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January 20, 2014

Should Kids Be Allowed In Nice Restaurants?

Did you hear about the chef who suggested some restaurants not allow kids? Leslie is one of our VPs and had a quick, personal reaction to this controversial topic. Whose side are you on?

Blog-bringing-your-kids-to-the-restaurantWhen my son, Casey, was two weeks old, my husband and I started taking him to restaurants, including fancy restaurants. He’s now nearly three and a half, and has learned valuable benefits from our nights out.

So when I read of Chef Grant Achatz from one of Chicago’s finest eateries starting the debate of banning children from his restaurant, I had a strong response – to both him and the couple who caused the uproar at his 3-Michelin-starred restaurant Alinea, which costs between $210 and $265 per person for a tasting menu – without drinks! And, they charge this rate when you book the reservation, leaving you to try to sell your seats if you can’t make it.

His tweet:

Tbl brings 8mo.Old. It cries. Diners mad. Tell ppl no kids? Subject diners 2crying? Ppl take infants 2 plays? Concerts? Hate saying no,but.. (@Gachatz)

My thoughts:

Those parents should have removed the child. Or, they should have sat at the bar, which can be more boisterous, and drown out noise from a fussy kid. But they should still be allowed to come to the restaurant as a family.

My primary reason for dining “à trois” is that my husband and I both work full-time, and want to spend every meal with our son. But we also enjoy nice meals and want our son to appreciate amazing food. So, we started taking him with us, at a very young age. And no, that doesn’t mean chain restaurants.

Granted, these haven’t been the most romantic meals. There have been nights in which my husband eats his dinner first – while I walk Casey around outside. And then I eat. We’ve also spent the time playing games, and pulling out toys to keep Casey occupied in between hasty bites, rather than talking to each other.

Yes, that has happened. But we’ve also had some lovely nights as a family. When our son was younger, we would choose restaurants, by design that were more active (either due to a happening bar scene or other dynamics) that made it a place where we knew our child's speaking voice (but not a crying voice) would be within the acceptable range and not any louder than the conversations at other tables.

Doing this, we’ve taught Casey the value of great food – and also fantastic table manners. As a three year old, he has a great level of patience and we receive many compliments from our fellow diners on how well behaved he is at the dinner table. On an average night out, he can now sit and have a family conversation, or play with his trains or drawing pad after he eats.

But I strongly feel it’s the parents’ responsibility to make sure that the child is behaving in a way that is appropriate for the restaurant.  It’s no different than an adult stepping out of a restaurant if their phone rings.  People at places like Alinea pay a lot of money to have a fantastic, often romantic, dining experience, and a loud or crying child can ruin it. This couple was brave for trying it with an 8-month old, a difficult age, but they should have figured out a way to take shifts, if he was fussy.

But by all means, people with kids should not be afraid of attending concerts, parties and high-end restaurants with their babies, and kids – and consider it a teaching opportunity for the whole family.

Do you agree? Would you take your baby to a fine dining restaurant? Or, do you think those parents should be asked to leave?
 
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Comments

Debi

Great article. I too took my young children to wonderful restaurants. But my children were foodies very young and enjoyed behaving well, really just showing off how grown up they were. They now take their children as well to wonderful places. And if they fuss or otherwise disturb others, they get up and immediately take the children out. Unfortunately, some parents are not as diligent and can ruin a evening out.

I would not be offended if a very expensive place chose to be children free. Too many times it is a luxury for a couple to go there and to risk having it disrupted by a noisy or crying little one would be a sad outcome.

G

Although I am sure you were respectful of other diners, many parents are not as considerate. Even if you are respectful and you remove your infant/toddler when s/he fusses, the disruption that leads up to that point is annoying enough to ruin someone's meal at a high-end establishment. This country has enough restaurants with quality ambiance and food that is appropriate for little ones. Children should learn table manners at home and at family restaurants. I have two pre adolescent sons. They love food and they love dining at restaurants but we didn't take them to higher end establishments until our youngest was about 6. It's not fair to the people who paid for babysitters and or childless couples who are paying a premium for a night of quiet, gastronomic fun. I am all about including kids in life and teaching through example. Some times it's best for a child to understand that his/her mom and dad (or mom and mom or dad and dad) need a night out alone. If parents want the family experience, find a family restaurant. I guarantee one is right around the corner.

Heather

I'm mixed on this one. (I have four boys, just so everyone does not jump on me for "obviously" having no kids). I have taken my sons to restaurants with me when they were infants, BUT my kids had infant personalities of angels (they slept through the night at a month, and I once took a two month old to a WORK conference and everyone was flabbergasted at the total lack of disruption). I think this depends on the personality of the child whether what you did would work. For some kids, the tradition of teaching the manners at home and THEN taking them to the restaurant is really the only tolerable thing to do. For others, family restaurants might be okay but not a truly fancy one where the guests are paying $100 or more for a meal. Frankly, though, I think this might be a class thing. For me, $100-300 for just one sitting is a ridiculous amount of money that I would only be doing on an extremely rare special event, and I certainly would NOT be doing it in turns. There just is not the need to waste that kind of money. Also, consider that if you are not rich enough to be throwing around that money to train your children in public, others around you might be out on a dinner that happens once a year or once in five years or even a lifetime, and they were stuck listening to a fussy child or a child throwing a tantrum or whatever. I am very sympathetic to these situations - we've all been there(preschool years were not so angelic here), but there is a responsibility to consider that a young woman/man proposing to his/her future wife/husband might be looking for a particular atmosphere, and getting food thrown in your face by a fellow guest might not be the memory you were trying to create. I think that restaurants have a right to try to meet the needs of these customers and if that is the atmosphere they are promising... Well, BEHAVED children ONLY. (If you want to offer a variety of foods, eat out together in peace and take some home, or cook it yourself, or goodness there are so many different options)... That said, it sounds like YOU were respectful of others and if that is how you want to spend your money that is up to you... but what works for one does not always work for everyone.

