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TV in restaurants?

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The other day we were very excited to eat a new hole in the wall, one that been highly recommended here. We get there and there is a giant TV filling up half the space. Dh and I made accomodations, while poor 4yo was absolutely mesmerized the whole time and couldn't eat. It was about 10 x the size of her and was towering over her head. I think I also grossly overate (either that or the food was so good! Doowee in Sommerville MA) because the TV was so loud and right over me. Finally because 4yo wasn't eating and we were the only patrons, we asked if they could briefly turn off the TV. No problem.
Ok great, so why are there TVs everywhere, especially in ethnic restaurants that might be more of a sit down environment? I find this awful and terribly distracting for everyone involved. It also just seems to be getting worse.

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  1. was it more of a "pub" where people mught want to catch a game?
    I know of a very popular elegant eating establishment that had TVs installed just for for TOPchef one season..or during World Cup time...

      1. People just can't sit and enjoy a meal and each other anymore. Godamn texting and cellphone use in restaurants ruin it for me. C'mon you can't turn it off for an hour?

        5 Replies
        1. re: mrbigshotno.1

          You are so correct.

          At a recent visit to a Paris Michelin 3-star restaurant, two younger members of one party, spent the entire evening texting. The parents, and grandparents tried to get them involved, but they refused, and continued to text for the entire evening. I was glad when they finally left.


          1. re: Bill Hunt

            My thought when I read this is: who is paying for those cellphones? Because if it's the parents, there's one very easy way to get them to stop texting when asked.

            1. re: Cachetes

              we have a no phones at the table rule. ..

              even for guests

            2. re: Bill Hunt

              Bill, were these young people with your party, or are you so bothered by this that even the sight of it (at another table) is upsetting. I DO get it, but think maybe you could use a good vacation. ;o]]]]]

              1. re: Midlife

                They were in another party, but spent the entire evening texting, and even left their family, to find a quiet corner, to continue that activity.

                Were they in my group, I would have put a stop to that activity, but they were not - it is up to the parents, and (in this case) grand-parents, to teach some tact.


          2. I actually notice fewer televisions in restaurants than I used to. Pretty much if I see televisions up it is in a pub/sports bar, and if it is in a restaurant it is in the bar section. These are fine with me as the main reason I go to a pub is to a) watch a Wildcats game or b) play Buzztime trivia with friends.
            I did see a television in a pizza place a while back. It seemed weirdly out of place.

            17 Replies
            1. re: Firegoat

              AFAIAC, if a restaurant has TVs, it IS a sports bar, regardless of what it serves. I have never seen a TV in a restaurant that does not have a liquor license. They want people to plant themselves at the bar or table and drink for hours on end.

              The presence of a TV is a huge turn-off for me. I am unlikely to return, unless it is for take-out.

              1. re: greygarious

                I think the notable exception to a sports bar is an "ethnic" restaurant (and by that, I mean representing a cuisine of an migrant group to whatever locale it's located) that has a TV where the show television from their place of origin.

                My initial thought was all of the Ethiopian restaurants I'm familiar with have televisions where in addition to sports they also show Ethiopian television. But the more I think about it, a Korean restaurant where I live (and is the only Korean restaurant that I know of in Israel - so it's not like there are other options), always has on Korean music television - never sports. Growing up as a kid, the Vietnamese restaurant we went to showed (what I assume) was television in Vietnamese. All of these restaurants that I mention, as well as serving awesome food, also serve as quasi-community centers for their ethnic groups. It's not a turn on for me, but when my options are absolutely no Korean food, or ignoring K-Pop music videos - I'm ok with ignoring the TV.

                I guess based on my experience, I could use "place that has a TV showing ethnic shows/news/sports" as a sign of likely tracking locals and being more authentic.

                1. re: cresyd

                  Yes, it's like going to a Pakistani restaurant, where every TV is tuned to the Al-Qaeda Network.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        I'm trying to come up with a response that isn't obscene, but I'm not having much luck.

                      2. re: Bill Hunt

                        I have never heard of the Al-Qaeda TV Network.

