Should Restaurants Be Allowed to Ban Kids?

Posted July 13, 2011 by

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Should restaurants be allowed to ban kids? McDain’s, an “upscale casual” restaurant in the Pittsburgh area, is going to ban children under the age of 6 starting July 16th. Owner Mike Vuick, who built the restaurant next to his successful golf center, says that he’s doing it because customers have complained that children have been causing a ruckus. And “Parents have gradually diminished their cooperation.”

This makes me wonder if it’s really all about the kids acting out, or if the clientele at his establishment is less than patient — or perhaps it’s a little of both.

When our son was a toddler, there was a time my husband and I just didn’t go out to eat anymore unless we had a babysitter. Our son was loud, threw food, and wouldn’t sit in a highchair for more than 2 minutes. When we did take him somewhere and he misbehaved, we removed him from the restaurant until he calmed down.  Fast forward to today. I took my 8-year-old son to a fairly nice (but not fancy) restaurant this week. He was well-behaved and we had a good conversation during dinner — but in spite of that, a man a few tables away scowled at us — mostly at my son — the entire time we were there. And at a free outdoor concert last summer, we sat down next to a couple who immediately announced they were grandparents. Then they said, “Your son isn’t going to ruin our concert, is he? You’re going to keep him in line, right?” (“Boy, I’ll bet their grandkids are excited to see them when they come for a visit, I whispered under my breath to my friend who was there with her daughter.)

Last week, I wrote a blog post saying that I understand that restaurants — especially fine dining establishments — want to keep the atmosphere nice for adults. But I also think that there’s been a backlash recently against children in general. Many adults seem to assume that all children are going to act out, and that all parents are too permissive. It seems like it’s become a case of guilty until proven innocent for kids.

What do you think? Should restaurants be allowed to ban children under a certain age?

Elisabeth Wilkins is the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 8-year-old son.


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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  1. emmalina Report

    Working in the industry I understand where this manager is coming from. On the whole, and i know there are well behaved children out there, but the majority, shout, scream, throw food everywhere, stand with muddy boots on upolstered furniture, smash plates, sugar pots……. This is not acceptable behaviour and the problem is that parents are totally unaware and clearly have no care for the other customers around them or the destruction that is left on leaving! children should understand the difference from private to public environments and respect that! End of!

  2. R Report

    the only answer to the posed question is, yes, they should be allowed to. a resturant is a privately owned establishment and has the right to decide to run their business however they want. a poster above me stated that it might not be a great idea when you limit your customer base that way, but it’s the owner’s decision and no one else’s.

    and when you say that it’s that people aren’t as patient as they were or should be, what you’re actually saying is “other people need to be more patient with MY kids”. which is a fairly selfish mindset to have. i’ll use a modified version of the resturant/slasher flick analogy: if you have a young infant that is still prone to loud crying, would you take him with you to see just about ANY movie? or would you consider how it would impact everyone else there who did not plan to deal with a crying child while seeing a movie and simply get a babysitter? the same goes for anywhere that a more adult or grown up experience is expected, there are just simply some places where children don’t need to be.

    now, with that being said, if i were somewhere else, like a clearly family themed resturant, i would have little right to complain. what it comes down to is self-awareness. if you’re the only person in the entire resturant (or where ever) with younger children, and those children are running around misbehaving, is it really unrealistic for people to complain about it? or is it unrealistic for you to expect everyone else around you to deal with your children?

  3. JCStep Report

    While I see the point of the parents for bringing children to restauraunts, I have to say I disagree. As of two months ago I’ve found myself with three step sisters, two of which are under the age of six. If we go anywhere nicer than McDonalds it’s an embarrasment waiting to happen. I’ve sent looks saying in no plain terms: ‘I’m sorry we had to bring these hellions in here’ to cashiers at Waffle House!

  4. sd1904 Report

    About time!!! I hate going out to a nice dinner with my man and having somebody else’s bratty kids running up and down the aisles. People refuse to discipline their children these days so this is the outcome. How sad we have such out of control kids that it has to come to this. I have 4 children myself so I’m not anti-kid, just anti brat. No one should force their kids bad behavior on other people, not just in restaurants, but stores and movies and all public places, America, control your children!!

