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Mark Sommelier

Babies/Children in Restaurants (merged topic)

597 posts in this topic

The thing about generalizing is that there are almost always exceptions. However, generalizing is just about the only intelligible way to interpret the world and therefore policies are often made based on statistical generalizations: if a high percentage of kids can't behave in restaurants, and a high percentage of their parents bring them anyway, restaurants are left with little choice but to impose a ban. Those who are exceptions to the rule need to live with the ban as well, just as an excellent 10-year-old driver can't be given a license.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Some of you know, I work in a very high end restaurant. I had the pleasure of working Christmas Eve and Christmas this year. This happens occasionally in our place, but, these two days saw lots of infants. I'm not talking about quiet, sleeping, adorable babies. I mean the kind that are squalling, talking loud, cholicy, throwing food and untensils, and screaming. What do you do? What can you tell these parents? Lots of other clients were visibly unhappy about the noise. People don't expect babies at Daniel, Jean-Georges, Bouley, Trotter's, or my place. What the hell do you do? Can't tell people not to bring babies. Can't throw them out. Real dilemma. What do you think? Have you had an expensive meal ruined by an innocent baby?

Mark, I strongly believe that management can, and should, ask that a disruptive child be removed from the dining room until the child's behavior is appropriate. Whatever ill will you might create with the child's family will be more than compensated by the appreciation (and potential return visits) of the other diners. If the family refuses to do so, they should be asked to leave. Comp part of the check if necessary. I mean, what would management do if two adults kept up a screaming argument or insisted on wandering uninvited from table to table? I also think it's perfectly ok for a restaurant to set whatever policy they would like concerning children, although I would focus on behavior rather than an age limit.


Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and their readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

 

"A vasectomy might cost as much as a year’s worth of ice cream, but that doesn’t mean it’s equally enjoyable." -Ezra Dyer, NY Times

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I think they should be forbidden. If they are allowed entrance, as soon as they started whining, wandering, or screaming they should be removed immediately from the dining room.

(I don't have kids)


Iris

GROWWWWWLLLLL!!

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And, since my answer was not exactly keeping with the topic (although I do believe my answer would make the subject matter here moot) I will address the actual topic.

I think that the burden is on the parents, but since some people are so callous towards the rights and privacy of others that there needs to be policy.

Seat them as best you can away from other diners. Provide what you can in the way of efficient, speedy service, and get em out as quickly as you can. Is this fair to the parents? Yes. They are the one's that brought the kids, so they can hardly expect to linger at a table for three hours over coffee and after dinner drinks.

If a baby gets loud and stays that way? Ask the parent to remove the child from the dining room until the child calms down. Once again, remember, they brought the kids. It is not the restaurant's fault that the child is cranky (nor is it the childs fault) so, in my mind anyway, the reponsibility is all on the parent. If they are unhappy with the service as it relates toward them and the child, too bad for them. They brought the child, they should be expected to do their best to keep the other diners from being annoyed.

The dining establishment should certainly excercise their right to ask a patron to remove his or her self from the dining room until the child calms down. Or for good if it continues to happen. And yes, the diner who brought the child should still be responsible for food ordered even if they have to leave due to a child that is annoying other diners.

There. I've solved that. Next Problem? :laugh:


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Children tend to behave better when confronted by strangers than by their parents. When in the same vicinity as crying, badly-behaved children, I will more often than not talk to them. It tends to shup them up quite quickly, since they are usually quite surprised to hava a stranger speak to them. When I say "talk to them" I do not mean (necessarily) in an angry or scolding manner. If a child is throwing food around, for example, I might say, "Are you throwing food? [child stops and stares] Do you like throwing food? [child might nod] Other people here don't like it so much. Maybe you should stop." All said with a calm and light-sounding voice. It works more often than not with most children, but there will always be those who will burst out crying, instead :biggrin: .

It also help to distract the children. However fine an establishment, having some crayons or pencil crayons and paper around for emergencies would not be too much of a hardship.

If that fails, I don't think there's anything wrong with asking one of the adults in the group if they wouldn't mind taking the offending child(ren) out until they've calmed down. It must be done in an apologetic manner, of course, for fear of offending the adults (whom I think are offensive if they allow that type of behaviour from their children--doubly offensive for allowing it in a public place).

