Dear Crabby,

Why are restaurants, sit-down and fast-food, always kept so cold?

I would rather not have to eat with my coat on, and in the summer I have to remember to bring a jacket.

Sincerely, Too Cold to Eat

Dear Too Cold,

They’re kept so cold because most modern restaurants are actually made from giant ice blocks, carved into the shape of buildings, complete with ice fixtures and ice furniture. It’s cheaper than building from wood and drywall, so they just paint the ice to make it look like the interior of a restaurant.

If the manager turned up the heat, the whole place would melt. And then you’d never get the Kickin’ Jalapeno-Cheddar Popperz appeti-teasers you ordered. You’d just be sitting there on a melting ice chair waiting for them. Looking like a fool.

OK, fine. That’s (probably) not true, the carved-from-ice thing. I made it up because I don’t have a good answer. In fact, as a guy who usually runs a little hot, I’ve never noticed this phenomenon.

My ignorance notwith-
standing, a quick bit of Googling confirmed that restaurant-
too-coldism is indeed a real issue. You are not alone; hundreds of people online have also complained about it. Still, there wasn’t a clear consensus as to the reasons. The most compelling theory is that lower temperatures stimulate hunger while warmer temperatures curb it, so restaurant managers keep their places cold to encourage more and faster eating.

There wasn’t a lot of science cited by the people making that argument — in fact I found a 2016 study that concluded “short-term mild cold exposure increases energy expenditure without changes in food intake” — but science and conventional wisdom are different things. I could definitely see the cold-makes-people-hungry idea taking hold among restaurateurs even if it’s not proven scientifically.

Anyway, that’s the best answer I could find. They want you to eat a lot, because they make more money. And they want you to eat fast, because they can turn your table over and (wait for it) make more money. Restaurants are businesses, after all.

Now, that said, one other way restaurants can make money is by giving customers a good experience and creating repeat business. That’s where you can exert a little influence. If a place is too cold, you should mention it to someone who works there. They may not be able to help you — managers usually make temperature decisions, not servers — but if they get complaints from enough people, they’d be dumb not to adjust.

I’m not saying to make a big “Let me talk to the manager” stink or anything. Be polite. Be tactful. But let them know you’d prefer things a bit warmer. It can’t hurt to ask.

Hope that helps. Now, if you’ll excuse me, this warm weather is making me sweaty and I have to go change shirts for the third time today.

Sincerely, Crabby

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