  5. Kelly Report

    I am blown away that people are OK with this. This country has so little value for the young that they are willing to allow this. Would it also be the “owners right” to choose his clientele based on color, sexual orientation, etc.? Situations arise in all ages, all sexes, all colors that require attention. To discriminate against a particular group based on the assumption that all will be bad is just wrong on too many levels. People are just slowly surrendering more and more of their rights and are too focused on themselves and their “comfort” to even care. God forbid a child can’t dine…as long as “I” the almighty “Me” can enjoy a meal. Pitiful!

  6. Ben, Special Ed Teacher Report

    Why would you expect a child to behave in a restaurant? Children don’t want to to sit straight in their chairs and wait patiently while the parents talk about discuss politics. Children just want to finish their food and go play.

    Therefore, I think restaurants should be allowed to say “no kids allowed.”

  7. De Anna Nordland Report

    I really feel that the restraunt has the right to refuse service. But, we as the consumer really have the right not to go back. I don’t have any kids. So I haven’t faced this situation but, if I had I wouldn’t go back. There is plenty of restraunts that need my money than the one that would reject my family.

  8. merry Report

    I think it’s a good idea, and I would visit a restaurant that catered to the diners’ comfort. Children can be very well behaved, and those are a joy to observe, BUT, children, of any age can also destroy an otherwise enjoyable experience for many. Banning may not be necessary, but too often parents do not see the need to remove a child from the restaurant for shrieking, crying, throwing food, picking their noses, etc. nor do they even address the problem. Many children are neat and clean eaters, while others like to share their food with the floor, the table, or diners two tables away. For those of us for whom a restaurant is a special treat, be kind; bring well-behaved kids, but if the kiddos are disruptive, excuse yourselves from the restaurant so the rest of us can enjoy our meals.

  9. mrsdouglas Report

    I think it’s their right to say who they want in their restaraunt. And I think most parents have gotten way too permissive with their kids. I’m a mother of a 2 year old and everyone comments on how well behaved she is when we are out. It’s because we don’t let her act like that even at home. I truly think most parents are too lazy/scared to discpipline their children now. I don’t blame the restaraunts at all.

  10. Elizabeth Report

    I think it’s fine and actually that restaurant would be first on my list when we get a babysitter and go out. If a waitress tries to place us next to some kids when we’re out sans kids I ask if we can move. We get to go out so rarely, I don’t want to chance some other kids bratty behavior is going to disturb my good time. My own kids do plenty of that.

  11. Lennie1025 Report

    I am completely amazed at those who disagree with this! First of all, if a parent can’t afford a sitter and dinner, then they probably can’t afford the dinner. Stay home and enjoy your kids! Secondly, it is completely in the owner’s right to refuse a customer. If I owned a business, I would not allow smoking and drinking. why? Because that is MY right. You don’t like it, go elsewhere! And get over yourself! Next, you will be demanding it as a constitutional right! Whatever! Oh, and just in case you are wondering? I have 5 children – age 21 – 5. My kids would not act up in a restaurant because they know better. I have taught them how to behave. Which, is the problem here, not all parents care enough about their kids to teach them.

  12. sugarmag Report

    I don’t agree with it and I would not go there, even without kids, just out of principle. It seems to me that the world is increasingly hostile toward children and I find this very sad. My youngest child is 7 now but I took my children to nice restaurants when they were very little and it was never a problem. I find it especially wrong that this would presumably also apply to babies. When my children were babies I quietly nursed in restaurants and we did not bother anyone.

  13. Corra Report

    JaneS Says:
    July 13th, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    I think it’s a really good idea. I politely disagree that adults are becoming more intolerant. I think it’s much more so the opposite–that parents 1. Take their kids out when really, they should be at home and 2. Parents are more permissive of certain behaviors that would negatively effect others’ ability to enjoy their meal.

    I’m really sorry, but who are you to say when my child should, and shouldn’t be at home?

    And how, exactly, do you expect children to ever learn how to properly behave in public, if they’re not allowed in public settings?
    Children act out, yes, simply, because they are CHILDREN. Sometimes parenting is a problem, but much of the time it’s because it’s a brand spankin’ new human being.
    What if I were to say that I don’t want to have to eat in the presence of the elderly? “I can’t enjoy my meal while watching them try to chew-they should stay in their nursing home where they belong”. How well exactly, do you think that would go over?

    In today’s *fantastic* society where we boast of zero tolerance towards discrimination of just about anyone or anything, why is it that age discrimination is still so outwardly blunt, and common?
    And for the record, I felt this way about restaurants like this even before I had children. It’s poor taste.