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There's only so much a restaurant can do to impose the fundamentals of human civilization on its clientele.

BTW, that is one of the best lines I've read lately. :biggrin: Does that merely apply to children? No!

The US seems to be full of parents who think that thay can have children and still lead the lives they had when they were single. Inappropriate restaurants are just on aspect of that, along with dragging the kids out to the mall obviously well past their bedtimes and taking them to inappropriate movies...

I see this all of the time and wondered if I was the only one that thought the same too.

I agree with much of fifi's perspective as well.

While I do not work in fine dining, I find this as an interesting topic as I have attended to tables with unruly children that have disturbed many other dining patrons and have walked the tight rope dance of appeasing both groups to the satisfaction of this occasional problem. I've seen the gamut of the tired, crabby child to the well rested and energetic one that enjoys throwing everthing they touch, in every possible direction -- with oblivious parents smiling the whole way with questions of "Where is something for my child because he/she is hungry and cannot wait for the adult entrees to be finished and served to the rest of us!"

I find it astonishing that parents are taking their young children to restaurants such as Trotter's, FL, Daniel, etc. The child cannot appreciate such an experience and what fun is it with a plate of chicken tenders and a ramekin of honey dipping sauce served alongside with grand degustation menu beginning with Poached Poussin with Golden & Striped Beets, Terrine of Confit Leg & Scallions?

What are the children's menu offerings anyway? (as I do not have first hand experience -- so far, I only have cats and not children! :biggrin: )

edit: grammar :blink:


Edited by beans (log)

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Taking a very young child to a high end restaurant may not constitute child abuse, but it is cruel, thoughtless and inappropriate for the child and for the other diners. And why on earth would parents want to ruin their own night out by bringing their child along?


Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"

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I think that Alex has hit on how my thinking was headed. I don't tolerate disruptive behavior well from anyone, regardless of age, and would like to see it handled quickly by the management. As in... you're outta here. From the restaurant management point of view, this makes some business sense. You risk alienating the rest of the customers if the situation is not handled promptly. Just do the math.

You always have the risk of disruptive behaviour in any establishment that serves the public. The problem is, disruptive children in inappropriate settings is pretty predictable. Therefore, I can see the wisdon of a "No Children" policy. Like FG said, Little Lord Fauntleroy gets left out but, too bad.

Even if a separate "family room" is available, that shouldn't excuse the behavior of disruptive children. But I can see that that might be a temporary solution around the holidays when parents are more likely to trot out the whole family to a restaurant. I can see a situation where a restaurant with a "No Children" policy might be able to designate a day or two around the holidays as a "Family Day" and advertise that as such to patrons ahead of time and being sure to notify patrons that are making reservations... "Yes, Mrs. Gotrocks. We have a reservation available that day. But we do need to inform you that that day is our annual family day. Is that still acceptable to you?" I actually think I have seen something like that.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Taking a very young child to a high end restaurant may not constitute child abuse, but it is cruel, thoughtless and inappropriate for the child and for the other diners. And why on earth would parents want to ruin their own night out by bringing their child along?

Exactly. I need to learn the art of brevity. :wacko::biggrin:


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Taking a  very young child to a high end restaurant may not constitute child abuse, but it is cruel, thoughtless and inappropriate for the child and for the other diners. And why on earth would parents want to ruin their own night out by bringing their child along?

Exactly. I need to learn the art of brevity. :wacko::biggrin:

Nah. Your contributions are always well thought-out, and it's nice to follow your thought process.

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Each of our two children accompanied me to high end restaurants once or twice when they were very young, basically under three months. They slept, nursed, slept, nursed...and we had lovely relaxing dinners. I remember one leisurely lunch with my two day old daughter with particular fondness. At that age infants are about as intrusive as hand luggage, certainlyl less trouble than many of my fellow diners.

Beyond that age (or whatever age the child is when he/she decides to wake up and notice the rest of the world), absolutely not. My children are now 10 and 13, but even then I wouldn't take the 10 year old to a really high end place because she wouldn't appreciate the food (despite her behavior being perfect, right down to correct use of a fish knife). My 13 year old, on the other hand, has developed an appreciation of really great food and would be great at Citronelle or any other high end place.


