No kids please, we're eating
A restaurant in Pittsburgh has banned kids. The move didn't result in the expected downturn in bookings. Quite the opposite in fact. Could the owner be onto something?
The name Mike Vuick is not one known to many outside of Pittsburgh. But he owns a restaurant there, an extremely popular one – and one that’s suddenly become a whole lot more popular.
Mr Vuick has taken the kind of bold step you just know many restaurant owners would love to take but just can’t bring themselves to because they fear the consequences. He’s taken a massive risk and banned children under 6 from his establishment. He did so, he says, on behalf of all the “refined people” who have had their meals “ruined”.
Nine out of ten agree
This brave restaurateur told customers that he would no longer admit children under six years of age. The ban is a blanket one, as in absolutely NO child under six will be allowed on the premises.
He explained – very reasonably I thought – that his restaurant was not a place for young children, saying that “many, many times, they have disturbed other customers."
He then told a local news crew that “there may be restaurants that prefer to cater to such things. Not here." Refreshingly, this exclusion of junior diners did not result in the opprobrium that might have been expected. On the contrary – nine out of ten customers said they'd be back. I’m impressed.
Parents snubbed with kids in tow?
Earlier this year, no less an authority than Harden’s published a new guide – Eating Out with Babies and Toddlers. It followed a survey showing that 31% of parents with children had been turned away from a restaurant or cafe.
From where I’m sitting though, this is, frankly, hard to believe. At this stage I’ve lost count of the number of times the noise of kids in a restaurant has ruined a good night out.
If you’re interested, the Harden’s survey named The Wolseley as the most baby friendly independent restaurant – not the first place that springs to mind when thinking of where to hold a birthday party for a five year old.
As far as I can see, kids here have a pretty free rein when it comes to choosing when and where they dine.
I’m not against the idea of children taking their place in the finest establishments in the country – their parents are footing the bill at the end of the day. But it’s pretty obvious that when a kid’s hungry he or she is going to be harder to control. The solution? Feed them at home. Better still, teach them to cook at home!
There’s a misconception too that only people with children object to the presence of noisy children in adult-oriented restaurants. But this isn’t the case. When, as a parent, you’ve forked out for a babysitter so that you can have a peaceful meal out, can there be anything worse than having to endure the screams and rowdiness of someone else’s brood?
Some places in London at least have tried to deal with the situation. Even Giraffe, kiddy central, has started deflating the balloons and hiding the crayons after 5pm in an attempt to encourage a more mature customer.
Last week in South London I asked a waitress if she could do something about the squealing at the next table. It turned out that this very sensible eatery had a policy of (politely) ejecting kids at 8pm. When the waitress realised the curfew hour had passed, the look of exhausted relief on her face was quite something.
As the gathering next to me packed up their assorted stuffed animals, electronic distraction devices and colouring books, I don’t for a second believe I was the only one glad to see them go.
And just look what happens when things get out of hand.
Granted, you don’t expect an invitation to “step outside” when all you’ve done is enquire politely whether the child at the next table shouldn’t be in bed.
Nor of course is attacking a fellow customer with a bottle of wine when his kid won't stop screaming to be condoned. The incident does show though how there probably isn’t any other single occurrence quite as guaranteed to ruin a meal out as an unruly child at the next table.
With school holidays in full swing and long summer evenings to fill, the presence of minors in restaurants is more keenly felt.
Parents would do well to remember that, while their little wonder might be everything to them, it doesn't follow that he/she is all that interesting to the rest of the population. The brave Mr Vuick said he introduced the ban because "the volume of kids just can't be controlled". I reckon he just found a very effective way of doing just that.
What do you think? Should we be able to eat in peace or are kids just as entitled to take up dining space as the rest of us, no matter how they behave?
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