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Freezing restaurants! Please turn on the heat!

My husband and I went to a high end restaurant last weekend and had the Prix Fixe menu (The only choice for Valentines weekend unfortunately) selection @ $95 pp. (not including wine) But the restaurant was so cold I was literally shaking! Why do restaurants feel they can charge $100 a plate and leave the heat off? I was so uncomfortable I could not enjoy my meal. I asked the server if they had a heating problem and he told me that it was always cold and the manager never allows them to touch the thermostat. I told the server to inform the manager that we would not return if that was the case.

If anyone is a restaurant owner can you please tell me why would you allow the manager to make the choice of freezing the customer to save a few dollars and lose a lot more in repeat business.

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  1. Sorry if I sound crass, but you did stay and pay that price, so they "won". You should have expressed your discomfort with your feet and walked out.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Quine

      That's a little harsh. As the OP stated, it was Valentine's weekend - not an easy time to just walk into some other restaurant and get a table. It was stay or starve.

      1. re: BobB

        or eat, freeze and be miserable? I highly doubt starve would have been the case. But I did read the OP's later post about how much this dinner meant to her husband and could see the reasoning there.

    2. My first thought is that they have a crappy heating/cooling system that either feeds into both the kitchen and dining room, or simply does not hold a consistent temperature in all dining areas. I think it'd be pretty odd that a high end restaurant would be set up in such a way, but probably not impossible if it's not in a brand new building. Also possible that it is only cold to some people (including you and the server) and not others. It's certainly not unusual for the server to not be able to do anything about it (aside from passing along temperature complaints to the management) because while one person is cold another is hot and you end up with a never ending shifting of the thermostat.

      1. Why didn't you ask to speak with the manager?

        If I was that uncomfortable and the server was unable to rectify the situation, I would definitely make sure that the manager was aware of the situation.

        3 Replies
        1. re: NE_Elaine

          Because I asked the server on the sly while my husband was in the rest room. I did not want to ruin my husbands special dinner he had planned for us. We very rarely do anything alone anymore and he really wanted to go all out and impress me. I would never in a million years have done anything to make him think I was not 100 thrilled with my evening. I know I should have, but that is why I told the server to pass along my message. I do wish I had seen the manager while my husband was away from the table, I would have said something then. My husband would have felt terrible if he thought I had not enjoyed my evening as much as he had hoped.

          1. re: gryphonskeeper

            Well, your husband didn't get what he wanted - a perfect outing and dinner for you. You could have told him before ordering that the place was too cold for you and that perhaps you should go elsewhere. Wouldn't your husband been very/more pleased to be able to help solve the problem and with your honesty?

            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              jfood agrees Sammy. The jfood had this exact scenario twice in Italy last year. They made reservation in two high rated places and in the first place, way too cold, and the second place way too hot. He mentioned something to the MOD but to no avail. They left both. The result...two wonderful and relaxing dinners following their noses and asking a few people where to eat.

              But he sure would have liked to have eaten in the originals and not exactly around the corner.

        2. How frustrating. I'm another person who freezes in most restaurants. I bring sweaters but all it takes is the one rotten vent. I've often wondered the same thing that you do-- it's the nicer restaurants where I'm cold.

          1. So what was the temperature? And what were you wearing? Some folks feel chilled at 78 and others are sweating at 65. I was at a restaurant tonight that was overly warm at 74 AND the red wine was served at that high temperature....

            4 Replies
            1. re: NVJims

              I could see complaining if the restaurant had blaring TVs or music over its loudspeakers/soundsystem. But too cold? Your problem.
              Better to always bring a jacket and extra sweater with you when dining out...every place differs.
              Not the restaurant's fault. It's not a big effort bringing one in, and if you don't need it, set it aside with your purse. Oh well.

              1. re: EatNLoveLife

                I am one who is happy when it's cold, I keep my house at 66 during the day when I'm home and 62 when we go to bed. If it is too warm somewhere I suffer miserably. You can always put more clothes on if you are cold but don't have much choice if you are too warm. I have been known to sit on ice packs!

                I commend you for not wanting to make a scene in front of your husband! I hope the food was good.

