To eat, or not to eat

July 13, 2011 by Cara Bailey
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While driving to my softball game yesterday, I heard “the odd story of the day,” about a man who has banned children 6 and under from his restaurant.

When I got home, the story was making its rounds on Facebook. People are up in arms, both for and against the business owner’s decision to keep young children out of his establishment.

The jist is this: A restaurant owner in Monroeville, Pa. (right outside Pittsburgh) sent an email to his customers which read, “Beginning July 16, 2011, McDain’s Restaurant will no longer admit children under six years of age. We feel that McDain’s is not a place for young children. Their volume can’t be controlled and many, many times, they have disturbed other customers.”

The owner, Mike Vuick, said that while children are the center of their parent’s universe, they aren’t the center of every one’s universe.

I found this very interesting, because I am a person who takes my child everywhere. He has been to concerts, music festivals, football games, parties, nice restaurants, etc. He is usually amidst plenty of little peers, so we’re not the only parents that feel this way. I also have relatives who want to treat us to a nice dinner, as a family, at some of the area’s finest dining establishments. They believe that they are paying the bill, therefore they can bring whomever they want.

However, I have a lot of trouble taking my baby/toddler to the nicest of the nice eateries in town. I can’t get past the fact that there are people who save up for months to go out to a nice, child-free dinner on their anniversary and want a little peace and quiet. I would be horrified if my child started throwing a tantrum that shattered the serenity of their candle lights and wine.

The roar on Facebook differed, with some saying that children shouldn’t be allowed at restaurants that tip, while others said no kids at restaurants with bars.

My mom presented a different viewpoint. She believes that you can take a child anywhere, but must teach them to behave. She said consistency, discipline and setting boundaries are all you need to do, the rest is a piece of cake. Misbehaving, screaming, throwing items, and other inappropriate actions are not to be allowed or tolerated. Something to be considered (sayeth me, to myself).

While there have been occasions when I’ve had to box up my dinner and leave the restaurant or take my child outside to calm down, I think we’ve done pretty well figuring out how to enjoy the area’s quality dining without being a nuisance to other patrons.

When we go out, we make sure to find a kid-friendly restaurant. I don’t mean every restaurant has to have crayons, a kid’s menu or even high chairs to be kid-friendly. We really don’t use any of those. But they are good indicators.

Websites like Yelp and Urbanspoon can be extremely helpful when planning a trip and trying to find original restaurants for the whole family. I’ve also called places we want to go to see if they allow children. On a past birthday trip, I was surprised to find a brewery was very kid- (and dad) friendly. They didn’t have any children’s menus posted online, so I called to double-check and they were very enthusiastic about bringing children in. We ended up having a great dinner there, with the sweetest server.

We also try to abide by the rule that the din of the restaurant needs to cover the normal babbling of a child. I’ve found that guide to be very helpful. For example, Tidewater is fine dining, but quite loud. A perfect fit for someone who wants high quality food and service, but wants to be with family. (I swear they didn’t pay me to say that.)

After about 12 months old, we decided to skip the booster seat/high chair and just stick the kid in a corner booth. He’s trapped in, but has a little more wiggle room. A happy kid, which equals a happy momma and daddy.

With siblings in the restaurant industry, we try to tip well. However, with a child that eats off the menu now, or at least one of our plates, we try to tip even more. There’s a bigger mess to clean when we leave, more drinks to get, a distraction at the table. It’s the fair thing to do.

So, what do you think? Is Vuick being fair? Unfair? Do you take your child to every restaurant in town? Is it a good business move?

Addendum from the Huffington Post: There is no law preventing restaurants from banning children. But, restaurants cannot ban senior citizens because they are in a protected class under the law.

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13 Responses to “To eat, or not to eat”

  1. Katy BrownNo Gravatar says:

    I thought of The Greenrbrier’s Main Dining Room when I read this. Would I take the girls? Yes — but they wouldn’t eat anything on the menu. I think the surrounding dictates what kind of experience it will be for the child (food, duration of wait, ambiance, etc.), and as parents we need to be mindful of what will or won’t create a scene.

