, we use the larger dining room where there is no tv.

                                      1. re: roadfix

                                        i think i might find that very enjoyable! the problem, though, is that i'm way too susceptible to marketing: if i see something amazing made on iron chef, i really really want it. i've find myself guiltily slinking into a mario batali restaurant in the evening instead of eating dinner in as i ought, after watching too much food network or reading too much chowhound.

                                      2. This topic is actually becoming quite a bone of contention between my husband and myself. When we were child-free, I didn't really mind having the TV on during some meals because we had all of the time in the world to talk. Now, with a two year old, it seems that we too little time to do too many things so I'm now jealous of the attention the TV receives.
                                        Besides, if I'm using my precious free time to cook dinner from scratch, you better believe that I want you to pay attention to it rather than mindlessly scarfing it down while watching yet another CSI rerun.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: sebetti

                                          I wish you luck in your difference of opinion. In my experience, which is obviously very limited, the battlelines seems drawn along gender lines with the guys wanting the box on. When your little one gets older and you share meals with him or her you will probably want the tv off to have family meal time.

                                        2. The jfoods do not have a TV in either the kitchen or the bedroom. From the kitchen table they can see the family room TV but there is a rule in casa jfood - no TV during meals.

                                          Meals are for discussions of the day, of events of tomorrow and different items that concern the family, not blah blah from the tube.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: jfood

                                            Ditto, with one exception: we will on rare occasions take our food into the TV room, which is quite remote from both kitchen and dining room, and watch while eating, but this usually only happens when A) the Red Sox are playing (we watch everything else from TiVo, not live) and B) the meal is takeout, which we do once or twice a week.

                                          2. At home we eat in front of the TV often. My job is very social, and when I get home at 7 or 8pm, I don't want to chat. Luckily, my wonderful man is cool with that. On work days we get home, heat up leftovers, and plop down in front of the boob tube until we've shaken off the angst of the day. Weekends we grill and cook together for the rest of the week and love every minute of it.

                                            TV's in restaurants don't bother me unless the volume is too loud. I've never seen one in a finer restaurant outside the bar area.

                                            1. My family eats with the TV on a lot and I don't think it distracts us from the food. Sometimes I would prefer to talk then watch TV but I still enjoy my food very much (if it's good)!

                                              1. Lunch...every Monday through Friday...eating with the computer on in front of me...catching up on Chowhound! I'm eating lunch as we speak!

                                                1. Parents are given a huge guilt trip about eating in front of the TV. We hear so much about how it's important to bond around the dining table. I think that is true, up to a point, especially if you don't see much of each other at other times of the day. My SO and I work at home. It's a small house and we see LOTS of our son, talk, play games, help with homework etc.. By the end of the day we're often sick of each other! I've been known to retreat to the deck (if it's warm) or my bedroom (if it's not) with my plate and a book, while my son and SO watch a stupid TV show. I hear their laughter and don't think it's such a bad thing. Also, we've had movie night every Friday for 7 years and have introduced our son to 100s of classic movies. (4 years ago he mixed up Cary Grant and John Kerry.) We don't eat more when the TV is on because there isn't any more to eat. The exception is that my son makes brownies on Fridays and he and his dad do go back for seconds. Of course we mostly sit at our table (with the two computers on it) and I DO bug my son about his table manners, but I don't think our family is any less close because we sometimes eat separately or in front of the TV.

                                                  Hate TVs in restaurants, though. Don't like the sports or the ads.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Glencora

                                                    Flat screen tvs seem to be popping up everywhere! Who is giving you the guilt trips? Schools? My one cousin's biggest complaint is that whenever she wants to watch a nice family movie with her kids at least one of them has already seen it in school.

                                                    1. re: givemecarbs

                                                      Not so much when SO and I are eating together, though if something is on that's "good" we'll watch it while eating - but when I'm eating alone, the tv is ALWAYS on - actually when I'm alone in the house the tv's always on anyway - less lonely or something...though usually only at night I should clarify - during the day I listen to NPR on the computer... but meals on my own are always eaten in front of the tv - don't know why I hate to eat in the quiet. Even if I want to read I will read, eat, and have the tv on in the background all at the same time. Clearly much healthier when SO is home :-)

                                                  2. tv's a moot point for me, but i do have a horrible habit of multitasking while eating that does almost certainly detract from how i experience food. i usually eat lunch / my multiple snacks at my desk while working. i figure it gives me more time to chowhound, later. :)

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: cimui

                                                      I'm trying to cut down on the multitasking in general, but I have to admit that once I slowly ate a piece of apple pie, pausing to enjoy each bite and reading chowhound between bites! It felt so decadent somehow!

                                                      1. re: givemecarbs

                                                        yeah, wow, that might be too much pleasure for me to handle all at once!
                                                        maybe this goes to roadfix's post, above. good food AND food network, together? wowie...

                                                    2. What drives me nuts is when I'm invited to someone's house for dinner and they don't turn the TV off. Usually when we actually move to the table to eat, I will gently ask "shall I turn off the TV now?" and they get the point. I truly know that it being on isn't saying that they don't find me interesting enough to fully occupy their attention.... :)

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        Awesome way to handle it! I've talked to a lot of people about this and for some it's if someone is awake and home the tv is always on.

                                                        1. re: givemecarbs

                                                          We have two couple friends with whom that is the case. I believe they think that something's wrong with ME :) My husband has it on more when I'm not around. Don't get me wrong. I'm no TV snob and heaven help the person who tries to take my TiVo away from me but why have it on all the time. Maybe I'm a tad ADD since I can't (or won't) visit with friends, read, talk on the phone with the TV going. To each his own.