                        1. re: Tripeler

                          Well, they are active in many countries, and can be picked up elsewhere. They are not just in the Middle East any more.


                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            Or you get a satellite dish.

                            Speaking of a number of Ethiopian restaurants or restaurant/bars I know in Jerusalem - it doesn't necessarily mean the food will be good. But they do attract locals.

                          2. re: Tripeler

                            You have never heard of Al Jazeera ?

                            1. re: Hobbert

                              Al Jazeera is probably the best news organization anywhere in the world right now. I get a lot of my news from them.

                              1. re: JonParker

                                I completely agree. I find they present a pretty balanced view of the news. And it's interesting to get it without an American bias. I'm a bit skeptical about the existence of an Al Qaeda channel though....

                              2. re: Hobbert

                                I think Bill is trying to be funny.

                        2. I've only twice come across a TV in a proper restaurant (as opposed to a bar/pub that also served food. Once in an Ethiopian restaurant near home (where the progarmme was an Ethiopian news channel) and once in a pizza place in South Africa (where I was eating alone and pleased to be able to catch up on the cricket).

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Harters

                            Aside from bars/sports bars - the only other restaurant I've been to recently where there's a TV is an Ethiopian restuarant. If there's a game (any kind of game) available - they'll show that or Ethiopian news.

                            But this Ethiopian place in particular functions both as a great hole in the wall restaurant and a bar/hangout for Ethiopians.

                            1. re: cresyd

                              Ethiopian place near my house has TV always on, programming is never specific to them, always random. I don't go there anymore.

                          2. I could be wrong, but here's my guess. Many small hole in the wall places are staffed daily by the actual owners. Sometimes I think the televisions are actually more for the staff and owners that are working very long days. Not saying it helps your meal be more enjoyable, but being in one place for 12+ hours can sometimes become very monotonous especially during the slow times.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Rick

                              I agree with this. More than once it's been hard for me to tear myself away and actually leave with my Indian take-out when I started getting caught up in whatever Bollywood epic was playing on the TV.

                            2. I have noticed it in ethnic restaurants, Hispanic and Portugese. Somehow there always seems to be a soccer game or novella playing.
                              For that type of place it's never bothered us.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Motosport

                                I believe it is mandatory in those places.

                              2. I posted about this at least a year ago after going to a restaurant with an attached bar (separated by a 8 foot arch) and not being able to escape the TVs no matter where we were--could either see or hear them. In the bar it was overwhelming. This was not a dive or a hole in the wall so why TVs on unless it is football night--which I avoid like the plague. When I posted last time, most people said I was being too picky and should just go elsewhere.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: escondido123

                                  You don't sound picky but probably should go elsewhere.

                                  1. re: Motosport

                                    Not that many choices when you want to be able to walk to the restaurant. Now that the weather's warm, we eat outside--no TV there yet.

                                  2. re: escondido123

                                    "...should just go elsewhere." That's exactly what the Mr. and I have been doing. Yesterday, went to a highly recommended Mexican restaurant & sure enough, there was the TV. We ordered food to go. Didn't even turn on the TV at home, either.

                                  3. There is a nice little Japanese restaurant near us that does the same thing and it's one of the reasons we don't go very often. The last time we were they they were showing some movie that was not appropriate for our 12 year old.

                                    Other than that most of the TV's I see are in sports bar/restaurants, never at higher end places. A local chain, The Fours, has virtually every wall covered with TV's and they all seem to playing a different. game. That combined with bad food keeps me away but it seems packed whenever I drive by so people must like it,

                                    1. Televisions have their places in restaurants and bars....not in fine dining establishments table areas...but small televisions in bar areas are normal for business clients watching a business channel.

                                      For those of you find the televisions distracting or not appropriate....you do have the choice not to patronize.

                                      1. In Taiwan a TV showing the news is pretty standard in small, hole in the wall type restaurants. The sound level can vary (all shows are subtitled, so the sound can be off and people can still watch it), but it's pretty ubiquitous.

                                        I can usually tune it out pretty well - my Chinese isn't good enough to follow high speed news reporting, which helps.

                                        Higher end places don't do it, and it's not common in non-Chinese food restaurants.