staciejung

Hi,
First,I don't understand what a 2 week old infant is doing in public at all. He shouldn't be out with possibly infectious people until he's at least 6 weeks old.
That said, I think it would depend on the child. My dd, we found out later, has an ASD, and she was a nightmare, not only in restaurants, we couldn't even bring her to church! The hustle bustle made her crazy and she'd scream and cry. Her twin brother on the other hand, loved the activity and people and would smile at everyone and was a total joy.
So my opinion is it depends on the kid. If it's too much effort and the kid's crying his heart out, for god sake, make dinner at home, or go to a "family restaurant," or get take out.

laura

I feel that there are some places I should not see children...I understand the concept of taking them out to teach them about certain experiences but unfortunately there will be some parents who will sit there with a screaming crying child and intern ruin the occasion for other diners.
this is a debate that I have been having with my sister for years. she takes her daughter everywhere and unfortunately my niece is ill mannered, spoiled and when she was a baby she cried a lot. I guess I was lucky because my son did not cry alot, and we taught him manners at a very early age. he's 5 now, extremely polite and well behaved but he does not need to go everywhere we go. everyone does not feel the same way about my children as I do or children in general so I'm not going to impose them on every situation.
this is my personal opinion and while I do see and understand the merits of others opinions about taking their children everywherethis is what works for me and my husband.

AnitaG

The problem is not the children, it's the parents. We all know that too many of today's parents fail to parent their children: fail to teach them manners, fail to discipline, etc. Even "family" restaurants should not allow small children to stand or jump(!!) on the benches/seats, run around the room, or scream because they're not getting what they want. Even if I'm spending just $20/person, I shouldn't have to put up with that. If restaurant staff will not enforce some reasonable standard rules of behavior for parents who are too stupid or lazy to do it themselves, we will complain to management and NOT go back.

Parents: PARENT your children!

Melissa

I agree when my oldest was born we asked for dining advice. We were told to go to big boy and that is the only place to go or other family chain restyrants. Who wants to be locked down there eating cheese sticks and blooming
Onions for years. So we just started tAking our son to nice resturants not just for the food but also like you we both worked full time and wanted to spend our fre time with our son. Sometimes he was better then others but more often then not he was great and we had many people remark on how good he was. We now take our one yeR old out too with just about the same results. I don't think kids should be banned so much as parents should be responsible for their children's behavior. Resturants especially a 200 a person restirant should not shy away from
Asking parents to remove unruly children.

Laura

My son is now almost 15 years old, and we took him along to a wide-range of places beginning at a very young age. He too gained much knowledge and experience from this. That being said, an 8-month-old baby does not belong in a 3-star restaurant. The infant is not going to learn anything by that particular experience. Parents need to have some common sense and general consideration for others when they choose to take their children out and about. Often today people seem to focus on what they feel they are entitled to do or say, while pushing aside simple courtesy for others. When my child was capable of conducting himself like a little gentleman, then--and only then--was he allowed to go to a high-end restaurant.

Kim

Fully agree that kids should not be banned, but parents need to be courteous of other diners and if the child is causing a fuss, the parents should step out. The same goes with other situations - drives me crazy when I am at a school concert or program to watch my child and a parent feels that they are ok to let their child act like brats and not leave the room. It actually astonishes me when parents do not act quickly - I would take my child out as soon as possible out of respect for other people and use it as a teaching moment. Maybe that's why I get calls from teachers out of the blue telling me how polite and respectful my kids are.

Sean D

We bring our 9 month old girl pretty much anywhere we go to eat (we even will sit at the bar with her); like you mention it teaches her to socialize and how to act/behave when eating out. We've brought her to some higher end places, but we go with the understanding that if she doesn't behave properly we'll have to leave early since we believe that is not fair to others around us to have to deal with a crying baby or a toddler having a temper tantrum.

For Alinea(and his other restaurants), it's a long meal(2+ hours), expensive and a place that kids I personally believe should not go, and Grant and any restaurant owner should be able to place restrictions on ages.

It's part of life with a child, you don't get to do everything you did before, but you get to go to Chuck E' Cheese and not look creepy.

Robert

Father of 5 girls here. Sorry, I completely agree with the chef on this one. This is one of those topics where speaking from your own experience is irrelevant. Bottom line: the majority of children do not get disciplined like they used to, have no manners, and do not belong in fine establishments where some folks maybe enjoying a fancy night out for the only time ever. Even if you have enough money to it, be considerate to the people who don't. To some people, that dinning experience is an event in their lives and having to hear i'll mannered kids would just be awful. I'm one of those men who save and plan a dinning occasion for my wife so I know I would be upset if it were to be ruined by a fussy kid. Lastly, I see some comments stating "only if your kids are well mannered". How would the restaurant know? Take the parents word? Kids don't wear signs? Having the restaurant guess or take the parents word for it would never work. Just my two sense.

Ken

The problem is not that nice restaurants are not for children, but rather that some children are not for nice restaurants. It is a parent's responsibility to know his children; and if they are not mature enough, at any age, to act appropriately in a setting such as a restaurant then they should not bring them to that venue.