                1. re: LikestoEatout

                  Yep. We turn our heat UP to 60 in the morning and down to 50 at night. So we're generally too warm when dining out. But when too cold you can always put on another layer of clothes. When too warm, it gets to the point where one would get arrested for indecent exposure and still be uncomfortable.

                  I would say anyone who lives outside of the tropics would have some additional clothing (jacket or sweater) when going out in the winter.

                2. re: EatNLoveLife

                  I could see complaining if the restaurant had blaring TVs or music over its loudspeakers/soundsystem. But too cold? Your problem.
                  I would disagree with you somewhat on this position. The temperature set for the dining room, in this case for the OP on the cold side, also affects the hot food and plates coming out of the kitchen and how quickly it can cool down on the table.

              2. and lest we forget Florida, the patrons always complain that restaurants are too hot or too cold often at the same table! The problem is by whose standards is somewhere too hot or too cold?

                1. Look at the bright side: Chattering teeth help you chew faster and more efficiently.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: beevod

                    And shivering helps you burn those dessert calories faster. *wink*

                  2. Were you warmer as you ate? How long had it been since you'd eaten priot to going to the restaurant?

                    I keep my heat at home around 67. I am single. I have found that if I have not eaten in a while that 67 is freezing and I tend to turn the heat up. When I have a full stomach or have just eaten, 70 has me peeling off the layers and sweating to death.

                    Possibly the restaurant understands this blood sugar thinghy and keeps the place cool - to save heating costs.

                    How was your husband's comfort level? Is this something you run into often? What was the outside weather like? How were you dressed? And, not to be rude, but what do you weigh? Thinner folks do feel temp differences more accutely than the likes of me that carry a bit too much weight. So it may be something you need to consider if you're svelte and trim.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: green56

                      Oh my yes. My elderly MIL is a little bird and wears polyester pants and tops with no sweater or jacket in the house and keeps the thermostat cranked all the way up.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        the elderly also are more likely to have circulation problems that make them feel colder.

                      2. re: green56

                        Interesting theory, but I think you are trying to hard to find a reason.

                        Could it simply be that the waitstaff and kitchen staff do not feel that the restaurant is cold because their are running all over the place, while you are sitting still.

                      3. Just to answer a few questions, it was less than 50 degrees in the restaurant, I know that because the server told us the thermostat was set to the minimum setting of 50. I know that in my house if I set my thermostat to 70, the only room that is 70, is the room with the thermostat, the others are much cooler. This was an old colonial inn, if that helps set the backdrop.

                        I was so cold that even with my coat still on, I was uncomfortable. Keep in mind I live in Northern New England so it was freezing outside as well and I was in a wool coat I am not elderly, and I had eaten earlier.

                        Still. at the prices they charge, and star ratings they tout on the wall, they can afford to throw some coal in the fireplace!

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: gryphonskeeper

                          50 degrees is seriously cold and unacceptable for the majority of the dining public. When diners need woolen overcoats, it's too bloody cold in there. Many restos keep it cool in the dining room for benefit of the servers who hustle all night and can work more comfortably in the cooler temperatures. Granted this may make some diners uncomfortable, but from the resto POV, it cuts costs and keeps the FOH from dripping sweat.

                          1. re: gryphonskeeper

                            Book there again and wear the following to better make your point: a greatcoat, a pair of mukluks, a watchcap or one of those Wisconsin hats with the furry flaps, a muffler, and - and these are key - some mittens with the cut off fingers (see em in movies a lot but not in real life). Order some hot tea and hunch over the mug, holding it in both hands.

                            1. re: gryphonskeeper

                              they probably have an incredibly high heating bill -- such old homes or inns (typically high-ceilinged and less than airtight) are voracious energy-monsters.**

                              they should perhaps have some space heaters here and there to take off the chill near the diners.

                              ** my sister used to own a victorian in ocala, florida. talk about an energy hog -- even in florida (though ocala does get cold).

                              1. re: alkapal

                                I agree about the heating bill, but such places are also usually full of fireplaces or wood burning stoves. As a kid who grew up with wood heat, I can tell you that it is not at all expensive to keep a fire going that will keep a whole house warm, especially not in Northern New England.

                              2. re: gryphonskeeper

                                That is very disappointing that you had to eat with your winter coat on...were other diners doing the same thing?