                                        1. I can't stand that! Our sit down sushi restaurant has this and so does the Thai. Drives me nuts. I understand at a sports bar but otherwise it is annoying.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: melpy

                                            sooooo when the Zombie apocolyps hits we all head to Asian and Mexican restaurants

                                          2. I believe that TV is often the cause of cancer of the imagination.
                                            Interesting that so many places have TV, but few of them play the radio.

                                            1. A nice restaurant in Baltimore opened near my house a few years ago. I went a couple of times at opening and reviewed it here. I loved the food, loved the space, and didn't mind at all the TV over the bar. But they had a TV in the upstairs dining room. Not over the bar, but in the dining room.

                                              Now this place would rank in terms of prices three stars out of four. And the food really was great -- I went there so much I had to stop posting about it here because the staff knew me so well. But that TV always bugged me.

                                              1. I've been to a couple of places in KC where they have small TV's mounted in the booth. You even get a remote. Very annoying.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: chileheadmike

                                                  At the 810 zone sports bars? I always liked being able to put on what game I wanted to watch.

                                                  1. re: pollymerase

                                                    Even when it's something like the Stanley Cup, or the World Series, or even the NFL playoffs, leading up to the Superbowl (and some of our teams are still in the mix), I refuse. I ban my wife from checking her smartphone, and let the servers whisper scores to us - dining is about dining, at least to me.


                                                2. ok so I road my bike to the small mexican place up the street to get breakfast tacos this morning and yes the tv was on... so I asked about it... The owner said she leaves it on most of the time to help her staff learn English.

                                                  1. I don't like it either in restaurants and I'm perfectly willing to ask them to turn it off or down to a murmur. I do cop to watching sports on the tv when I sit at a bar, often my preferred perch on business travel.

                                                    1. If there is a television on, I'm not eating there.

                                                      1. Hate it. I once dated a guy who would be so entranced by whatever TV was in the vicinity that I had to maneuver our seating so that he was facing *away* from the TV!

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: Violatp

                                                          I don't eat in restaurants that have TV in the diningn area but it I DID, and had a DC who was that enthralled with the boob tube, I'd either leave, or ask to be moved to a table for one.

                                                          1. re: greygarious

                                                            I was young and dumb. Wouldn't fly these days!

                                                          2. re: Violatp

                                                            This is my dh and dd must be genetic.

                                                          3. It's the best Nayarit seafood in L.A., Inglewood. Very small place with a large T.V. The family loves to watch it. Not a problem for me because the food is that good.Can't wait to get back.

                                                            1. Huge turnoff for me, I first noticed it when I moved to Pittsburgh in late 2009 for a year. Many of the restaurants there had TV's scattered throughout. Patrons would watch instead of engage in conversation with their friends/SO's.

                                                              When I moved back to Washington I was surprised to see several local restaurants had installed them. The biggest shock came when a decent Italian place shut down for a month for an extensive remodel and removed all of it's somewhat authentic decorations and went ultra modern with large TV's everywhere. I have never gone back.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: RetiredChef

                                                                Also huge in mid-Michigan. You'd be hard pressed to find a middle-range restaurant that doesn't have multiple television screens stationed throughout with various sports programming blasting away. It's guaranteed that any pub or bar or casual eating place will have them, but the spread to nicer restaurants is disappointing.

                                                                As a single female who doesn't really care about sports, my friends and I find we have have limited options. Many restaurants come and go in our area, and they all seem to feel the need to install multiple tv tuned to sports channels.

                                                                We either entertain in our homes or we travel greater distances for pleasant restaurant experiences where we can carry on normal conversations, maybe with some nice background music.

                                                                Our local restaurant owners complain endlessly in the newspaper (yes, we still have one, and it's got a big Chamber of Commerce section) about the lack of community support. They don't seem to get it. They also don't seem to want our business.

                                                              2. I don't mind them. I think it just adds some background noise to the place. It would bother me more if the place was so dead quiet that you couldn't have a conversation without everyone else in the restaurant hearing everything you say.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Atomic76

                                                                  I would rather have music than some TV I couldn't care less about...and yes I know there will be arguments about what music but as long as it stays in the background it shouldn't be too big an issue.