Can you pee in the ocean?

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Children tend to behave better when confronted by strangers than by their parents.  When in the same vicinity as crying, badly-behaved children, I will more often than not talk to them.  It tends to shup them up quite quickly, since they are usually quite surprised to hava a stranger speak to them.  When I say "talk to them" I do not mean (necessarily) in an angry or scolding manner.  If a child is throwing food around, for example, I might say, "Are you throwing food?  [child stops and stares] Do you like throwing food?  [child might nod] Other people here don't like it so much.  Maybe you should stop."  All said with a calm and light-sounding voice.  It works more often than not with most children, but there will always be those who will burst out crying, instead  :biggrin:

I don't think parents should take small children to high-end restaurants, and it is certainly appropriate for staff to ask parents to remove misbehaving children. I would be furious, however, if another diner took it upon him/herself to speak to my child about the child's behavior. You can speak to your waiter, you could speak directly to the parents if you felt comfortable doing so. But I do not think it is at all appropriate for you to intervene with a child when the parents are there. Even if you wished to kindly offer a pen and paper from your purse to distract the child, it should be offered to the parents first. Dealing with the child's behavior is the parent's role, not a stranger's.


Hungry Monkey May 2009

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Laurie, I think all bets are off if the parent declines to exercise his/her reponsibility to control the child, though I do agree that the parents and not the child are really the ones at fault when a child is disruptive and not taken out of the room by the parents.

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What about celebrities? What if Madonna or someone like that shows up with kid in tow? Mark, would Citronelle ask her to leave?

If a no kids rule is on place it should apply to everyone but surely these rules are broken all the time for famous people.


Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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Dealing with the child's behavior is the parent's role, not a stranger's.

-and-

One thing to realize, in my experience a poorly behaved child in a restaurant is not a pleasant experience for the parents either.

True on both counts.

However what I've been witness to is an increased, general lack of the parents' interest in even noticing the child's inappropriate public behaviour. :angry:

:sad:

[again not in fine dining such on the level of the above aforementioned restaurants, but at moderate to high-ish end/better dining and anywhere else parents have children in tow.]

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I just knew when I started to read this topic that it would be one that would turn my face beet red before I was done. As I do have very strong opinions on this subject. I believe we tend to see chicken tenders on childrens menu's in restaurants because we as parents have pretty much instilled in the mind of restaurant owners that this is what are children want to eat.

Pretty much my opinion is in the same ballpark as docsconz.

Should babys be in high end restaurants? Well that depends upon the parents. If you are the type of parent who believes that everybody around you should tolerate a crying baby while dining, then likely not. My youngest daughter Brianna, now two has already been to: Babbo, Django in Philly, when she was a infant. While most of the time she slept threw the meals, there were moments when she started to cry that I had to step outside to soothe her. But that is daddys job? Isn't it? If I wished to sit in a restaurant and ignore my crying child then maybe I should not of had children. My other children Robbie 13, and Renee 11, have been dining in fine restaurants most of their life. At Babbo my son started with the lambs tongue salad. Then went on to the calfs brain ravioli, and Rabbit alla Cacciatora, and loved every mouthful. He and I also dined at Blue Hill last year. Which was one of the finest meals we have ever had together. I have no doubt it was a outing with his dad that he will never forget. Dan Barber told me personally that it was a inspiration for him to see my son enjoying his meal so much. My son will also be my dining companion at Per Se when it opens, which we are looking forward too.

I work in a small restaurant in Saratogo, NY that the owner has taking alot of pride in the childrens menu which is not often seen. Not a chicken nugget in sight. If we do not teach are children about fine food and farm fresh ingredients then the next generation will know nothing other then McDonalds and Taco Bell.

RR


Edited by robert40 (log)

Robert R

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Laurie, I think all bets are off if the parent declines to exercise his/her reponsibility to control the child, though I do agree that the parents and not the child are really the ones at fault when a child is disruptive and not taken out of the room by the parents.

Well, can we talk about babies in Movies too. What are these people thinking? I'm going to see "Return of the King" some time in the next few days and I'm fully expecting to see (and hear) crying babies. Talk about being cruel to both the kids and your fellow patrons... Actually, on the "higher end", I've had this happen to me at a Broadway show too.

