Denny’s Daily Zinger: Note to Readers – A Business Proposition

This is about CRM—Customer Relationship Magic.
Last night, we went out to dinner with another couple.

We walked into a large, half-full dining room, many tables covered in white tablecloths—all beautifully set. Staff were elegantly clad in sparkling white Nehru-like jackets.

We saw hardwood floors, hard walls, hard ceilings, all tables and chairs. No banquettes, no padding anywhere.

I thought, “Oh, crap.”

The food was fine.

But the decibel count made conversation impossible. I had to lean over the table to hear the others and had to shout to be heard.

Restaurateurs’ measurement for success used to be fine food and good service. Today, the object is to create a raging, raucous party.

What should be pleasure instantly turns to pain.

To borrow a line from Joe Flaherty, the only way a woman can communicate in this environment is to have a voice that would make the Washington Monument go limp.

My $20 Purchase From Amazon
If a restaurant has been in business for a while, it’s probable the food is okay.

So the real criterion for eatery CRM is the noise level.

I have just ordered a BAFX hand-held sound-level reader. I expect to pop into restaurants all over Philly and record the decibel counts.

Philly restaurant critic Craig LaBan gives ratings of one to four bells (as in Liberty Bell).

I plan to measure Philly restaurants by deci-BELLS.

If any reader is interested in helping create a national website—by city—that rates restaurants by deci-BELLS, let’s talk.

Denny Hatch’s new book is “Write Everything Right!” Charles Gaudet writes, “Once again, Denny Hatch provides us with sage and proven advice from the trenches. The book is chock-full of examples, takeaways, and strategies for making every word more compelling and persuasive. This is easily one of those ‘top-shelf’ books you’ll reference time and time again.Click here to download (opens as a PDF) and read the first three chapters FREE. The title is also available on Kindle. Reach him at

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at

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  • Tim Orr

    Good afternoon, Denny!

    Boy, you got this one right! I was just talking with some friends about the pain we suffer when invited to a noisy restaurant. We theorize that perhaps people like these places because it relieves them of the responsibility for carrying on a conversation. After all, a lot of people really don’t have anything to say.

    I have one for your list: Sambuca in Nashville, TN. Not too terribly bad until the band starts up, but then, it’s deafening and you can’t hear your neighbor unless they shout into your ear – and even then, it’s iffy.

    BTW, Wikipedia says "decibel" is named after Alexander Graham Bell, so your "Bell" ratings will be particularly appropriate.

  • Barry Dennis

    "Deci-bells" I, too, have always equated ambiance with the ‘fine dining experience." I, too have eaten in some of the finest restauarnts all over the world, fro London to Johannesburg, Tokyo to Toronto, New York to Paris.
    Great food isn’t too hard to find; great food AND great ambianace is substantially more difficult. Even some great restauants sacrifice ambiance in favor of seating capacity (more "turns" per night, don’t you know).
    In fact I have been in the restaurant business, and lost my shirt-and underwear as well.
    In any case, and this is a personal taste comment, the essense of fine dining, even ANY dining out," is that the experience is a totality of food, wines, and ambiance. The Milton Inn in Maryland should be on your Personal Dining Bucket List, combining the best of atmosphere and top-rated food preparation and service. That’s my personal opinion, and that of restaurant critics the world over who have enjoyed the "Milton Marvel."
    To you point, maybe restauarnt critic just HAVE to include the deci-bells level in their consideration and recommendations.
    By the way, have you ever been seated at the service entrance/exit at a restaurant, right next to the kitchen? Restaurants seem to have taken to "profiling" customers, and singles or couples that don’t have the right look are often taken to less desireable seats, chosen to create capacity, not for an experience. Success sometimes breeds contempt, not an admirable trait in those hoping to build a lifetime clientel.
    To close, I am amazed that more people haven’t noticed what you have.

  • Reginald J. Doherty

    The first thing I check in restaurant reviews is the sound level. Too loud, regardless of the raves about the food, I cross them of my list. Life’s just too stressful to carry it to the dinner table.

  • Nikko Daniels

    This is a GREAT idea, Denny! I had an experience that would add to the justification of such a website, or maybe an app for our phones…???

    My wife and I absolutely love a local restaurant called Crave (in downtown Akron, OH), which is kind of artsy and focuses on fusion cuisine. Last year we went to a "beer dinner" there that consisted of five courses of food with different brews to accompany each. This event was in a room away from the main section of the restaurant but was fitted similarly to what you described, with hard surfaces everywhere. The food and brews were exquisite and exceptional, but…

    My wife and I sat across the table from each other, approximately three feet apart. It was so LOUD in there that we had a difficult time hearing each other without literally screaming and had to resort to texting to communicate. Yes, from THREE FEET away!!! We took it in stride and found the humor in the situation and still had a great time!

    Nowadays we try to go there when it’s not quite as packed with so many people drinking lots of alcohol, which exacerbates the issues with the aforementioned acoustical properties of the room.

  • Larry

    Right on target, Denny, especially for those of us with hearing aids. My wife and I have avoided restaurants based only on noise level. It is a shame that it is today’s trend. As an aside, believe we were both at Columbia at the same time. – Larry


    I found the same thing in a recently remodeled restaurant-hard surfaces = noise. There are several free apps to obtain decibel meters for smart phones. I read that they’re extraordinarily accurate.

  • BILL

    I am in! How do I help create the website that lists the deciBell level of restaurants?