Anna

Having 2 children, I completely understand if a very high end expensive restaurant doesn't allow children. I wouldn't want to waste money on such a meal where we would eat in turns or need to attend to kids' needs all the time. There are resorts for couples only, why shouldn't be restaurants for adults only?
I take my daughter to restaurants all the time, including some very nice ones. She generally behaves and is not noisy. Still it is up to a certain level of restaurants. Since there are two of them now, I think twice and limit myself more. And this is what some parents don't understand. There is a fine line that depends on the age/ behavior/ number of children/ time of the day and a type of establishment. So when some parents don't use best judgement, it can be offensive to other people, who pay a lot of money to enjoy a special meal or maybe left their children with a sitter.

Joy

I have four children; when my oldest was a baby we took him out to eat with us often. We would put him in his pajamas and he would be asleep in his stroller by the time the appetizers arrived. That being said, these were not 3-star restaurants. I think even the sight of an infant or toddler would likely upset some at a fancy eatery. Also, if my husband and I had to "take shifts" in order to get through a meal -- we'd have rather stayed home. My children are older now; we now have the opportunity to go out to nice restaurants without children in tow. As much as I love spending time with them, I also enjoy a child-free evening with my husband & would frankly be annoyed by a child making a fuss at a nearby table. So, I agree with the chef's proposed policy.

Mark

The bottom-line is it totally depends on the personality and behavior of your child. I have a three-year-old son who can't sit still for more than 15-20 minutes and a four-year-old daughter who could sit there politely for an hour. So it is up to the parents to determine whether or not their kids can behave. With that said a high-end restaurant should be allowed to establish guidelines for no kids or if you bring a child and they misbehave then the staff may ask you to leave and charge you for a full meal. That puts the onus on the parents to take responsibility. I personally wouldn't take a chance on one of my kids misbehaving and paying over $200 for meal. I'll save that for parents night out or when the kids are older.

Jackie

I am a mother of three and not only do I work in a fine dining establishment but I like to enjoy taking my children out to dinner occasionally. Even though my children are well behaved when they go out, there are places I would not take them just because if they want to talk a little louder (as children do) make a joke, laugh and generally be children (and this has nothing to do with manners) I do not not want to have to tell them to be quiet when they are doing nothing wrong, just because the restaurant is a quieter establishment. I would choose to not bring them. I also think that any restaurant that puts an age limit on it would become more appealing, especially to those couples, like myself, that pay good money for a sitter to go out and get away from the children for a night, to not have to listen to other peoples children, which as a parent is worse than listening to your own.

Shawn

Hi,
We've also been taking our son (now 4) dining with us where-ever we go since he was born. This includes fine dining. He has always been an easy kid, so it was never a problem for us, and we also got many great compliments on his table manners. We then had our daughter (now 20months). She is what we call "a spirited" child. Much more difficult to predict than our son ever was. She is much more willful, and has been from a very young age. That said, we still go to fine dining as a family, and it sometimes ends up ruining our experience, but we never let it ruin the other patrons experience. We may take the whole meal distracting her, or getting up and walking around, etc... It is up to the parents to ensure the other patrons are respected - that is well out of the realm of a childs ability.
That said, I do agree with Robert above that most children are not disciplined as they used to be. I am not talking physical punishment, but just a level of parental authority that no longer exists for many parents. Since it is impossible to tell which parents are and are not in control of their kids, it is hard to argue with some finer restaurants banning children. I would honestly be very mad about it, but mostly mad at the parents, not the restaurants. If parents were better at disciplining their children and teaching them how to behave in different situations (granted a very difficult task), then it wouldn't even be considered by the restaurants. Restaurants are in the business of making money, and turning away patrons with kids is still turning away patrons, and their money - they wouldn't do so without good cause.
Shawn

Gina Vaughn

I grew up in the restaurant business. My parents owned restaurants my whole life, and I even went to school to get my culinary arts degree because I love food so much. However in working in both family style and upscale restaurants I have seen all kinds of parents! Some people really don't care if their child is disrupting the people around them because they only care that they are paying to eat. I have two children under the age of two... My daughter cannot sit still in a restaurant setting and my son can. We don't go to upscale restaurants only because when you get up and down and walk in and out it is a disruption to those around you. Not to mention if your child gets away from you they can trip a server whom is carrying very very hot food and severely hurt someone. I'm saying this from personal experience... This happened to a server I worked with and the child was severely burned and the restaurant sued... Now how is that fair when the parents didn't take responsibility of their child running around. So this is an issue I am very passionate about, and torn over. I have seen children like Leslie's that are amazing! So know your child and TAKE RESPONSIBILITY!! It's not fair to the people around you if you can't control your child... Just like my daughter.... Some children are just more rambunctious and need to be a bit older before expected to sit for a longer periodic time.

Valerie

There have been countless times my husband & I arranged for a sitter so we could go enjoy a kid free meal. Only to be sat next to a family with unruly kids who totally ruin our romantic evening. I don't feel anyone should ever be totally banned from anything ever. And in this experience maybe their sitter canceled at last minute & since they already prepaid they felt they had no choice. But most people are not remotely considerate of their fellow diners. If we can't get our kids settled then one loads them in the car & the other grabs the doggy bags & check. We are very sensitive to the others who paid someone to watch their kids . Why should they have to listen to mine? Yes, I feel they should have been given a warning & then asked to leave. I think it's great that people take their kids places-if they behave. Tantrums should be reserved for the playground & supermarket.