Getting back to restaurants, what's really odd is the position this puts you in as an observer. If you say something to the parents, they look at you like you are some kind of monster. And I imagine it puts restaurant staff in an even worse position if you ask them to talk to the parents.

Actually, I kind of enjoying watching one person who came in with well behaved kids approach someone who's come with badly behaved kids. And one I run into a lot is where one parent is oblivious and the other peers around the room giving embarassed looks to people.

Recently, I recall a situation where one parent, and three others who looked like an uncle and grandparents were goading a kid to get up and run around the table in circles. The other parent kept trying to calm and sit the kid down and the other four people kept getting her up and coaxing her on. It was no excuse that this was, in fact, not a high-end restaurant. Frankly, there was no excuse for it at all.

I'm not a parent myself, but I'm a fairly active uncle who takes his nieces out all of the time (but no... not to high end restaurants). If they don't control themselves, believe me... they hear about it. It's worked to an extent where the older of them will comment on misbehaving kids in a restaurant herself, "Uncle Jon why is that boy being so noisy"?


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Taking a very young child to a high end restaurant may not constitute child abuse, but it is cruel, thoughtless and inappropriate for the child and for the other diners. And why on earth would parents want to ruin their own night out by bringing their child along?

WOW.

My face just went neon,Time for another cup of coffee. :angry:


Edited by robert40 (log)

Robert R

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If you have EVER been trapped in an enclosed environment for more than an hour (oh, like a trans-continental airplane flight on Delta 2 years ago as was the case with me), you can guess what MY response would be.

My discman ran out of battery juice halfway through the flight and I was forced to endure the ninth circle of hell for at least three hours. :blink::angry:

Soba

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If you have EVER been trapped in an enclosed environment for more than an hour (oh, like a trans-continental airplane flight on Delta 2 years ago as was the case with me), you can guess what MY response would be.

My discman ran out of battery juice halfway through the flight and I was forced to endure the ninth circle of hell for at least three hours. :blink::angry:

Soba

That would make an excellent visual for a battery ad. :wink::laugh:


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Although it's not a high-end restaurant, one of my friends works in a wine bar/tapas restaurant... They allow children but they don't provide child's seats in an effort to keep them out.

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Taking a very young child to a high end restaurant may not constitute child abuse, but it is cruel, thoughtless and inappropriate for the child and for the other diners. And why on earth would parents want to ruin their own night out by bringing their child along?

Consider this possibility:

It isn't even that these people don't *care*. In fact, they do care, and a lot. They just have different priorities from yours.

They are exercising "power" in their otherwise ineffectual lives by inconveniencing everyone around them who is not in a position to object. They get a thrill from the knowledge that their server will be on his/her hands and knees, cleaning up garbage off the floor after they leave. Or that their child was able to intrude on the privacy of other diners, and compromise their enjoyment. Their children are merely acting as willing surrogates for the parents.

And if anyone does object, the parents feign shock that anyone would want to stifle such a sweet, fun-loving child.

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They are exercising "power" in their otherwise ineffectual lives by inconveniencing everyone around them who is not in a position to object. They get a thrill from the knowledge that their server will be on his/her hands and knees, cleaning up garbage off the floor after they leave. Or that their child was able to intrude on the privacy of other diners, and compromise their enjoyment. Their children are merely acting as willing surrogates for the parents.

that seems like a very harsh generalization. and one that is clearly inaccurate a lot of the time.

but i agree that they have different priorities than some others. but don't we all.

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They are exercising "power" in their otherwise ineffectual lives by inconveniencing everyone around them who is not in a position to object. They get a thrill from the knowledge that their server will be on his/her hands and knees, cleaning up garbage off the floor after they leave. Or that their child was able to intrude on the privacy of other diners, and compromise their enjoyment. Their children are merely acting as willing surrogates for the parents.

that seems like a very harsh generalization. and one that is clearly inaccurate a lot of the time.

but i agree that they have different priorities than some others. but don't we all.

People like this are surely not the majority, just the most irritating ones. They set a bad example for those that are merely easily led.

Having been married to a person who regularly pulled passive-aggressive stunts designed to inconvenience people, preventing them from objecting without looking bad, I have a little experience with the type.

Things like this happen.

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