                                Perhaps a written letter to the manager/owner expressing your personal disappointment in how cold it was? Yes, it's obvious they're aware it's cold, since the servers aren't allowed to touch the thermostat. But letting them know you won't return there because of the temperature issue might get them to budge a bit.

                                50 degrees on a winter's evening in New England is not Yankee frugal. It's beyond cheap.

                                1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                  It doesn't mean that it was necessarily less than 50 degrees in the restaurant. It simply means that the heat won't turn on until it is below 50 degrees at the thermostat. Clearly, it was uncomfortable, but it could have been 60 degrees in there. I also wonder if they have oil heat and perhaps credit/delivery issues with the oil company and trying to conserve because they couldn't pay for another tank full.

                                2. I'm honestly very surprised so many people are defending the restaurant in this case. It's the diner's problem if the restaurant isn't warm enough? The customer should have to pile on extra layers to suit the restaurant's needs? I'm sorry, but if that's the contract, count me out.
                                  This wasn't a sports bar; it was a high end restaurant. People should be able to dress fashionably in a high end restaurant. A woman can't wear a nice dress at a nice restaurant on Valentine's Day because it's the diner's responsibility to pile on the layers so that biological thermoregulation can take the place of warm air? Gee, that sounds really romantic.
                                  Personally, I'm rarely cold. But I also have the luxury of fashion dictating that I wear a warm suit to a nice restaurant in the winter. Women do not. Generally, women also feel cold at higher temperatures than men do - a function of more efficient core temperature regulation in women, an adaptation key to carrying a child, as well as differences in fat and muscle distribution and the relationship of skin surface area to body weight. I'll gladly sit there feeling a bit warm in my suit jacket if it means my wife doesn't have to wear her wool coat just to not be freezing.
                                  And really, again, it's Valentine's Day. If a restaurant is going to insist on being cheap about the heat the rest of the year, the least they can do is turn up the thermostat for that one day. Cold drastically reduces blood circulation. Blood circulation is key to libido.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: danieljdwyer

                                    *claps* Thank you danieljdwyer, I completely agree.

                                    I know this could make the topic devolve, but for those of you who normally run a little hot, the whole "put on a sweater" thing is completely ineffective. Unless someone manufactures a sweater that covers your hands and your face, which are usually the most freezing parts and which do not warm up when you "put on a sweater," the advice is about as worthwhile as telling you that if you're too hot, simply consume a cold beverage and voila, you will be cooled off. It just doesn't work that way. You do not get warm when your feet, nose, face and hands are freezing and your teeth are chattering by throwing on a sweater.

                                    I agree that finding an acceptable HVAC temp for all customers is almost impossible, but also agree that if it is a dressy restaurant, it should be a little warmer than average. Women will be wearing a dressy dress and heels, not a nice warm suit, and you need to have the temp up a little.

                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                      I have spent a lifetime being too warm in restaurants and everywhere else so I'm just used to it. I guess since more people get cold, then the majority should rule. So I promise not to start a thread about "sheesh, every time I go out to eat, I'm burning up." :)

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        I am like this sometimes and have been either comfortable, or too hot while others are shivering, in the same room. I have problems with circulation or something, and when I get too hot, I stay that way for a long time, same goes if I really get a chill (and then, my fingers and toes turn white). That said, it is an easier alternative to cover up a bit more....however if you're too hot, what do you do, start stripping?

                                        I do agree with the OP if the staff agreed that they have to keep the heat way down. The subject of heating however, in restaurants, meeting rooms, at work, etc etc etc, is so subjective that it's impossible to make everyone happy. I once worked at a conference where I felt like I was going to keel over I was so warm (it was summer), and I had a couple of people sitting in the room acting all dramatic with their coats on and coming up to ask me to get someone to turn off the A/C .

                                        BTW, I love me some fashion, and I'm no prude, but dressing fashionable =/= exposed either as a rule.

                                    2. re: danieljdwyer

                                      Agreed 100%. And the comment about it being the OP's "problem" she was cold don't make a damned bit of rational sense.

                                    3. gryphonskeeper, bummer about your night out. It sounds to me like the restaurant really should've been warmer.