Carole

I was born and raised in France, and frankly, it is not an issue over there. The bottom line is that If this is important enough to parents that children behave well in restaurants, they will, it just has to be enough of a priority (like not crossing the street without looking). Children are part of society, they are not wild animals and should not behave like them... they should be taught manners (and you can never start too young) AND be welcomed in nice restaurants. Children should be taught the value of good (and healthy) food and experiencing fine dining is part of this education... I simply would not continue to go to an establishment that would exclude my son (now 4 years old).

We have always taken him to restaurants, including very expensive ones, and he has always behaved very well. When he doesn't, we take him outside immediately and discipline him, but this is exceedingly rare (because he loves the experience and the food), and we very often get lavish praise from other diners (the same ones who gave us 'looks' when we came in because we have a little kid). I think it would not be ok for nice restaurants to exclude children just because some parents are too rude or ineffective to take the right course of action when this type of situation arises. And believe me, it is not because I have a child myself that I am any less annoyed when this happens at a nearby table. I too want to enjoy my dinner with my well-behaved child.
For parents of very young children, make sure your child is well-rested and not ravenous (babies especially should be on a very predictable eating and sleeping schedule) when going to the restaurant, and bring some quiet and non-intrusive activities if they are too young to make conversation. Teach your child to obey you (what a concept, right?), have table manners at home, and to speak in a soft voice....

Steve

The REAL bottom line is this: what gives you the right to ruin a meal that I am paying for - expensive or not - with your screaming, crying, bad-tempered child?

To avoid the scorn of someone like me, who WILL breakout a bullhorn and taunt you in public or light up a cigarette at your table, then remove your screaming/crying child IMMEDIATELY. Don't make 100 other people suffer at your inconsideration and laziness. Get your butt up and take the child to the bathroom, waiting area, or outside to your car and keep them there until their behavior improves. THAT is the lesson - how to properly behave in public.

Finally, while restaurants shamelessly allow patrons with children to sit in the bar area (even AT the bar itself), know this.. the bar area should be an ADULTS ONLY area. In fact, it's one of the few places adults should be able to go in public without the presence of children. If your child sits next to me at or in the bar area, don't be surprised if they get an earful, because I will not change my language in the presence of children in a bar. In fact, I'm likely to start talking like a sailor just to prove my point.

Use some not-so-common common sense. We have rights too.

Maria

My hubby is a chef so we have to go out all of the time. We now have a 6 month old that has been going to restaurant since his 2 week mark. Yes, 2 weeks. He is a friendly kid and understands that we all have to eat BUT if he starts to whimper, complain or cry, my husband or I take him outside the restaurant. I consider it RUDE if you didn't. My baby is awesome, but you can't jeopardize someone else's dining experience. Take the baby outside, then return once he's mellowed out. This always works for me and my hubby. I don't agree with not letting little ones in restaurants I don't, but also, bringing a child ( at whatever age) requires a parent to be conscienscious of others who are there to enjoy as well.

Luciana

Yes, allow the kids. Kids are part of life, they are part of the world. They are not a nuisance, they are sometimes loud, but we have all been kids. Of course have manners and common courtesy, show respect for the people around you. Remove the child that is out of control. Leave if you have to. But sometimes a newborn might fuss and the parent might not be able to remove herself soon enough for you. Parents of small kids should have a pass, as long as they have some common courtesy and do not take all the space. People that don't have kids don't get it. Sometimes I see them saying things that sound like you should be punished and banned from society because your kid does not behave as an adult. That's just silly.

Cela

We very rarely eat out, it is too expensive and I can make anything at home that tastes just as good and is considerably cheaper. My children are extremely well behaved, we get complemented in their behavior when ever we do go out. They have been in nice restaurants, even as infants. If my husband and I wanted to go to a very nice dinner, it is usually because we want to have a date night. If I am spending a ridiculous amount of money to eat at a fancy restaurant , am paying for a babysitter, and intending for an adult night out. I don't want to she subjected to someone else's unruly or whiny child. As a former restaurant worker, including fine dining, I can attest that most kids are not as well behaved as mine and a lot of parents tune out their screaming kids or ignore them. It makes a terrible experience for the other patrons which is usually taken out on the wait staff. So if your kid is screaming, it could effect the servers tip. I think that as a private business, they have a right to say what kind of atmosphere they want. If that means they want an adults only space, then people who want to go there can get a babysitter for the evening or chose somewhere else.

Lori

I raised 6 children and have 3 grandchildren and I'm in my early 50's. Although I appreciate that some parents may wish to teach their children manners and have them enjoy some of the finer tastes available at high end restaurants, being out in public means that we have to be considerate of others when we are there. As much as we all love our kids, let's be honest -- they are not always well behaved and can pick the most inconvenient times to be ornery. For this reason, I did not take my kids to places where their conduct would interfere with the enjoyment of others. If you want to teach your children manners, it can be done anywhere including McDonald's and home. I completely understand why people unaccompanied by children don't want to be disturbed while they are dining, going to movies, etc. Even people who have children and are out on their own without THEIR kids don't want to be disrupted by yours. Folks, when you decide to have a family, there are sacrifices you make and this is a perfect example. Either stay home or get a sitter. Period.