    Now, I hate — absolutely hate — to see a child waiting on Mom and Dad in a bar setting. I can see where no one under the age of 18 should be allowed in a place that is primarily used for drinking. That one, I can get behind.

    But barring children from restaurants because it’s assumed they won’t behave and they’re unfit for dining with other people is insulting. 1) My children should know how to act and act accordingly, and 2) I should know when it’s time to excuse ourselves…and do it if a sense rumble signs.

    • CaraNo Gravatar says:

      We left our then 5-month-old at home during our Greenbrier trip. I saw momma’s pushing strollers through the Draper-designed indoor pool and thought, “Thank goodness that’s not me!” That’s one of the only times I felt that way since becoming a mother, but I am glad we decided to leave the little one at home.

  2. KatyNo Gravatar says:

    …and do it if I sense rumble signs. Typo!!

  3. Rachelle MorrisonNo Gravatar says:

    I saw the initial article and I have mixed emotions about this topic. I have been blessed with two incredibly well behaved and mannered children that I could take to any fancy or better restaurant from the time they were small. I will admit when they were babies, we timed eating out with their sleep schedule so they were not too aware. A lot of parents do not understand that even a small child can be taught to act a specific way in certain situations. I remember taking my daughter, who is now 23, when she was 3 to a restaurant in Florida — ended up being there almost 3 hours due to the large party, etc. She was quiet, chatted with those there, drew pictures, etc. We were complimented repeatedly about how well she acted. I have never had the luxury of large extended family or being able to feel comfortable with sitters so my children either went with me or I didn’t go. My son, now 10, has been taken into situations from a baby until now and he has always been complimented for his manners, his politeness. Children are what they are taught and generally want to please their parents. I do not like to see unruly children in theaters, stores, or restaurants. I feel bad for the child and always think to myself “why does that parent not parent.” I believe that there are situations where if you know or feel your child is perhaps not feeling well, sleepy, or, in general, is bratty at times, it is inconsiderate to take them into situations where adults are going to enjoy a meal without the noise or aggravation of children. Just because we love our children, doesn’t mean others will love them too. If a child is sleepy or not feeling well, don’t tax their little beings by putting them in an unwinnable situation, decline yourself. Many people do not have children or have children that they choose to leave with sitters to have a relaxing meal outside of children present. So, I guess my thoughts are, teach your child from a very tender age how to act, play act at home, tell them what you expect of them, show them, praise them and if and when they rear their little toddler heads, be mindful of others and considerate. Don’t just sit and let them continue to disturb other people, don’t allow them to cause chaos and laugh it away. If you do not think your child is capable of behaving in a better restaurant, keep it to McDonalds, Chuck E Cheese, or Billy Bobs — it is all good there. And, a pet peeve, don’t take small children to movies inappropriate for them, loud noices, cursing, sexual situations. It is not fair to others. Okay, my two cents, and off my soap box.

    • Rachelle MorrisonNo Gravatar says:

      P.S. on my blog — we are germ freeks and wipe down table, salt/papper, glasses and we leave our tables, whether fast food or nice restaurant, tidy. It is a pet peeve of mine when parents leave and allow horrible messes to occur on the table and floor and make no attempt to tidy up. If you do take your little one with you, at least have the decency and courtesy to tidy up their messes. Most wait staff make small hourly rate and rely on tips and a lot don’t have bus boys or staff to clean up tables. I wouldn’t want to clean up someone elses child’s mess. Always feel bad when a family leaves and it looks like a gargabe dump on and under the table. I guess this would count as my 4 cents for this subject. ;-)

  4. Micah BruntyNo Gravatar says:

    I’m usually quite opinionated, but I’m having a hard time with this one. The mommy part of me has a hard time even accepting that a place would go that far. But the wife part of me… It’s not very often we get a “real date night” with just the two of us. I guess it would be a plus on those nights to know that not only am I away from my child’s sticky hands and messy plates, but everyone else’s as well.
    I agree with your mother though. It shouldn’t be a restaurant owners job to police this, it should be the parents.

