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.
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.