John

I am a former restaurant owner and a parent. When my child was older than 2 1/2, he was old enough to be entertained by my cartoons on paper with crayons and the small toys that we brought. He never cried nor made a scene to bother other diners. I know for a fact that crying children bother diners. I can cook better then most and can eat at home. When I choose to dine in a restaurant it is for the relaxing dining EXPERIENCE and ATMOSPHERE . Whenever I get seated near children, I asked to be reseated because most parents cannot hear their child's cries and it continues throughout my meal. Children under 4 should not allowed in any restaurant other then Dennys.

Mom

I'm sorry but dining out is not teaching your 3 year old anything! ....but with that being said, if you can afford it, by all means take your kid! .... Trust me I have three and we take our children everywhere!!! Yes even Chicago, and my son who was 5 at the time (yes even 5 year old throw massive fits when tired) cried the whole entire time while we ate at Michael Jordan's steakhouse.... You know what we did (and always do) GAVE A BIG FAT TIP! ....of course and the normal apologies, I wanna crawl right under the table kind of thing! DO NOT APOLOGIZE FOR YOUR KIDS! It is not their fault. And it is by far NOT YOUR FAULT EITHER! That whole thing of walking out of a restaurant to give nasty people a break is ludacris.....if they are that bothered by it....they should walk out! Please do this for yourself. Don't try to make it sound nicer by blaming the poor child. He's little and fancy restaurant do take way to long since the food is usually prepared to order. So tired or not they get bored. And they do want you to take them outside to change the scenery, so do not fall for this trap. Or you will never eat diner at table as a family at least not in the next 5 years....cause YES even 8,9 and 10 year old throw fits. ....trust me I have Three and it hasn't stopped! And they have been fine dining since probably a week old. My husband and I do it for us. We like fine dining and we can afford it. And we take our kids because we are a family. And we go everywhere together! So please don't try to tell me that your child is learning a valuable lesson from dining out.....because he truly is not!

Russ Garrison

Nice article and responses. Smokers and small children are the same in one respect, it only takes one to totally ruin the atmosphere of a place. You can rationalize all you want but if I am looking at a check of over $100.00 for two, I do not want to have to see or listen to your children. Frankly, I would like to see two sided establishments where children were separated form us older folks.

Mmh

I admire a parent/parents who want to expose their children to quality culinary fare and if the children are well behaved, then they should be allowed to dine in fine dining restaurants, as my parents did just that and I appreciate the culinary and cultural diversity that is available. HOWEVER, the key here is WELL BEHAVED. If the child is fussy or ill mannered, then the parent has an obligation to the other patrons who are also paying top dollar to dine there and are not there to be subjected to a playground or daycare atmosphere.

Let's be adults here and be accountable for one's obligation to others to not have to endure a tantrum or crying from your precious child. Yes, your child is precious, but please let others enjoy their evening without ill behaving youngsters. If they are well behaved, then the other patrons will admire and enjoy having your children there too. This is the same courtesy that should be given at other outings such as sophisticated theatre and musical events and even shopping excursions. Please show the world that you and your children have manners and proper upbringing to behave in public and the public will applaud you.

Baby Mama

I agree with all the folks who san go ahead and ban children. I have one and would never dream of brining him to an expensive restaurant until he has consistently demonstrated his ability to behave. Just because you love your child, it doesn't mean everyone else does or should be expected to tolerate your child/childrens' "adorableness". Parents need to be respectful of others and not see having children as an entitlement to disrupt others. This goes for flying too. I'd be all in favor of a "family" section.

PS - Nice smoking analogy Russ!

Leslie

Wow, thank you to everyone for the thoughtful comments and for sharing your insights and experiences! I am enjoying reading all of your stories. Although clearly, not everyone shares my opinion on this issue, I really appreciate and value that so many of you have taken time to express your thoughts and advice on what has or hasn't worked for your families.

Camille

Oh, and my goodness, please have the crazy, screaming, low tipping, drunk adults stay home too! Oh, wait, restaurants can't predict human behavior and full scale ban a certain group of individuals??? They can't??? The point is, banning all children bc a few have cried during dinner, and banning all adults wearing a Senor Frog tee-shirt bc one previously hurled allover the bar, yelled at the next table, and denigrated the wait-staff, is highly discriminatory. I know, not discrimination protected by the Civil Rights Act per se, but discrimination based on stupidity, and on a level that will cause restaurants to lose revenue from families. All restaurants should open their doors to all patrons, with the hope that that they don't have screaming babies or screaming big babies frequenting their establishment at any given time, but that's the chance you take. Just don't ban a full group because of the behavior of a previous few...and trust me I've seen more adult big babies mis-behave at bars and restaurants, cause danger and dis-comfort, loudly crying and fighting, than any sweet little 15 pound bowl of cuteness has ever done. My son is extremely well behaved, and I hope that he isn't prejudged because a few other babies ruined your dinner by crying and throwing food. Don't ban the babies!!!! Some of these posts are so full of anger, and I hope it isn't your hatred of kids that causes such angry rants, but perhaps you are haunted by a bad infant/toddler/kid/tween experience to the point that there may be a point in your rants. However, I like to see such open dialogue on any blog! Kudos to you all!

Eugene

When it comes to infants, proper discipline and manners (as mentioned in some other posts), are not yet applicable. It depends on the disposition of the baby. The tweet was about an 8 month old. Both of my kids at that age were very interested in food. Already able to sit, not yet able to walk, they were exploring what various foods taste like, and were not yet old enough to turn their nose at them because it did not resemble a familiar pizza or mac n cheese. With only one child, and one that was that particular age, it may have possibly been a reasonable expectation they would behave. That said, the article's analogy to stepping out to take a phone call is spot-on -- should there be any fussing, one of us would similarly step outside to figure out what the child's needs are.

