Ah, the delight of going out for a good meal at a quality establishment. The small thrill of savouring your menu options, the satisfaction as a well-poured drink is delivered to the table, the relaxation that seeps over you as you let someone else do all the chopping and frying and dishwashing, the anticipation of being able to hold a languid, free-ranging conversation with the friends you haven't seen for ages, or celebrate with loved ones.
"Isn't the lkghjfl kas wtroei ..."
"Sorry, I missed that last part, what did you say?"
"It's been such a aiofm wejrke kdsof ..."
Gosh, that's a bit frustrating. Holding a conversation seems to be impossible. Not because you're hard of hearing, or your partner is speaking gibberish, but because the music is far too loud.
And probably totally inappropriate for a dining establishment. It's a wonder the wait staff manage to take your order really. And yet this seems to be a recurring problem when I dine out in Auckland.
I'm not sure what it is, but many establishments seem to have taken the approach of treating their clientele as if they're in a nightclub, playing blaring tunes that would be fine for dancing at 1am, but totally bonkers when you're out for a meal.
I realise cranking music that keeps your staff feeling energised and pumped might seem like a good option, or letting one of your music-enthusiast waiters loose with the iPod might generate some good team morale. But it's no fun at all for your patrons.
I'm not saying that your restaurant playlist needs to be bland elevator tunes - I genuinely appreciate the effort some places go to, even hiring a DJ to create the right ambience - but volume will always be an issue. Particularly when hard wooden surfaces and crammed floor space are the preferred interior designs at the moment.
Of course, I also take issue with bad music choices. Cheap and cheerful Asian dumpling joints may be permitted to entertain us with K-Pop videos on big screens, and old school video hits can actually be quite amusing when you stop for a kebab at the end of a night out, but a nice restaurant charging nice restaurant prices should be able to come up with something better than bad early 90s soft-pop-rock.
They should not, under any circumstances, be playing Robbie Williams, Celine Dion, Bon Jovi, Barenaked Ladies, Alanis Morisette, Phil Collins... I could go on, but you get the idea.
"And through it all, she offers me protection, a lot of love and affection, whether I'm right or wrong..." would put anyone off their fish of the day.
There's no one size fits all solution here, but if in doubt, go for instrumental tracks - there's plenty of excellent jazz, blues, soul, funk, Latin American, etc that will work. Because all the effort you have put into your excellent food, attentive service, and enticing interior amounts to nothing if your diners can't enjoy the company of their companions, or feel like they're being subjected to music torture.
The only place that will have an excuse is the Hard Rock Cafe when it opens in the Viaduct later this year. The music might induce head-banging, but you should know what you're in for.