There was an item in the paper the other day about Pipedown, a pressure group dedicated to getting restaurants, pubs and cafes to turn down the volume on canned music. Co-incidentally, Marks and Spencer has just stopped playing muzak in its stores.
Not a moment too soon in my book. Perhaps we could add my local branch of Majestic whose young staff insist on playing loud music inappropriate to the age of its customers and almost any former building society, now bank, which blares pop to patiently waiting investors. Santander is the worst but you may know better.
But let’s stick to music and food, often a great combination but not always. Why is it I always seem to get the table underneath the speaker?
Ideally, a place should be so busy the chatter of its customers should provide aural ambience but things do get quiet. Then, and only then, should the music be on. AND NOT TURNED UP TOO LOUD.
I was in an Indian restaurant which played Abba all night. When I bemusedly asked if the owner was a fan he replied “But I thought Western people liked it.” Not with my biryani, Mohammed. At one time, every single place my wife and I went to seemed to be playing Nora Jones singing Don’t Know Why. No I don’t either. If you were unlucky you got the whole album. Then again.
But nothing can beat the restaurant which played orchestral versions of TV theme tunes all night: Z Cars, Coronation Street, Emergency Ward 10. Yes, it was a few years ago.
Pipedown urges people to pipe up when the music is too loud. That didn’t work at one restaurant when I politely requested they turn the volume down. They did, grudgingly, but it soon crept up again as the manager made barbed comments. It was a great pleasure to tell him I was reviewing the place when I paid the bill.
A year or two ago I went for Sunday lunch to a recently opened place which rather fancied itself but just hadn’t got the thing quite tickety-boo. There was no sound system so they piped Magic AM, yes, that’s right, complete with commercials, from a screen in the corner of the room. And guess who had the table by the screen?
I am not alone. LBC, the radio station which doesn’t play music, did a survey which found 50 per cent of people would walk out of shops which played music. The lovely Joanna Lumley has done it “because of hellish piped music.” I am not so lovely but I once got no further than the threshold of a recommended restaurant because I was met by a gale of muzak.
The best kind of music is the sort you can’t actually hear, pitched at such a level that it doesn’t register. When I wrote reviews for a living I would have a little slot to say whether a place took credit cards, had vegetarian food, parking , music, etc. And I’d ask my wife: “Did they play music there?” It was a service very much appreciated.
For more ammunition visit http://www.pipedown.info
STOP PRESS: We recently had dinner at the White Horse, Brancaster Staithe, and found our table was beneath a speaker. The music was far too loud. I politely said we would go elsewhere but the music was turned off. No one complained. If anything, the atmosphere in the room was pleasanter.