Heather

I have a four year old daughter whom we have taken to many things since she was young including high end restaurants, concerts, theatre, both in U.S. and Europe. She has been demanding on some of these occasions but we were always prompt to "distract" her with walking or looking around, etc. Now at only 4, she is often better than some other diners or theatre goers. I know she may not be the norm, but I also think our society needs to lighten up on the segregation idea of children. For a "PC" country which takes discrimination seriously, I don't understand how this doesn't fall into that category. I see discriminating against children going to restaurants the same as discriminating against an older person who talks loudly because he can't hear, or a handicap person, etc. I have come across more unpleasant adult diners than kids. The "behaving" element is also a cultural understanding of what good behavior is. If you go to other countries, the integration of children (Italy, Germany, Spain, etc) is oftentimes more natural where every restaurant is "family" because families are more central to the culture in general. Parents definitely need to be considerate, but every loud, unpleasant diner needs to be too. Where would the discrimination stop? No kids in business class? Different bathrooms? Different seats on the bus? I think this is a dangerous thought that would not end well.

Peachy

I am the mom of a 2 year old and 6 month old. I agree with the chef's point of view. It is much easier to issue a general ban of young children rather than deal with parents who don't control their children on a case by case basis. Besides dealing with these parents, the restaurant will have to deal with several complaints from other customers about the unruly children. It sounds like the writer of the article will sacrifice her enjoyment of the evening out to keep her child from being disruptive, but not everybody will do that. People who have their dining experience ruined would likely blame the restaurant for allowing unruly children. I don't blame the chef for wanting to protect his business. A few years ago, I went to a casual sit down restaurant in a casino with a group of friends. In the line to be seated were a bunch of adults with a boy who was screaming at the top of his lungs. They just stood there ignoring him. I was disgusted at the inconsiderate people who just let the kid scream without doing anything about it, but I was also disgusted with the restaurant who sat this family (especially since they sat them near us).

Personally, I wouldn't enjoy bringing my child to a fancy restaurant for selfish reasons. If I spend a bunch of money to eat somewhere fancy, I want to be off mommy duty. I don't want to have to constantly monitor or worry that my children aren't being quiet enough, and I don't want to eat in shifts or wolf down a meal because things are starting to go south with the children's behavior. We've occasionally eaten at casual sit down restaurants with our daughter who is generally well behaved, but it is still a lot of effort to keep her from getting antsy if there is a wait and making sure she doesn't spill things, ect. It is a lot of work. My husband and I only have an occasional nice meal out now, but we hire a sitter. If I am paying a sitter to watch my kids, I certainly don't want to be bothered by somebody else's kids.

leeann yocum

I feel that there is a place for everyone, every child. If the child is rambunctious and busy they would be bored at a fine dinning restaurant and the parents will suffer. Take those kids to chuckee cheese and let them play, well behaved kids are still bored with fine dinning. Kids are made to play and learn, have a great life. I personally think the decision is for the parents, they know their child. But no child should be turned away from a place to get food, maybe the restaurant should have a special room in this case.

Paige Bohannan

I feel like this article is totally right. Kids should not be taken to fancy resteraunts. Most people go to fancy resteraunts to get a break from their children! I'd hate the family I'm caring for come back cranky because they felt they didn't get an actual break.

Patricia

Frankly most children are not taught manners in the USA and when I dine out, as opposed to eating out, the very last thing I want to encounter is a noisy whiny brat anywhere within hearing distance. Should children (or kids as you call them) be permitted in better restaurants? Yes, provided they have been raised appropriately. Otherwise take them somewhere more suitable - they should be happy at McDonalds

Lorna Buckley

I personally only take my children fine dining in afternoons and not evening
This is only due to the fact that I am aware that other patrons have paid to have their hidden looked after to get some quality time out side of family and I too have had many evenings spoilt because of other peoples "spirited " children
As nice as it is to include ones children in adult experiences I'm afraid that
There will always be exceptions to the rule and also exposure to adult conversation etc which is not meant for little ears and impacts upon a night out for others!
It's the same with theatre matinees are excepts le for children but I would question the suitability of an evening performance!
Lorna Buckley

Linda

My feeling is that it should be up to the restaurant to implement a policy that protects their patrons and offers the most comprehensive dining experience. The policy regarding unruly youngsters should be clearly and obviously posted. If children are causing a disturbance, it should be the restaurant staff that quietly asks the offending family to take the noisy one(s) outside until order is restored, and if that doesn't happen, then they should vacate the premises. All uneaten food should be packed up to go; perhaps the "good table manners and marvelous food experience" can then be learned in the comfort of one's own home.

As a society, we must nurture and understand children~~ love them all! But as guardians, we are obliged to instill that actions carry consequences. If we act inappropriately in a given situation, we will have to deal with the aftermath. If families have to leave "nice" restaurants early because a little one acts its age, there should be no shame (only disappointment). Yet, in any civilization, everyone must be civil.

Rita Wauls

I think regardless of age, as one lady stated her 10 year old can be a problem, if a child cannot behave or is a crier,get a sitter or go to a family oriented establishment. An ex Flight Attendant I've seen so many parents not stepping up and making their children behave. I've had to ask more than a few to stop kicking the seat in front of them. At least at a restaurant they can leave, but on the plane...

