Kids in restaurants: What more can possibly be added to the conversation on this grisly topic? What are the chances of any new pithy insights, useful anecdotes or even a side serving of a modicum of wit? Hell if I know, but I’m going to give it my best shot.
Every once a while a restaurant will make the national news because they do something daring like “banning” children under the age of six. That’s old news by now, even though the practice didn’t exactly become the norm.
So, unfortunately, we’re all desensitized to fine dine experiences that include the boorish behavior of other people’s kids. I dare say, bad form. Especially on top of all the other usual nonsense like cell phones, loud mouths, drunks and cigarette smoke.
But there’s a particular variant of this that was recently brought to my attention by the kindly staff at a local eatery the other night: When the kids aren’t just fellow guests but are owned, operated, sponsored and provided by the restaurant itself.
Duh, duh, duh!!!
I guess we could think of them as the amuse-bouche of upgrade comps. Now that’s a hot ticket!
A family owned restaurant can be a wonderful place. Once, in San Pedro, California, we stopped in for a late dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was just before closing and we didn’t want to impose but they welcomed us in. The food was delicious. It was one of the best meals we’ve ever had.
While we ate, they closed up, locked the door, and family began arriving in droves. They rearranged the setup while we watched from the corner and soon La Famiglia had filled every seat. We felt like outsiders but their smiles and actions made it clear they didn’t mind having us around.
Musical instruments came out and we were witness to some old world festivities and charm. Even I, the grump, had a good time. It was some enchanted evening.
That kind of family experience is pretty cool.
On the other hand…
There’s something about a kid in diapers suckin’ on a binky behind the counter that’s a real turn off to the experience of shoving kibble down my throat.
We get it. You wanted to have children and run a restaurant, all at the same time. That’s only natural. We all want things. And we also understand that you refuse to provide day care or other options for the kids and that you think a restaurant is a suitable location for their upbringing. You just can’t put a price tag on being bored shitless out of your ever-lovin’ gourd while mom and dad work.
We also understand that, being a restaurant, the diner experience is, of course, utterly secondary to the ensconcing totality of your wonderful children. And it’s easy to see why, too. They are a delight.
Kid 1: “This video game is so stupid!!!”
Kid 2: “Gimme that thing! It’s my turn!!!”
And all in voices louder than a Boeing 787 on fire while taking off.
There’s something delicious about the unquenchable thirst of the totally ignored life form. You are wise to put something like that on display for your guests to enjoy.
Sure, I could have walked away from your restaurant with heartwarming notions of food, service, ambiance and experience dancing in my head, but you wisely supplanted all that. Well played! I, for one, am pleased to proffer a toast to your extreme hubris. I also enjoy tilting at windmills. It’s so very clever to extinguish all of that useful crap and replace it with memories of your kids.
And it’s not just the kids, either. The whole family was there. Grandpa, who talks to restaurant staff the whole time. You just can’t fault your server spending all of their time on him rather than us, the humble patrons. All told, there were at least six family members hanging around. And rather than using some secretive back room, they put it all out there in the middle of the dining area – just ten feet away! And rather than talking in polite tones using indoor voices, they acted as if they owned the place, practically shouting every single word. So much fun that I couldn’t hear my wife who was three feet from my own face. And did I mention we were the only customers?
Come to think of it, perhaps that was a sign. Perhaps the lack of customers indicates your check-out-our-family approach to restauranteering may not be ideal? I’m just floating out ideas here.
Silly me. I just wanted a pleasant meal at exorbitant prices, not a ticket to the reunion of a family I don’t even know. What was I thinking? Lucky for you I’m too nice to do this on Yelp. Instead I do it here for the whole world to see, but at least I’m not mentioning your name.
No, I won’t Yelp it to hurt you. I’ll just make a mental note to stay the hell away and slink off into the night. My family is bad enough. Why the hell would I want some of yours? Except for that Italian place in San Pedro. They can adopt me if they want. Oh, momma!