                                      That said, your husband is not an idiot; if you're wearing your winter coat during dinner, something is amiss. I would've spoken with the manager immediately. I think not saying something ruined your night more than saying something would have.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                                        This is a good point. Didn't the OP's husband question why she was wearing a coat?

                                      2. As a server, it's miserable working in a warm restaurant. You want your guests to be comfortable, but they probably wouldn't enjoy watching their server sweat all over themselves either.

                                        I think certain restaurants do keep it particularly chilly in order to turn tables. People don't linger if they're freezing.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Azizeh

                                          Indeed. Am I the only one who remembers that episode of HK when the guy who was (I think) serving turbot table side and was dripping all over the place? Ick.

                                          I know some people will say they're the customers, therefore keep the temps for them, but I really do think there has to be a balance for those who have to work in those environments. Somewhat related example, I worked in training for a while, and people are all seated while the presenter is up in front of lights and heat-providing equipment. It can be mighty miserable up there too if the room is warm, I know , I've been there. And there's always going to be one person in the room who, despite temps being normal,are cold (i'm not saying this is the OP)

                                        2. I think you handled it nicely gryphonskeeper. You said something without your husband knowing. I find that complaining during a special evening leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Probably the restaurant owner was just being cheap and I think the situation was ridiculous. I would make a little joke about starting a small fire in your bread basket to keep warm but I'd only get scolded most likely.

                                          1. I just spent five days in a house where the thermostat was set at 70 and we were unable to override the program. I would have been miserable except we kept windows open and I wore shorts and tees.

                                            A thermostat set on 50 doesn't mean the temp in the room/house is that. And the warmest room in my house is the farthest from the thermostat.

                                            So were the other guests complaining as well?

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              I wanted to know that too - were others obviously cold or also complaining?

                                              no two thermostats are the same so when people say they set theirs at 72 or 76 or whatever it's kinda irrelevant it depends on lots of factors within each building. Some rooms in my house are certainly warmer or cooler depending on whether the sun is shining through a window and distance from the vents.

                                              1. re: smartie

                                                the same thing happens in lots of restaurants. i am not saying that this happened in the op's case, but there are many restaurants in converted houses where despite the thermostat setting, one room is uncomfortably toasty while one is chilly. in split-level restaurants, touching the thermostat to make one guest comfy on the main level will absolutely blast everyone on the balcony with heat, to the point where their salads wilt and their dinner is ruined. posters should not assume that mgmt was being cheap by setting a thermostat at 50-- once you pile 75-100 bodies into a small restaurant the ambient temp, which has nothing to do with the thermostat, can rapidly become uncomfortable, and the hvac system often can't keep up-- i think we all may have experienced something like this in our youth, at house parties (no, it's not *just* the alcohol ;-P).

                                                my first thought was that maybe the op had an early res. many small restaurants are noticeably cool at 5 pm, when folks are beginning to filter in, and by the end of the night (no touching the thermostat) the ambient temp is broiling hot, the staff is perspiring, gents are taking their suit jackets off, folks are too uncomfortably warm to order much food. for a packed house on v-day, the manager may have looked like a jerk to the op for not cranking the heat up to make her more comfy, but mgmt was probably going off of experience and just trying to not ruin the evening of the folks who had later reservations.

                                                i do wear a light layer under a coat when going out in the wintertime (this is just a smart thing to do in general in minnesota) and/or have a shawl-like muffler i can use as a wrap in case it's chilly wherever i am. when a restaurant is to warm for comfort, i usually leave and go somewhere else. when it's a little too cold, i order hot tea.

                                            2. More restaurant owners should read chowhound. I go to a diner regularly that has two large rooms and caters to senior citizens. Makes me feel so young and grateful! My friend and I are usually seated in the cooler of the two rooms in winter, in the coldest part of that room, way off in the corner if they are very busy, which they usually are. The other room is much warmer, and they tend to seat the older folks there. I think I have only complained once before in all the years I've been going but one icy december night I did say something about the cold and the waitress got the heat turned up a little. She said some people in the other room were saying it was too hot. But she did agree that it was cold where we were. The owner of the diner has the attitude that she wants her customers to be happy, and even if she is not there, the attitude has caught on. Sounds like I got treated better at a simple diner where I spent all of twenty five dollars including tip for two dinners than you did at the upscale place gryphonskeeper. I'm sorry that some of my fellow hounds seem to be picking your post apart and being less than sympathetic. I want to hear from owners and managers too. In an ideal world a manager or owner should have been on duty on the second busiest day of the year for restaurants, noticed that you were wearing your coat, and adjusted the heat. I'm curious as to why the posher places are colder and less accomodating. I have some theories and they are not all about the owners being cheap. Managers need to be on duty and aware. So many problems are caused by a lack of strong leadership and the willingness to remind staffers over and over again that the idea is to make the customers happy.

