“I’d like to order the special, but please hold the side of children.”

 Banning ill-mannered children from restaurants

This morning, my local newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times, published an article touting yet another restaurant announcing a ban on kids. Surprisingly, this time it’s a pizza place.

Being ‘a picky traveler”, I totally identified with this news story as well as one that hit the news earlier this year about an upscale Italian restaurant in Mooresville, North Carolina instituting a ban on children under 5 dining at their restaurant. The incident that prompted the ban involved a child using an iPad on loud volume, disturbing other patrons. The parents refused to comply with polite requests to turn down the volume or turn the device off and were asked to leave. While the ban drew some criticism from insulted parents, it has had the delightful effect of increasing the numbers of customers from 50 to 80 a night. Bravo! I would definitely dine at this restaurant if ever in the area.

I researched restaurants that ban kids and found a lot of articles and posts online. The one that appalled me the most was the one about Cuchara, an intimate Mexican restaurant in Houston, Texas, full of delicate artwork, where a child scratched the restaurant walls with a quarter, causing $1,500 in damage. Where were this kid’s parents?! Did they not notice their “little darling” was defacing the walls?! Rather than a ban, the restaurant began handing out cards with behavioral instructions to customers.

Sometimes, the banning of children from restaurants can backfire, like what happened when the Lobster Pound and Moore in Nova Scotia announced a ban on loud kids . Bad choice of words? Yes. Bad policy? No.

People think of restaurants as public, but they really aren’t. Yes, you are out in public view, but most restaurants are privately owned. People who dine out need to accept that owners have the right to make rules that benefit their business and protect their patrons’ safety and enjoyment. Imagine witnessing a 3 year old running wild in a sports bar type restaurant and almost colliding with a server with a large tray loaded with food while inches away the parents and their friends and relatives partied and drank, oblivious to the possibility of impending disaster (yes, it really happened). Something like that can make one see why a lot of people don’t like out-of-control kids in restaurants.

Just an observance, but lately there seems to be an abundance of bad parenting.  A lot of parents seem to feel they are not accountable for their own or their child’s actions. There are also parents who are too wrapped up in their own enjoyment to pay attention to their offspring, taking a break from parenting. Example: think how a person might be after drinking that third craft beer. Is that person attentive to his children and should that person also be the one driving kids home?

Seems like today’s child rearing methods are certainly different from what was the norm during my growing up years – the “Kids should be seen, not heard” generation (my father’s words). My family traveled quite a bit due to my father being in the military. When my family went to a restaurant, we kids were expected to behave and exercise the good manners we had been taught. There was no getting up from the table and no electronic devices to keep us occupied. By the age of 10, I could order a complete meal by myself. (OK, so I was not a ‘normal’ kid.)

Not all kiddie diners are disruptive. I have dined several times at Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa and never witnessed any out-of-line behavior from families gathered there to celebrate. On one occasion when my husband I dined at the uber-elegant Victoria and Albert’s at the Grand Floridian Resort at Disney World, I noticed a mature beyond her years young lady dressed in her party finery enjoying the gourmet offerings and quiet conversation with her parents. The restaurant’s website states guests ages 10 and above are invited to dine at this establishment and describes themselves as a setting of refined opulence with impeccable service and world-class culinary creations; words that do not evoke a kid-friendly atmosphere. Hotels are getting in on the ban – I know of at least one historic inn filled with priceless antiques, that doesn’t accept reservations from families with children under six years of age.

In this chaotic world, manners really still matter and speak volumes about ourselves. Parents need to take responsibility for their kids’ actions as well as their safety in public. If they don’t, they don’t have the right to complain (or sue) if they are asked to leave or are banned from an establishment.

Every issue has more than one side and parents see this type of ban as discrimination. Think of it this way – if an adult behaves badly in a restaurant or bar (drunk, disorderly, etc.), they can be thrown out of the business. If the behavior is bad enough, illegal or threatens others, they can be arrested.

Everybody is aware that parents need a night out to have fun and sometimes you want to enjoy that time with your kids. Pick an age-appropriate restaurant. I understand that young children sometimes cry or have meltdowns (Trust me on this. I’ve done childcare of other people’s kids and oh, the things I know!) If your child fits this category, take your child somewhere quiet until the child settles down or defer dining out until the child has more developed social skills. If you can afford and desire to dine at “Le Fancy Bistro” don’t be a cheapo and hire a babysitter. It’s worth every penny and your fellow diners will thank you.

Dining out can be expensive these days, especially if you are looking for “an experience” which many seek. A return to civility and respect for our fellow diners can make for an enjoyable experience for all.

Additional reading with a humorous twist: The 10 Commandments of Dining With Children 

About J. Matlock

Jeanette's wanderlust started as an Air Force brat crisscrossing the US visiting almost every state. Writing has always been a part of her life. While earning a BA in Journalism from the University of Central Florida, Jeanette found photography was the perfect compliment to writing. She is always on the outlook for what she calls "Right Time, Right Place" photographs that capture a once-in-a- lifetime moment. Her adult travels have taken her to Scotland, England, France, Switzerland and all over the US and she continues to crave going to places to experience adventure, great food and lifestyles. She has written travel journals for the web site IGOUGO.com to share her experiences to guide and encourage other travelers. Her descriptive writing style makes one feel as if they are there sharing the experience. Her love of writing is based on this simple truth: "When I am writing, I know that I am doing the thing I was born to do." (Anne Sexton). In late 2014, she resumed sharing her travel experiences by creating her own blog "apickytraveler.com".
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One Response to “I’d like to order the special, but please hold the side of children.”

  1. I am in total agreement with throwing families out of restaurants after disruptions that have not subsided even though they’ve been spoken to. Yes, just like should be done with adults. I am not in favor of banning children from restaurants without first witnessing their behavior. That would be like saying someone isn’t allowed in a restaurant because of generalizations based on their race or size (“they’re always loud” or “they always eat too much”), which, at the moment, is considered discrimination. (Whether private businesses should be allowed to discriminate is another conversation, but since they’re required to have handicapped-accessible and such, that’s the way things are at the moment.) What I DO think is appropriate is for a restaurant to provide a description like the one you mentioned at Victoria & Albert. That way, a responsible parent can understand the expectations and make a decision accordingly, based on what they know of their particular child’s behavior.

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