For couples seeking a quiet, romantic dining experience, nothing kills the mood quite like screaming children. Admittedly, this isn’t always the case. There are many mild-mannered children who behave in a perfectly acceptable way in restaurants of all calibres. But what about people looking for adult-only experiences? Should they, or the restaurants who offer such experiences, be shunned?
Banning children from restaurants
Recently, a restaurant in Germany, Oma’s Küche, banned diners under the age of 14 from 5pm onwards. Owner Rudolf Markl told DPA News Agency that he’d been considering making his restaurant adults-only for some time: “We have somehow reached that point where you say: This just can’t go on like this’.” Markl reached his breaking point when a group of youths damaged his restaurant, however, the restaurateur had become increasingly frustrated with children bothering guests, pulling tablecloths and generally being a nuisance. Markl told the news agency that his decision to ban children under 14 from 5pm was not aimed at the children, but rather the parents “who cannot control their children”.
The decision by Oma’s Küche sparked criticism from German media outlets, but consumers have praised the decision. It is understandable that couples or groups of friends would wish to enjoy a meal in peace, rather than being pestered by uncontrollable children. And Rudolf Markl isn’t the first restaurant owner to make this change. A report by Insider revealed that several restaurants in the US have banned children, including Old Fisherman’s Grotto in Monterey California, which has a policy stating that children ‘crying or making loud noises’ are not allowed to dine there. Several other eateries have followed suit. However, despite negative press and reactions from families, sales at these restaurants have increased.
Keeping all diners happy
In the UK, it’s not uncommon to find pubs with separate (quieter) dining sections for couples or groups without children. Providing customers who are seeking it with a relaxed dining environment, free from loud, fidgety children is just an example of restaurants going above and beyond for their customers, and it certainly shouldn’t be controversial. But as Oma’s Küche’s owner, Markl, says, the responsibility lies with parents. If your child is acting up in a restaurant, don’t just smile or look away, consider your fellow diners who are spending their hard-earned money on an evening meal. Not everyone wants to be pestered by children while they’re trying to enjoy their duck a l’orange. Generally, if families dined out earlier in the evening and scouted out menus in advance (to see if there’s a kids/child-friendly menu), it would prove helpful, and avoid disappointment.
The child-free trend doesn’t just apply to the restaurant industry, it’s also reaching travel. According to The Telegraph, a recent survey by latedeals.co.uk showed that 30% of British travellers thought planes should have child-free zones, with a third of respondents being willing to pay extra to travel on adult-only flights.
As the trend continues to grow, it’s important for restaurants to consider how they can please all diners. Of course, if you are the owner of a sleek, high-end restaurant serving exquisite tasting menus, you’ll already be aware of your desired clientele. However, for trendy new burger joints or cafes, it can be unclear whether an establishment is definitely adults-only or doesn’t cater to children below a certain age. Making this clear on your website, at the point of entry and via your menu (i.e. not providing a kids menu) can make all the difference and help to avoid potential clashes with customers.
I believe people are well within their rights to seek out adult-only experiences when dining in the capital, just as they are within their rights to look for experiences specifically tailored to children. As the lines become clearer, I expect the backlash will start to ease off and all diners will welcome the autonomy these options can provide.