Almost every time I enter a commercial establishment around greater Boston during the warm weather
months, I feel that Iím going to freeze to death! Is it because Iím getting old Ė very old? Or is it simply that all these
businesses have their air conditioning turned up too high? I go into a Dunkin Donuts for a doughnut and a cup of coffee and
I have to get up and leave as I start shivering.
IĎve waited for the hot days of summer to shed my long pants and long-sleeved shirts. I have happily
changed to shorts and short-sleeved shirts. I donít bother with jackets of sweaters. I enjoy the sunshine and warmth of the
summer sun around Boston. So, when I go in a for a sandwich or a cup of coffee, Iíd like to be able to sit down at a table
and enjoy my repast. But, instead, after a few minutes, I have to get up and leave because I start to get goose bumps. The
same is true when I go into a store to do some shopping. But, at least in a store, I leave as soon as I have finished
Letís admit that some of us are always cold no matter what season it is. We are the ones that wear a
sweater on a record-breaking hot summer day. Alright, but in all seriousness, restaurants do get pretty cold sometimes. So
what is the real reason that they are so cold?
Just why do so many restaurants turn up their air conditioning so high? Here are a few possible
The owner or manager on duty may be hot and has the air conditioning set on high for their own
convenience. Having one individual regulating the temperature in a restaurant who wonít change it no matter what creates
a problem. Unfortunately, that person seems to always set the air conditioning way too low.
Maybe the restaurantís temperature is preset by the owner who doesnít even work at the restaurant
every day, but just visits every now and then. There are cases where the temperature in a restaurant actually cannot be
changed because the temperature control panel requires a key or code that only the general manager or owner has/knows.
Another possible reason for a cold restaurant is that the kitchen crews are hot. When the restaurant
opens and the ovens, warmers, deep fryers, and steam tables are turned on, it can get very hot very fast. Consequently,
workers in the kitchen will often ask the manager on duty to adjust the air conditioning to make it colder in the restaurant Ė
the heck with the customersí comfort! When the employees in a restaurant are working hard, they rarely notice that the
temperature in the restaurant is too low for customersí comfort. Most of their cooking and serving day is spent breaking a
sweat. None of the restaurant employees ever sit in the dining area. Unless the customer complains that he/she is freezing,
nothing will be done to set the temperature to a comfortable level. If Iím cold, I tell the waiter and ask to have the
temperature raised to a comfortable level. Usually, nothing is done in response to my complaint/request. If so, I may make
a mental note to avoid that restaurant or store in the future.
Restaurant air temperature is an important part of every dinerís experience. If people are shivering
through their meal, they are not likely to return. Eating establishments have many competitors and customers will quickly
find another restaurant where they can eat in comfort. Also these days, itís likely that those disappointed customers will
share their uncomfortable experience with everyone they know on Facebook, or worse, post a negative review on
Yelp. Both word of mouth and bad online reviews can do serious damage to a restaurantís
Air conditioning has long been a staple of American summertime life. In Europe and in much of the
world, air conditioning is either rare of used very sparingly. But today, in Europe, that is starting to change. Rising
global temperatures are elevating air conditioning from a luxury to a necessity in many parts of Europe, which long has
had a conflictual relationship with energy-sucking cooling systems deemed by many a U.S. indulgence.
Europeans have long looked with disdain at overcooled U.S. buildings, kept to near meat-locker
temperatures, where a blast of cold air can shoot across city sidewalks as people come and go, and where extended indoor
appointments necessitate a sweater even in the height of summer.
By contrast, event organizers in Europe may offer hand fans if events are expected to overheat.
Shoppers can expect to sweat in under-cooled grocery stores, and movie theaters are not guaranteed to be climate-controlled.
Evening diners have typically opted for outside tables to avoid stuffy restaurants, which rarely offer AC.
To deal with the heat, Italy and Spain typically shut down for several hours after lunch, for a
riposo or siesta, and most vacation in August, when many businesses shut down completely so families can enjoy a holiday at
the seaside or in the mountains. Italians in particular are happy to abandon overheated art cities to foreign tourists, which
reduces the urgency for a home AC investment.
Still, European AC penetration has picked up from 10% in 2000 to 19% in 2022, according to the
International Energy Agency. That is still well shy of the United States, at around 90%. Many in Europe resist due to cost,
concern about environmental impact and even suspicions of adverse health impacts from cold air currents, including colds, a
stiff neck, or worse.
Running to the go-to solution to global warming, which is air conditioning, we are exacerbating the
problems of high energy consumption and high carbon emissions related to air conditioning. Instead, we should consider less
intensive solutions, like shading buildings.
Apparently, Iím not the only person who canít stand the freezing temperatures found in so many
restaurants these days. Here are a few inputs from others regarding the freezing restaurant conundrum.
** In the past few weeks I've been in several restaurants that were too cold or too hot by such
large margins that even I -- a relatively temperature-insensitive person -- have been bothered by it. How hard is it to get
** A restaurant manager urged people who get cold easily to bring a light jacket, sweater, etc.,
when they go to a restaurant .
** A lover of air conditioning said that even he was cold in a lot of restaurants. (And if he was
cold, it's really frigid in there: He keeps his house a/c at a lovely 67 degrees.) He was out one night, and thought his
feet were going to turn into popsicles!
** I have had the experience this summer that the restaurants have been extremely cold! It makes it
uncomfortable. While it is very hot outside, it's been freezing inside.
** I spoke with my mom this weekend and she mentioned the very same thing. She and some fellow
churchgoers stopped for lunch after services and were practically blue from the cold by the time they finished eating at a
local chain restaurant.
** Buffet restaurants keep the A/C cranked up to move people out quickly. Regular restaurants are
just hurting themselves by keeping it too cold.
** If you're bothered by the cold air, speak up. The staff, who are warm from bustling around, may
not realize how cold it is.
** I especially noticed this problem in the Southeast. I remember a couple of years ago sitting in a
restaurant on Lake Pontchartrain in the middle of the summer, shivering, covered with goosebumps, and my teeth literally
chattering. Even though it was the middle of summer, I was eating a big bowl of gumbo (not that that's a bad thing) just to
try to warm up.
** I've learned to always bring a light jacket into a restaurant to ward of the possible chill.
Even if that works, some places are so cold that my food gets chilled and I have to eat really fast to enjoy(?) hot
** At least 50% of restaurants in South Florida seem to be too cold for me. I've never been in a
restaurant here that was too hot for me, but I usually freeze to death by the time we've finished our
In conclusion, let me repeat that all too often during the warm/hot summer months I have to leave a
restaurant or store because the establishment has set its air conditioning unit on maximum, resulting in temperatures that
are too cold to take without a sweater or jacket Ė articles of clothing I forswear during summer. If these restaurants or
stores donít care enough about my comfort to keep their temperatures at reasonable levels, then Iíll take my business
elsewhere. You should do the same. And remember to let the business know why you will be taking your business elsewhere.
- 9 Reasons Why Restaurants Are So Cold, Restaurant Life, 9 September 2022.
- Restaurant Air Conditioning Issues Drive Diners Away, Michael C. Rosone, ARISTA,
20 July 2023.
- As the summer breezes fade, sweltering Europeans give air conditioning a skeptical embrace,
Colleen Barry and Nicole Winfield, phys.org/news, 2 August 2023.
- The temperature of restaurants, forums.egullet.org, Accessed 9 August 2023.