At a small Chinese restaurant on Commonwealth, the food is great, the service, excellent, but the background music, illogically, is a mix of R&B and power ballads that are as Chinese as my girlfriend’s grandmother who has kinky hair and was born in Zambales (which is to say, not Chinese at all.) Sadly, this scene is repeated in most restaurants in the country, although sans my girlfriend’s grandmother.
While restaurants are not expected to strictly enforce sticking with a theme (Thai food can, for example, be served even without Bangkok whores to provide authenticity,) lack of attention to detail when it comes to music can make or break one’s dining experience.
Perhaps as a sop to a restaurant’s service crew working long hours for minimum pay, many restaurants allow their sound systems to be tuned-in to whatever radio station that their staff fancies. After all, if one is expected to slave behind a stove for hours on end, it would be nice to be able to do it accompanied by music one likes. It’s called a non-wage incentive, I guess, as compared to an actual wage incentive like money.
The problem is that the music that the service crew likes may not, in all probability, is not, the kind that the patrons prefer or expect.
It’s one thing to sit through a lunch of crispy pata and sundry Filipino food with Filipino folk songs playing in the background–never mind that the demographic of people who actually listen to such songs is rapidly shrinking on account of the life expectancy of people only being around 85 years, it’s part of the schtick. It’s a gimmick and people buy into it because it’s part of the whole Filipino fiesta theme. Listening to music that actual Filipinos listen to, however, pretty much rapes the culinary fourth wall. It’s more authentic, sure, but it isn’t the right kind of authentic.
Being a Third World country desperately pretending not to be (ref: our “high society” pretending to be in New York and Paris at the same time, our actually caring about Obama and McCain despite the fact that we have no real say in anything,) we like to pretend, even just for half-an-hour, that we are not in a poverty-ridden tropical backwater. And, honey, for 50 pesos for a cup of rice smaller than my hand, you better pretend along with me.
If we’re sitting down to French cuisine, we may not expect actual French music, but something a little more vaguely French than Sarah Geronimo would probably be nice. If it’s Japanese, you can do away with all those chimes and bamboo instruments because we’re here to eat,not to get a massage, but some discretion on tuning in to Love Radio might be nice.
And just to show that we’re not ganging up on local acts, here’s a rule of thumb: pretty much anything with an official dance step and an annoying chorus should not be played anywhere that food is served.
It’s a bit too Donya Victorina (de Espedanya), to be sure, but it’s part of the ambience of the place, and anyone who has ever thought that he has paid too much for something that he could have made at home knows, it’s a big chunk of what we pay for. Also, EVAT, which is 12% of the bill.