                                              1. You never heard, maybe, of a garment called a sweater?

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: beevod

                                                  The OP wore her wool coat during the meal. The OP is not an inexperienced diner and based on her previous posts I am sure that she was dressed properly for a NH winter.

                                                  When the waiter says " it was always cold and the manager never allows them to touch the thermostat" he is implying that the OP is not the first and won't be the last to complain.

                                                  What I think the OP should do is write a letter to the owner since it he/she might not know or approve of the manager's heating policy.

                                                2. I've always thought it was weird that while men are expected to wear several layers (undershirt, long sleeved dress shirt, tie, jacket), the women with them are expected to wear cocktail dresses (often sleeveless or nearly) with maybe a flimsy wrap. There's no way those two people can both be comfortable at the same temperature, right? I figure these places turn down the heat so the men in suits are comfortable and expect that women will deal with it and/or use their wraps.

                                                  When my SO and I attend a function which requires him to wear a suit and me to wear a cocktail dress, I am generally uncomfortable. But those times when I have to wear a suit as well, I am glad for the colder temp.

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: akq

                                                    I agree that the drastic difference in fancy attire for men and women causes a conundrum here, but I've always though etiquette dictated that the men should be the uncomfortable ones if anyone must be. After all, that's what undershirts are for - or, as a worst case scenario, a suit jacket covers up a sweat stained shirt.
                                                    Beyond that, I just don't think being too warm is a big deal. A whole lot of people pay good money to go fry in the tropics on vacation. There are charities dedicated to making sure no one has to be cold. This seems to point to hot being desirable to cold.

                                                    1. re: danieljdwyer

                                                      Beyond that, I just don't think being too warm is a big deal.
                                                      Do you feel the same in the middle of the summer @ a restaurant that doesn't have it's air conditioner working properly, or even at all?

                                                      1. re: fourunder

                                                        Be reasonable. 70°F - 75°F is not the same as 95°F.

                                                        In a restaurant, I agree, much better to be a little too warm than a little too cold. Better for the food, too - I hate it when a place is so chilly that the sauce on my entree has congealed before I'm halfway through it.

                                                        1. re: fourunder

                                                          I know this puts me in an extreme minority, but I hate air conditioning. This is something I could rant about for awhile (and did before I thought better of it and deleted a few paragraphs). But, to put it simply, I don't like being hot. I sweat when it's above 70, and I'd never consider living in a place warmer than New England. But I'd rather sweat than sit in artificial cold. And I'd rather be hot than be cold. Heating is a necessity of human life outside of the hottest parts of the globe, and has been for almost two million years of human history. Air conditioning, in the modern sense, is a luxury enjoyed by a small percentage of humanity for only about a century, so I don't think the two can be fairly compared.

                                                          1. re: danieljdwyer

                                                            B & d,

                                                            The issue, or argument, is the level of comfort for diners as a whole group, or should individuals be considered?. There will always be people on both sides of the fence....and this is an argument that cannot be settled to please all. 70* may be fine in winter for some, but too hot for others. 75* may be fine for some in the summer, but not cool enough for others.

                                                            1. re: fourunder

                                                              Of course a restaurant has to consider the comfort of the greatest number of diners. But I would venture to say that most people (MOST people) have no cause for complaint if the temperature in the dining room, winter, summer, spring or fall, is between roughly 65°F and 75°F. I would be willing to bet that the temperature the OP was complaining about, based on her description, was well below that range.

                                                    2. cold is better than hot ... you can add as many layers as you like , but can only remove so many

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: kpaxonite

                                                        As one who is generally burning up in restaurants, I will be your first and most loyal customer if you start your own :)