Should restaurants give discounts for polite kids?
Going out to eat with kids is like pulling the pin halfway out of a grenade and then going for a drive on a bumpy road — it’s possible that things will be just fine, but you’re starting out with the odds against you. So when restaurants give parents discounts on their meals for having well-behaved children, is that a deserved pat on the back for a job well done or a reward for barely avoiding what should have been a massive explosion? Should more restaurants do this to encourage parents to try to keep their kids under control?
Antonio Ferrari, the owner of a wine bar in Padua, Italy, whose restaurant offers family meals on Sundays, first gave a 5% discount to a family whose children were sitting at the table “with much composure.” Ferrari has since given the discount to two other families. In an interview with The Guardian, Ferrari (who doesn’t have children) said that while he can “imagine how difficult parenting is today,” he estimated that about 30% of the parents who dine at his restaurant have children who badly misbehave, and he is so appreciative of those with polite children that he wanted to thank them. As he wrote under this picture of a discounted bill, “It’s just so unusual!”
Giving discounts to well-behaved families is a lovely gesture and one that I’m sure is deeply appreciated by those parents. Parents rarely get any kind of positive reinforcement for the job we do raising our kids, and a compliment like that can make someone’s entire month and will probably never be forgotten. So if a restaurant wants to occasionally reward those parents as a way of saying, “thank you,” then that’s fantastic. But sometimes, despite a parent’s best efforts, that demon will not be coaxed out of their child. If restaurants were to start making this kind of discount a regular thing, it would be kicking those parents when they’re already down. Sometimes, what parents need is compassion, not judgment.
However, there are a whole lot of turdballs who let their kids have their way with a restaurant and seem to give not a single fuck about it. If the goal is to send a message about what is acceptable and what isn’t, those are the people that need a talking to. Unfortunately, those also tend to be the people who take the least kindly to any kind of requests to keep their kid from hiding under other customer’s tables and trying to trip the server.
It’s not cute. IT’S. NOT. CUTE.
There is a difference between parents who clearly feel bad about the fact that their kids are losing it and those who think it’s the restaurant’s problem and not theirs, because they are paying customers and restaurants are for everybody and by the way would you please be a dear and clean up the bathroom because my kid peed all over the floor in there and I need to use it. Thanks.
Restaurants notice these things. They can usually tell the difference between a parent at the end of their rope who needs a break and those who couldn’t care less. And yes, they love and appreciate the parents who at least try to clean up their kids’ messes and who have obviously worked hard on teaching their kids the right way to behave in a restaurant. But to make it a policy to reward those for whom all the stars aligned that day doesn’t seem fair.
As an occasional gesture from a restaurant who has had nothing but obnoxious little jerks and the obnoxious big jerks who are supposed to take care of them, we think it’s aces. But it’s stressful enough eating at a restaurant with kids. While I, personally, would be touched by such a discount, I would never expect to pay less for my meal because my kids don’t have a meltdown. Honestly (and I speak for most parents, here) making it through a meal without a public meltdown is all the reward I need.