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Yes, great fries! What! No, fries! French fries!

So, here’s what I was thinking. You know those big chain restaurants? Like Applebee’s and 99 and Cracker Barrel and like that? There are lots of them; I don’t know them all, but I have eaten in quite a few of them over the years. Big, big businesses. And there is lots of money there being invested in making lots and lots of money. We all know that. And there are a bunch of stupid things—famously the waiters and waitresses wearing half-a-dozen of those dumb pins—that come down from corporate and make no sense but are at least in some way connected with making more money. Right?

You have to figure that these chains have all put a lot of money into all those aspects of making a particular franchise or unit successful. The goofy faux-memorabilia on the walls with reproductions of concert posters or rustic butter-churn-paddles or whatnot. Those aren’t entirely random; there’s thought put into it, and more than thought, there’s market research put into that. And of course the menu, not only the food but the menu itself, and the distance between the tables and the percentage of chairs to booths and all that. Right?

This is what I’m thinking. These places aren’t leaving much up to the franchisee or manager. There are commandments from corporate, and those commandments are bottom-line decisions, very cynical manipulations of the customer base to get the right people to come for the right length of time and return with the right frequency. All planned out. You can feel it, when you walk into one of them, particularly if you walk into one a thousand miles or so from the last place you walked into one a few weeks previously.

And I’m thinking, one of the things is that each of those chains must have done the research to find out the exact range of decibels to play the music. Loud enough to create an impression of conviviality, but not so loud to drown out conversation or give people headaches. Loud enough to provide a background that keeps other people’s conversations out of your consciousness, but not so loud that you hear other people shouting to each other over it. My guess (and I am not an acoustician, although I have met one, so that counts for something) is that they came up with something louder than you would expect, something like a range of 83-84 decibels everywhere in the restaurants. And corporate looked at that info and said no, let’s double that.

Note the loss of hearing.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,



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