Earlier this month, I read a news story about a Pennsylvania restaurant owner who has decided to ban children under the age of six at his establishment. While outraged parents condemned the restaurant for discriminating against their brood, some clientele welcomed the new policy, breathing a heavy sigh of relief knowing that their next $30 entrée wouldn’t be served up with a side of screaming toddler.
Misbehaving children, and their seemingly oblivious guardians, can reduce a pleasant dining experience to an evening of exasperated eye-rolling. There have been plenty of times that I’ve given up on dessert or another glass of wine in order to get away from the piercing sound of a four-year-old in the middle of a temper tantrum.
So should the parents of these bratty customers be more considerate of their fellow patrons and leave the kids at home when dining out?
Some would argue that parents should be entitled to enjoy a meal with their offspring without being subjected to dirty looks from the next table. However, in my opinion, letting your precious angels run laps around the dining room or shriek hysterically while being force-fed broccoli is inexcusable. If you are unwilling or unable to control your children, you might want to skip the high-end restaurants and opt for a Happy Meal instead.
Irresponsible parents and their squealing spawn should be banished to family-friendly restaurants that provide crayons with their kids’ menu. Sure, the food at these playground snack bars isn’t exactly top-notch, but you have to sacrifice a little if you want arcade games as an appetizer.
But while misbehaved tots can be a serious annoyance, I’ve seen plenty of adults over the years who are just as bad, if not worse, when it comes to mealtime manners.
Grown-ups should know better but often they don’t. They snap their fingers at the serving staff, request so many modifications they might as well eat at home and linger at the table while a lineup stretches out the door. Of course, the worst restaurant-goers are those who insist on conducting obnoxious cellphone conversations mid-meal with no regard for their dinner date or the increasingly annoyed patrons around them. The loudmouth suit screaming into his BlackBerry is just as disruptive as the little ones shrieking over their vegetables.
Small children may not be ideal dinner companions, but there are also plenty of adults out there who could use a crash course in dining etiquette.