Marie

My husband and I love to eat out, and now that we have a 5-month-old baby, we've occasionally brought him along- mostly to group dinners/brunches at semi-nice restaurants. He's generally very well behaved (the one time he started fussing, we got him out of there as quickly as we could). And I've actually brought him to happy hour at a bar, when we had a big reserved booth, and he happily bounced on my knee while I had a beer. But personally, we wouldn't take him to a "really nice" restaurant (e.g., L'Espalier, Clio, o ya, etc), simply because the stress would make it less enjoyable for us. What's the point of going out for a really special meal if you have to spend it shushing and soothing and distracting a baby, worrying the entire time that he's bothering people around you? Even at brunch one time, we saw the people next to us roll their eyes when we wheeled him in- like they were expecting him to ruin their meal- even though he was a perfect angel and slept the entire time. So yes, it's partly because of how other people react, but it's just so much more relaxing to get a sitter and enjoy a baby-free night out.

Carol

My spouse and I sometimes enjoy attending events that exclude children. If I could afford an expensive dining experience, I would not want to be subject to an unruly or crying patron--of any age and would expect management to remove the whole party if necessary. I would even like a list of said establishments banning children--we do not have any in our area (sigh).

Having expressed this view--as a grandmother, mother, sister and aunt/great aunt to over 50 children, I have no problem with an “adult’s only” policy. I am generally a tolerant person, but when children are disruptive and unruly and the parents allow such behavior then I blame the parent not the child.

I host an annual Christmas party at my home where children of all ages from birth to 45+ can behave as children will behave.

"...To everything there is a season..."
I would like to think that an "adults only" dining experience will be one. (Grin, tongue-in-cheek.)

Dorothee Fisher

Great article, Leslie. We took our son to all kinds of restaurants when he was younger. With careful planning to go earlier in the evening and bring quiet distractions, we were able to enjoy some amazing meals all the while demonstrating to our son that he is allowed almost anywhere as long as he is very well behaved. He sees coming with us a privilege he values. As a result, at age 7 he has excellent table manners, knows how to order for himself, and uses his "restaurant voice" when at the table. I've seen grownups with less etiquette.

I strongly agree that if the child is loud and can't behave, then the parents need to step in. But families should be allowed to go to nice restaurants if the children can behave. It teaches young ones etiquette and culture, while allowing the family be together.

kt

To all who question why these parents brought their kid to the fine dinning establishment, may have missed that you prepay and cannot get your money back if you have to cancel. their babysitter got sick at the last second so it was give it a good old college try or throw away 600$. To all who are judging it is up to parents to choose where and when to take their children out to eat, but it is their responsibility to ensure that their children are not disturbing the other dinners if you go to a high end place.

ctg

I'm surprised I haven't seen more mentions of time - that is, I feel like pretty much any restaurant would be fine with taking your (well-behaved) kids for dinner before, say 7pm. We take our 4 year old out a lot but we always dine early when she's with us. Looking around most any place when we arrive, it's all kids; the customers coming in when we're paying the check are more kid-free. This is how we avoid being constantly stuck in "family" restaurants (where apparently "family" usually means kids eat fried things and parents get burgers or cheese-covered glop). Our daughter does pretty well in restaurants, but we always carry crayons and stickers to keep her occupied after she finishes. A little "I Spy" goes a long way too. Anyway, I say no little kids in fine dining establishments after 7 or 8, as a rule. (On vacation in Charleston last year we took her to Husk at 8, and let's just say there's no kids menu, but what can you do :) We got her mashed potatoes and a coloring book and it was fine.)

The Alinea people were in a bind with the canceled babysitter, but I agree they should have taken turns strolling outside with her, or maybe even had one stay home. Yes it sucks, but at least it sucks for you alone and not a room full of people who paid the same money as you and didn't have your bad luck. And you have something to hold over the child's head for the rest of it's life" "I missed a $300 meal for you and this is how you repay me???" :)

JG

Wow there's a lot to respond to in this article. A couple of arguments in this article don't hold water. Table manners can be taught at any table anywhere, not just in fine dining establishments and learning to enjoy fine foods is another subject that doesn't hold water. If mom and dad can afford to pay in advance for a six hundred dollar tasting menu, then they can hire a chef and have all the fine dining they want, or even hire a chef or caterer for special occasions. If you happen to be fortunate to have well mannered children, sure take them to a 5 star restaurant, but as fellow humans we need to be more considerate of others and do the right things. I recall taking my two sons to a restaurant when they were less than a year apart, anyway when we got seated they were asleep in the two seat stroller. No sooner had we ordered when one of them woke up, so we requested a high chair. This was ok until the nightmare was unleashed and by that I mean the pounding of hands on the metal high chair tray, which of course woke the other little guy up. So by now our guts were torturing us both, that's when my other son joined the band and gave his simultaneous rendition of this is how we make more noise than is being made in the kitchen. I felt like crawling under the table, and of course our waiter bless his heart took the scenic route to come back to our table, we needed to ask him to please put our food in to go containers so we could, take our band and our stomachs now tied in tight knots and get out of there, before somebody got the idea to start an ugly conversation. I never took my boys to another restaurant until they were in their teens. My desire to go out to a restaurant and eat had been cured. Romantic, If any of this sounds romantic to you, then you are terribly sick and need to seek medical help and maybe a prescription for regular doses of reality. Bottom line is children don't need to go to a fine dinning establishment to learn manners or enjoy finer foods. Most parents need a little couple time, it might make the difference as to them becoming a divorce statistic. That is not to say the family can't go out and eat, as long as eating is the main event and not screaming to the tune of "Are you (lonely)miserable tonight". But and if you are a parent that doesn't mind taking your crying child out for a walk while your spouse and the rest of the patrons enjoy their dinners in near prefect peace, then God bless you for your sacrifice. On the other hand if your the parent who remains intent on eating your food hot and to heck with everyone else, while everyone in the establishment is ambushed by a barrage of terror then may you be rewarded in kind. Remember everyone else in the place paid $300 dollars for their tasting menu also, and I am quite sure it wasn't supposed to include nerve grating rhythm of blood curdling screams or an eternal symphony of crying in E minor. I understand the chefs statements because there are probably a good many people who are not considerate of others and who think only of I, ME and MY. In parting do be considerate of others. Don't confuse being considerate with being tolerant, I can tolerate a cry that doesn't serenade me through the entire evening.

