Monday, February 16, 2009

White Tablecloths & Poopy Diapers

I love children. I have a daughter myself. But I do not appreciate children in my dining room running amok while the parents do nothing. I realize this is not the child’s problem but rather a parenting problem—a lack thereof.

A few days ago six women came into Pacific Grill for lunch. As they walked into the dining room one of the women was on her cell phone. Her un-tethered two-year-old little boy sprinted ahead of her. One of the other women said “just let him run” [!!]

After they were seated, the server had difficulty getting a drink order as the woman was still on her cell jabbering away. The squirmy child did not want to sit in the high-chair provided, and was freed to run around the busy dining room—full of business people having lunch.

The thoughtful mother [sarcasm intended] had brought some nourishing Taco Bell into my dining room to feed the two year old. Later she gave him a toy car to play with—on all fours in a heavy traffic area—zooming the car on the dining room floor, right in the way of the busy servers.

When the food arrived the mother noticed the child had wandered off inside our Private Dining Room [PDR] out of sight beneath the sidewalk. A server, in the bar to pick up a cocktail order, was startled by some loud clanging. She walked to the wine room to see what was the matter? The child had dragged hundreds of dollars worth of red wine from the exposed wine rack, clanging the bottles together so loudly you could hear it throughout the dining room. The mother continued eating her cave-aged gruyère panini seemingly oblivious to the commotion.

This is obviously not the child’s fault—the boy is doing what two-year-old’s do. When the exasperated server at wit’s end came and explained to me what was going on, I immediately went to the woman and politely explained that her child had to be kept seated at the table at all times.

“Oh why… did someone complain?” clueless woman asked me.

She followed me into the wine cellar where the child was loudly banging bottles of red wine together. “This is not McDonald’s Playland,” I explained. “Your child must remain seated at all times, and not disturb my guests.” If the child had broken the wine I would have charged for it.

Can you imagine if the bottles had broken and the child had seriously cut himself?

I mean seriously—some people just don’t get it.

I have had children speed-racing up and down the expensively-upholstered banquettes while a mother watched and encouraged the child. I asked this particular mother to not let her child run on our furniture, and she acted like she was blind and did not see what was going on. Several minutes later a server came to get me and said the child was doing it again. I went to the woman and informed her that if she could not keep her child under control she would have to leave.

First time polite. Second time firm. Third time—you’re out!

I have seen and heard children screaming through the course of an entire meal throwing food onto the carpet. Are these parents deaf or have they just learned to tune them out?

One family allowed their child to draw with crayons all over the dining room wall while they ate dinner and said nothing.

Another recent night, a woman changed her child’s poopy diaper on the banquette in full view of other guests dining. How appetizing! Bet you’re thinking about ordering that chocolate mousse for dessert now right?

I am all for families taking their children out to dinner.

I welcome them.

But please don’t ask my busy Hostess or Host to hold your crying baby while you eat your meal, as happened not too long ago…you are…kidding…right?

The vast majority of families who dine with us are extremely well-behaved. But when the few exceptions start to infringe on the dining experience of my other guests, it is time to remove the child from the room... If a child cannot remain seated through the course of a two hour [or longer] meal, they should not be in the dining room. This is not the place to be bringing toys for tots. My dining room is not a race track. It is not a day care center. Does the sign outside say…Chuck E. Cheese?

The average guest at Pacific Grill spends around $50 or more per person. Some of my clients are additionally spending money for a babysitter to have “date night” away from their own children—and most certainly not to be seated next to someone else’s little monsters having tantrums.

I could belabor the point, and probably have, but I could go on and on with examples like the above.

I am sure you have yourself witnessed some pretty bizarre behavior while dining out. But if any of you reading this have misbehaving little ones while dining out—please realize that you just might be ruining many other people’s night out on the town. One they have saved for. Maybe it is their first time to Pacific Grill or a special anniversary. A first date. A celebration…

So if you need to, please excuse yourself from the dining room for a few minutes until your little one stops crying. You would do no less in a crowded movie theatre that costs $9… wouldn’t you?

Well then, why not when out dining?

And for all the wonderful parents out there that bring your well-behaved little ones into Pacific Grill for dinner--I am not speaking to you! Keep bringing them.

I love turning children on to good food while they are young!


Anonymous said...

Amazing. Outrageous. Maybe I'm just lucky, but when introducing them to Tacoma restaurants, by expecting my kids to be no less than well-behaved, polite, and courteous, I have always been rewarded with such behavior. It's the way I was taught... Wait - maybe that's the problem. The parents of today were never expected to behave in such a civil way themselves (ie cell phone). A dumbing down of parents. I have heard that PG was family friendly and it's been on my list to come with the kids because I know if they behave as they should and will, they will be treated with respect. Don't lower the bar. Keep doing what you are doing. Hopefully these idiots won't ruin it for the rest of us. But dang it, they keep multiplying.
BTW, yo to Mike.

-Tacoma Dining Guy with 2 kids

Dr. J said...

Nice article. And well put. I have 2 children, and we've eaten at Pacific Grill (ages 5 and 8 at the time). A nice night out is just that. And not just for yourself, but for others. It's unfortunate that the parenting skills have declined, we see it in our business, where the parents let the child decide what they want. Children actually like helps them know where the boundaries are, and feel secure. The most ridiculous thing I've seen is parents deferring to their 3 year old when it comes to certain decisions. Keep up the good work, love the blog and the restaurant.

Steve Naccarato said...

I remember the kid coloring contest on the restaurant wall very well, as I was the one that asked the parents why they allowed this to happen. The child was seated between 2 adults, so not noticing the little nose-miner at work was not an adequate excuse. They were rude and defensive (suprise) when I asked them politely to please not allow Jr. to continue defacing the art filled walls. They threatened to never come back. My thoughts exactly madame!

Anonymous said...

Gordon, I couldn’t agree more. As a hairdresser for over twenty years I have to say that I experienced the exact same challenge with poorly disciplined parents.

It’s difficult because the parents are in fact oblivious.

Trying to do tedious and detailed work around flailing arms and legs and screaming fits is one thing. Trying to protect these children from serious danger is quite another.

I dare a guess that if your example of the attentive mother who allowed her child to interface with giant bottles of wine had found her child to be injured, would not hesitate to hang the responsibility firmly on your restaurant or your servers.

People people people. Make good decisions!

I also support your thinking about your other guests who may be paying a premium to leave the kids at home so that they can have that one lovely meal out for which they rarely have time. It is grossly unfair that any guest, client or customer should pay for the inconsideration of another. A visual or auditory or heaven forbid olfactory assault being tolerated is noticeable and leaves a “bad taste” in one’s mouth that is hard to shake.

When 97 percent of your guests know and practice common courtesy why should the 3 percent should be indulged?

Although I prefer to think it rare, there is such a thing as a bad customer.

Love you dear!

Anonymous said...

Children left running and unattended will be towed away.