                                                                2. My husband is in the Satellite TV business, and he has some insight into this (He specializes in setting up TVs for bars and restaurants...): Foreign Language satellite TV programming in the US can be very expensive and may well exceed the budget of many of the restaurant patrons....but the restaurant owners know that it will attract those same patrons who can afford an occasional inexpensive meal out and enjoy the opportunity to watch their favorite shows at the same time... (not to mention the fact that it allows the owners a chance to watch the same programming and write it off:-) Also remember that many of these restaurants are indeed "Mom and Pop" operations, so the family children might watch the programming as well. (Actually, my husband and I experienced the result of this first-hand recently: our "waitress" was obviously the daughter of the owners of an Indian restaurant we went to, and was more interested in the Bollywood movies than in helping us....) Personally, I find the foreign language programming in many ethnic restaurants to be part of the atmosphere, and I enjoy watching it as well (besides, TVs in restaurants are what allow me to afford to eat out more often, so how can I complain?) And a sports bar isn't a sports bar without at least five different sporting events on tv at once, sorry:-) But I agree that they are out of place in fine dining establishments......

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: janetofreno

                                                                    Thanks for this explanation of the cost factor. I always suspected it was as a draw for expats but didn't know that angle. I have absolutely no problem with this and even enjoy it as a way to soak up some of the culture as well as the cuisine. I have an issue if it's too loud and whether I can find a place to avoid it, should i so choose. And I do agree, they have no place in fine dining establishments and would definitely affect where I take my business.

                                                                  2. When we owned our wine shop/ wine bar we had a big flat screen on the wall at the rear of the bar area. Most of the time we showed concert DVDs but would put on sporting events when something big was going on. Opinions were sometimes mixed.

                                                                    When we sold the place the new owners showed ONLY wine-related travel videos and, when the thing gave out, removed it completely.

                                                                    I can't really say one is right and the other is wrong, but I suppose there's a case to be made for keeping the focus on wine if you're in the wine retail business. Personally, I wanted the focus on our customers enjoying themselves.................. but knew that I couldn't be 100% sure if thios was the case.

                                                                    1. I think that restaurants should not have TV's in the main dining area, but that it is ok to have it in the bar area or if you are a sports restaurant obviously, part of that association is going to be having TV's in the restaurant. It is disrupting though, especially if there is a big event on. I remember one time when the local college football was playing in a championship game, all of the male patrons would frequently get up to check on the score in the bar. It was ridiculous!

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: Redstickchef

                                                                        Why is that ridiculous? Seems pretty important to me.

                                                                      2. I'm definitely not a fan of this. Tacky and yeah, distracting. Yes, of course, you're in charge of what distracts you, but when you throw something that is bright, has moving colors, and the bottom of the ninth with the winning run on-deck you just gotta...ahhmm...oh man, hold on. LET'S GO YANKS!

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. normally, not a fan... however, all the taquerias around here have the soccer games on and we all really enjoy commenting on the plays while noshing on tacos.

                                                                          i go to an asian grocery store and they have a TV set on directly behind the cashier.. THAT really bugs me. All the customers look like zombies while waiting in line.

                                                                          1. If the presence of tvs outside of one's home bothers you/anyone, a visit to China/HK/Taiwan would be painful:

                                                                            They're everywhere in China. Metros, restaurants, elevators, elevator waiting areas...probably will be installed in ashtrays at some point too. Never a dull moment for one's eardrums. As if immediately placing a mobile phone on the table upon sitting at a restaurant wasn't enough of a harbinger.

                                                                            In Hong Kong, they're on the (fka) KCR. Even worse, their version of the quiet car doesn't mean that passengers should refrain from using their mobile phones. That would be considerate. Rather, it simply is a carriage where the tvs are on mute. Lunacy.

                                                                            Heck, in Gaoxiong, Taiwan (this is beyond ignorant), I saw them beside the driver's seat in taxis.

                                                                            I know well enough not to go into a sports bar/theme restaurant in the US/abroad. But when there's a tv at a Lanzhou lamian place, ugh.