The issue of children in a restaurant is always a very touchy subject. It is a sore point both for parents, restaurant owners and patrons alike. Earlier this year, there was a great controversy on the subject when renowned American chef of Alinea Grant Achatz tweeted that guests at his three-star restaurant had taken an eight-month old baby along to dinner. At one point the baby proceeded to cry and the chef said he could hear him from the kitchen. He did not kick them out but he did say that he was considering changing his policy vis-a-vis children in his restaurants.
So when is it legitimate for a restaurant to say it does not accept children under a certain age? What is the definition of a child-friendly restaurant? When is it acceptable to take children to a restaurant and when should it be prohibited? What is the rule for high-end restaurants? Is there a particular age when a child should not be accepted in a restaurant? Where should you draw the line? Should parents with children be relegated to eating in fast-food restaurants?
Anyone who has ever dined with children at home or in a restaurant knows that behaviour is as hard to predict as a tight football match between two good teams. There are some children who are better behaved than others but in general there is no way you can predict how the behaviour will end up being because many factors come into play.
Having two children (one aged nearly six and the other three and a half), I have my fair share of experiences (both good and bad) so this is my personal view on the subject:
- When I am on holiday I tend to be more relaxed about taking children to a restaurant both for lunch and in the evening. Normally we try to find a child-friendly restaurant (this does not mean a fast-food restaurant because we stay away from them) but it is not always so easy. We always ask the restaurant beforehand whether it is ok for children to be there and normally take a very early sitting if we are going for dinner.
- At home, we never take children to eat in a restaurant in the evening, unless we know it is a really child-friendly restaurant. If we decide to go to a child-friendly restaurant, we will go as early as possible.
- When we go out in the evening (without children) we normally want to enjoy a quiet evening out. We therefore choose places which are not considered as child-friendly and expect not to find children in the restaurant.
- Discretion and common-sense are essential.
- Some countries are more child-friendly then others when it comes to accepting children in restaurants. You need to keep this in mind when you are traveling with children.
- On two occasions, while on holiday in France and in Germany, we were not accepted with children in a restaurant at dinner-time. We were told that the place was fully booked even if, in both cases, the restaurants were not full. We understand that not all restaurants accept children. A bit more honesty would have been appreciated.
- On another occasion, in Reims, France with a group of friends we went to book a table for the evening in a Michelin star restaurant with no intention of taking the children though. When they saw the children, the staff told us we were welcome to bring them and that they could prepare a room for us specifically. We finally opted not to take them but it was a great example of good service and flexibility.
- Remember that there are some high-end restaurants which cater for children (even toddlers). Some might have private rooms or enough space to cater for this eventuality. If that is the case, ask beforehand but don’t push the limits.
- Children can easily lose their patience so don’t push their limits especially if it is the evening and they are tired.
- If in doubt, err on the side of caution.
- If you are on holiday, don’t be disheartened and head to the nearest fast-food restaurant. Ask the locals, preferably someone with children and you can be guided to some great places.
- Prepare to have your lunch or dinner ruined.
- Restaurants should be honest about their policy without having to come up with excuses.
If you have views about the subject, drop us a line or else comment below. Let’s get the debate started.
The following is a video made by the New York Times about children in a fine dining restaurant. If you haven’t seen it yet its one to watch.