mg

While I do appreciate your article and agree that exposing children to fine dining and allowing them the opportunity to participate is great, I would, however, put such tasting-menu restaurants in a special category. Having been to both of his restaurants in Chicago, Alinea and Next, they are borderline theatrical performances. All tastings are timed form the seating to each coarse so that the servers have time to explain each intricate serving, it's ingredients, origins, the idea behind the art, etc. As the price is set and is expensive, for many diners (myself included) this is a once in a lifetime experience that people save up for with great anticipation. I would not risk my little one distracting us and more importantly other diners. That said, life happens and as another person commented it sounds like their babysitter cancelled. Maybe such restaurants should take these things into consideration and allow a special exception refund or re-booking. I feel for the couple and the restaurant having to make that decision.

Jt

Cruise ships do it...18 and over restaurants that are considered fine dining. No one complains about those restaurants having an age limit. (I have three kids...and love cruising).

Elaine Roberts

My children are grown and have there own now but when they were babies we took them to restaurants starting at about 3 weeks old. We chose the restaurants carefully and very seldom did we attend a chain.
My grandchildren have been brought up the same way because my children remembered how they were treated and yes, the experience of learning table manners, how to behave in restaurants and public places is priceless.
I believe children should be trained on how to act in restaurants providing the parents know this because there are too many parents that act like they never had any training themselves.

RClark

I have 7 children, I don't take my children to these type of places and if I am lucky enough to be able to go to such a place with my husband I don't want to hear other peoples kids either. It's a time just for us. We do plenty of things with the kids this is not one of them.

CG

They have adult only pools at hotels and have adult only hotels, why shouldn't restaurants be allowed to do the same? There are plenty of restaurants to choose from and some patrons just want a quiet dining experience. I personally don't mind others fussy children but that's not for everyone!
I have 3 children of my own who were very well behaved when they were young and now that they are older, it of course is not an issue! Until a parent feels their child can comfortably sit through a dining experience, where the child can keep themselves occupied if need be and not disrupt other patrons, take them to a family restaurant as the "training ground" so everyone can enjoy themselves.

Kam

First, I feel bad for the family. I'm sure they would have liked to sit and enjoy their meal. As parents though it's their job first to see to their child and be considerate of other guests in the restaurant. I think if you are taking a child you must know there is a chance you won't actually be able to sit and enjoy an entire meal. I know there are times we've had to leave or tag-team when our kids were younger.

It really seems to be a question of whether we think kids should get a pass on behavior, because they are kids, or whether they should be held to certain standards of conduct in some public places. Obviously, nobody would have qualms about an adult causing the same disruptions being asked to leave.

I don't believe children ought to behave like adults all the time. They are kids, still learning. For the comfort and enjoyment of other guests certain settings require higher standards of conduct though. That's just the way it is. And being courteous and respectful of those around us is an important skill for everyone. It is the parents' responsibility, if they take children out with them, to ensure their children are not a disruption to those around them, and to remove them if they are. Restaurants need to step in if the parents won't voluntarily attend to a child who is being disruptive.

Carolyn

I think the problem comes because most parents THINK their child is well behaved. What is tolerable and well behaved to you, might not be to the rest of the world. I know few parents who say their children are nightmares and have terrible behavior. If I am paying that kind of money for a dinner, the only child I want sitting next to me is one I don't hear from, not the kid who is banging his truck on the table to keep himself occupied while his parents talk to each other. This might sound mean, but it is not my fault you have a guilt complex about going out to dinner without your child. You have no problem dropping them at daycare so you can work 40 hours a week, but you can't hire a sitter for 4 hours on a Saturday evening? I don't have a problem with kids in a middle priced restaurant (Outback Steakhouse, Applebees etc). They are kid friendly and cater to them. Its just the high end ones that I have to work and entire week to be able to pay for that I have the issue with.

Jenny

Anyone who takes a child to a high end restaurant is crazy. I go to a high end restaurant to have a nice conversation with my husband without kids. I actually recently stopped going out to restaurants because of screaming children. Recently, I went out to a bar at 8:30pm where people were having drinks and playing pool. When I was trying to take a shot, a child ran into me, my cue almost scratched the table. The mother was in the washroom kids left unattended, running around everywhere. You may think, well this is not my kid, but it happens all the time. There needs to be more adult only places.

Eileen

No, I don't believe children should be allowed in these restaurants. Teach them table manners at home. Hire a babysitter you said you remove him if he gets fussy, some parents don't and I shouldn't have to listen that anyway if we am out to enjoy myself. You also said many times you are in shifts so you really aren't eating as a family.

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