  5. CaraNo Gravatar says:

    I heard an interesting perspective on this. What about the loud drunk at the next table, screaming profanities, or the person in the corner on their cell phone? It all boils down to having respect for each other and taking some responsibility of your behavior and the behavior of the little ones that you have.

  6. RachelleNo Gravatar says:

    Cara,
    There are children and adults who misbehave. Do they kick the loud drunk out? Or just the rude adult who thinks that everyone wants to hear their dinner conversation? Or who answers a phone call during dinner?

    I understand why people are on the fence. Yes, it’s nice to go out for a child-free elegant meal. However, discriminating against children, I think takes it too far.

    I bring up this point: how are children to learn how to behave in different settings (and grow up into responsible, respectful adults) if they aren’t permitted into fine dining establishments?

  7. Bonnie MarquisNo Gravatar says:

    The drunk guy scenario illustrates why I think the ‘policy’ is rather rude and somewhat unnecessary – many four and five year olds are perfectly well behaved while 8 and 9 (and 35) year olds are not – the sad fact is that not all parents do the right thing and remove themselves and their children when they need to -just as not all PEOPLE behave correctly – the owner was making “policy” where a manager’s discretion would be more appropriate – if a child is having trouble (for whatever reason – I never blame the parent for the child’s behavior – but if the parent doesn’t remove the child then yes, the parent is now at fault)
    The manager should monitor his dining room and ask the drunk to leave and he should also politely (with empathy and support – “Looks like your little guy is having a hard time, why don’t we box up that order for you so you don’t disturb the other customers” delivered with a smile) Sure the parents MIGHT be offended, but maybe they were also afraid of ‘being difficult by asking for the order to go” And if it ‘s to that point that a manager asks you that then maybe you need that kind of wake up call.
    The level of tolerance is clearly dictated by the setting – I’d be way more tolerant of behaviors at Uno’s ( still within reason) then I would at a place like Savannah’s

    And I also think the ‘hour’ of day matters too… A young child at 5 or 6 in a nice restaurant is not as problematic for me as perhaps 8 or 9 when people might logically assume younger children would not be present – as a wait staff person in a previous life I was amazed at the people that would bring babies out to eat at 10:00 at night! And yes, I can say it usually didn’t go well for anyone…

  8. MichelleNo Gravatar says:

    My take on this has been on the fence.. Because I’m a mother of a 7 and 9 yr old boys. We pick kid friendly or family orientated places to eat when we all go out, which is very often.. Now these maybe anything from Mcdonalds to Olive Garden (as most of the time it’s loud and a bubbly atmosphere).. Now this place we are talking about is a “cocktail and casual dining” place, think the inside of “Cheers” show.. As a mom thats not someplace I would take my boys too.. Also, my boys know how to act in public, not to say we still don’t have to make bathroom trips for talks, but as a parent that’s my responsibilty to teach them how to act in public.. When we have adult date nights, thats when we may choose to go to places that may not have many kids, just to have a break.. Most of the time it’s not the kids fault but the parents for not paying attention and teaching their kids. Which is what I hear has happened at this place, kids where running around, screaming, throwing fits as parents not even caring, it is a bar setting and the parents wouldnt do anything. A great ex, we just recently ate at Crackle Barrel and while eating, there was a child with a whistle, and they were constantly blowing it, inside. Maybe that doesn’t bother most, but it did me.. I was payin money to eat there like everyone else, so I asked the waitress to ask to put it up and they did. I do the same with someone, loudly, talking on the phone next to us. I’ll ask them politely, something like, excuse me, but we are also paying for our dinner, do you mind.. Most of the time they say sorry and hang up, if it’a important they go outside. People these days think everything revolves around themselves, and have no courtesy or respect for others.. So, I would not blame him nor do I think it’s bad that the owner did this..

  9. allenNo Gravatar says:

    I believe there should be a time set that you can bring children in to a restaurant, cause there’s nuthing out there for a young child past 8 oclock

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