Dining out- No music to our ears

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Researchers say classical music is a money magnet, encouraging people to spend more money when they're dining out.

Researchers in England found people spend more money eating out when they can listen to Bach rather than Britney Spears.

"If you hear classical music, it has got all sorts of connotations of sophistication, affluence and wealth and it makes you feel a bit posh," says Adrian North, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Leicester in central England.

Personally, I've never felt the least bit posh. I don't think most Americans ever feel posh. Maybe, it's our colonial background. We like our backwoods heritage, our Davy Crockett-Remember-the-Alamo history.

That's not to say that plenty of Americans don't appreciate fine music, not to mention fine dining.

But North and his academic cronies don't understand what's important when it comes to eating out with children.

As a harried parent, I'm more interested in getting through dinner with the children without serious spills or other family disasters than finding a restaurant where Bach is playing over the loud speakers.

As all parents know, it's important to pick the right place to eat out with kids. Otherwise, it could be a major disaster.

Fast-food places are great because they are fast.

There's no leisurely dining with kids. Amusement parks understand that fact. They know you want to get in and out in a hurry before the kids get too crabby. They're not looking to get you to relax with some soothing Mozart.

Besides, you wouldn't hear it anyway over the din of noisy children.

Quiet restaurants aren't for families like ours.

Becca and Bailey have good vocal chords. They're usually eager to sound off when we eat out. They would stand out in a quiet restaurant.

They blend right in at a busy, noisy restaurant. It's just the right atmosphere for us.

Becca and Bailey don't care about the music when they're dining out. They do care if there's enough ketchup on the table and if the place has decent rolls.

They love the "throwed" rolls at Lambert's in Sikeston. It's entertainment in its own right. There's no Bach there.

Still, it's amazing how much money a family of four can spend eating out even in cafes where classical music isn't on the menu.

American restaurants make a good living selling chicken fingers to all those young diners.

When you're eating out with the kids, the background music gets little attention. Parents have other things on their mind, like trying to keep kids from spilling their drinks or dropping a whole plate of French fries in their laps.

Our second grader, Bailey, loves to butter everything, from baked potatoes to rolls. Becca's a picky eater who prefers a steady diet of chicken fingers. But no matter where we dine, it doesn't take the kids long to eat.

Children have a way of consuming their meals before mom and dad have taken more than a few bites.

You can tell they're ready to leave by the way they rock back and forth in the booth, working off nervous energy. Soon, they're pushing you to get the check, pay the bill and get back in the car.

Becca, our sixth grader, is always in a rush to leave -- hopeful we'll have more time to go shopping.

In the world of hurried family dining, none of this plays well with Bach.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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