  14. Old Scratch Report

    I think it is, and should be, the right of the owner of the establishment to choose its customer base. Just as a vegan restaurant chooses its menu vs a Tex/Mex Steakhouse. If you limit your customer base you reduce your potential revenue base, however you can improve customer loyalty by providing a desirable experience. In this case providing a comfortable adult environment without screaming children to disturb your patrons.

    That being said, if it were me, I would have a second area for families set aside from the adult dining area if possible. The way smoking vs non-smoking sections were in the past.

  15. Leesy Report

    Parents sometimes use poor judgement when taking their children to certain restaurants, however that does not make it ok to ban the child from the establishment. This sends a message that children aren’t valued in our society. Instead we need to place the responsibility where it should be on the parents. It is the parents job to determine whether a child is able to handle the dining experience. Personally, I think it is unreasonable expect a young child to sit properly through a long elaborate dinner, however some children can and do behave perfectly. We need to advocate more for children and not always blame them for the poor choices made on their behalf. And if we allow this, who will this establishment ban next?

  16. Mae Report

    I don’t agree with it.

    We enjoy being with our kids, and don’t use babysitters and when we eat out, we like to eat well and not the junk food that the “family friendly” restaurants seem to serve. Family friendly restaurants are always loud and bustling. Yes that means that kids being loud doesn’t disturb as much but then it also gives them an excuse to be loud. If you can’t bring kids to nice restaurants how can they learn what the appropriate behaviour is? In my experience with my four kids, when everything is quiet and everyone is talking low then the kids get the vibe and do the same.

    I don’t think that kids should be allowed to run and scream all over the place, and if my kids did that we would certainly leave, but I think it is an example of how people treat kids as subhuman and think that any noise or even their presence is a disturbance. If they are allowed to ban kids just based on what *might* happen, will they please also ban loud mouths, people that have annoying laughs and limit the amount of drinks that people can drink. I have been far more disturbed by adults in restaurants than children.

  17. bethany actually Report

    I think it’s kind of sad that they feel the need to do it, but it’s a free country. They’re allowed to run their restaurant however they choose.

  18. JaneS Report

    I think it’s a really good idea. I politely disagree that adults are becoming more intolerant. I think it’s much more so the opposite–that parents 1. Take their kids out when really, they should be at home and 2. Parents are more permissive of certain behaviors that would negatively effect others’ ability to enjoy their meal.

  19. jult Report

    wow, I think comparing taking a child to a restaurant is vastly different than taking a young child to a slasher movie! A movie like that is no appropriate for the child. A restaurant? How can that be inappropriate for the child unless it is a strip club with food? Some people choose NOT to have a sitter, or if they can’t afford a sitter AND dinner. Or, hey, they generally like being with their kids and want them to enjoy good food as well, not just the loud, family place-style food. If someone’s kid is being loud, throwing food, that’s not going to ruin MY evening bc I am not paying attention to them, i am paying attention to my food and the people I am with. Plus, I rarely see kids act up in any restaurant, it is mostly at the grocery store. So many people are such child-haters, next they will be banning them from stores (I mean, really, who wants to hear a kid clamoring for froot loops?), or places like WDW with all those screaming, tired children knocking into you in line while you paid good money to ride Space Mountain? It’s just obnoxious in my opinion. I guess that restaurateur’s parents never took him out and he’s bitter :p

  20. Jade Report

    I think it’s fine for a restaurant to decide on what kind of clientele they will cater to. You do not HAVE to take your kids out to eat at that particular establishment!

  21. crys Report

    As a mother of two and a preschool teacher of 20 years, I think it is okay for restaurants to choose their customers. I took my children to plenty of family friendly restaurants when they were little, where they learned to have good restaurant manors. But in a fine dining establishment, I don’t want a small child running around causing havoc. When the kid is little if you want to take your child with you it should be to a family friendly establishment. Just like you wouldn’t take your 3 year old to a slasher movie, there are some places kids don’t need to be.

  22. May Report

    I think it ok. When I make plans to go to a nice dinner with my husband or friends I find a babysitter. I take my kids to family friendly restauraunts and leave the nicer dinners with adults. Little ones need alot of attention. It is hard to enjoy a find dinning experience when you are making sure they don’t make a mess.



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