Is it ok to ban kids from restaurants?

(29 /10 /2015)

This week we welcome guest blogger, Kirsty, mother and business owner for her take on ‘no kids allowed’

As a parent, saying ‘no’ to your kids is a must, a necessary evil perhaps, but absolutely imperative if you want your kids to grow up into polite, socially appropriate adults.  It also helps keep them alive!  And of course, there are many rules that govern adult life so getting used to being told ‘no’ as a child just makes sense.

But is it OK for others to say ‘no’ to your kids especially if it is just to go out for a meal?  It is certainly fine for you to veto a family dinner out but when the restaurant you choose says you can’t bring your kids, how well does that go down?  Plenty of restaurants, cafes, pubs and clubs are now saying ‘no’ to children either banning kids altogether or restricting the times they can be present.  I reckon there are a few sides to this story…

Firstly, diners without kids – whether its because they don’t have any or they’ve been able to organise a baby sitter – just want to enjoy a quite, romantic, peaceful, beautiful (the list goes on) meal without having to listen to crying and whingeing children or almost being taken out by kids running around and going crazy.  I know, I have kids and I’ve been there!  As a parent, a moment alone with your partner at a fancy or even just a nice restaurant really is bliss and to have such an evening marred by ratty kids, certainly leaves a bad taste.  And really, is a fine-dining restaurant at night, the best place to bring kids out for dinner, even if it is for a special occasion?

Now from the business side of things, life is just so much easier and organised when there isn’t a kids’ menu to worry about.  Chefs can concentrate on the big-ticket meals and not concern themselves with chicken nuggets and chips.  The kitchen can keep to time as there’s no need to worry about getting kids’ meals out first to keep them placated.  Wait-staff don’t have to worry about being tripped up by a child when they’re trying to serve an armful of meals.  And without cups of pencils and colouring books, there’s enough room on the table to place meals and drinks.  The other issue is that with kids around there is the potential to lose money.  Diners who feel they are not getting the dining experience they’re expected to pay for, may walk out or skip paying the bill.  And the bad word-of-mouth they will sprout will simply not be good for business.  Is this a risk you can take as a restauranteur in such a competitive industry?

And now we get political.  As a parent, it can be quite enjoyable going out for a family meal and why should families restrict themselves to McDonald’s or Sizzler for a meal?  Shouldn’t families have the opportunity to enjoy fine-dining too?  Yes, it can be hard to keep kids wrangled and at the table, but these days most parents are equipped with iPads, tablets, electronic books which can generally keep kids amused.  Parents also opt for earlier dining sessions so as to avoid late-night tantrums and often, families will asked to be seated to the side of a restaurant to keep the level of disruption to a minimum.

So, what do you think?  Is this a business strategy you have employed or are willing to implement?  Or do you think it is unfair to stop kids enjoying dining-out experiences?  I think there are pros and cons to this one – on one side, I love a meal out without children’s banter in the background but on the other, I loved giving my kids the occasional fine-dining experience as I believe it has made them well-rounded in their food choices.

As a business owner however, banning kids could have dire consequences unless you have done your homework and know who your customers are and what they want.  And you have to be prepared to stand by your choice but do it respectfully so as to avoid bad publicity.  If this is a space you’re interested in, visit other venues that have a ‘no-kids’ rule, talk to the managers and find out what problems they’ve had to overcome and whether or not it has been worth it.  But there are definite positives and creating an adult-only dining experience could be just what your business needs.

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