This week social media has been abuzz with the story of the “awful” parents who were eating out with their kid (toddler) and let her scream for 40 (or 120 or 4) minutes in a diner, prompting the establishment owner (or “hero”) to go all drill sergeant on the poor child, screaming at said child in order for her to shut up.
Following that, the mom posted (as we social media savvy moms are wont to do) about the awful treatment, which then made the diner owner unleash a host of profanity on the mother’s page, calling the child an “it” and all kinds of venom. In fact, I’ve seen more inappropriate profanity from this diner owner but thank God for “delete” right?
My take? I feel like the age of “everything that does not perfectly agree with my opinion is offensive” has now come to business owners. I heard this owner defend herself and she was so shaky and uncertain that I can only surmise she was either lying and not very good at it, OR was taking a huge gamble and worried she might find herself out of business.
As the mother of a child who has autism and has been known, on occasion – or rather, often – in her toddlerhood to have some outright ugly tantrums, I take offense at this. Seeing this story laid out on Facebook, I think one of the things that has me the most concerned is that while I saw NUMEROUS people support the business, I saw no one question the length of the tanturm. “It was 40 minutes of screaming” was AUTOMATICALLY assumed to be right. I did, however, see lots of people question the mom, who said it was 10 minutes – and another diner said it was only 4 minutes.
Seriously, if you can’t sit in a diner for 4 minutes without having a kinipshon over a kid in your restaurant then perhaps the diner business is not for you. Would you flip if someone had an epileptic fit? A man made a woman cry and run out? How about a fire truck pulling up nearby? Would that set you off too?
The mom further claims that she had no idea who this person was screaming, meaning the owner did not come over, introduce herself and in any address this issue politely.
It’s enough to make any parent want to just STAY HOME.
But as an advocate for families with kids with special needs, eating out with your kids is something your family should be able to do without fear of “retribution.”
Now if you want to have a kid-free establishment (you know, like a bar or nightclub or grown up only restaurant), go ahead and do that. Or just jack the prices really high, we won’t come.
But if you are in the service business – service meaning you serve your customer’s interests, not “I’m serving my need to make money/not work for anyone else/own a business/etc.”, then customer first has always been the only acceptable option.
Because if you lose that, you will lose business and patrons – and some very savvy diner owners might open up right next to you, with a great big “KIDS WELCOME” sign. And you can’t fight that.
Not every restaurant is like that. In defense of the service industry, here is a list of places where we were treated like royalty when eating out with our kids even if one of them was having a tantrum or making “those noises” that you kids with special needs sometimes make to show their joy. The amazing staff (especially wait staff, they are wonderful considering their pay is so low) of these places treated our children with dignity and respect, even IF our kids were allergic to the food and not eating it.
- Outback Steakhouse
- LongHorn Steakhouse
- Buffalo Wild Wings
- Red Robin
- P.F. Chang’s
- Carrabba’s Italian Grill
- Romano’s Macaroni Grill
- Bonefish Grill
- KC Prime (yes, a fancy schmancy grown up steak house!)
- Fireside Tavern
- Fegley’s Brewwerks
- Every single restaurant in Hershey Lodge
These are just off the top of my head – there are many more. We dine out a LOT. Don’t get me wrong – diners are a bit of a different animal, at times. When she was a baby, we often brought Amelia to our diner breakfasts, but not Zoe until she was much older.
As for the parents, I’m not sure why they were distracted for a few moments. Figuring the bill and tip? Looking for a wallet they couldn’t find? Taking an emergency call from work? Who knows?
What I do know is that sprouting angry profanity all over Facebook is not a decision that smart professional business owners make. Can you argue that?
Of course, you should be smart. Don’t go to places during happy hour, live concerts, etc. If there’s a long wait, ask for a small snack for your child. Give your phone to your child if they are getting antsy. I’m not saying to be reckless and irresponsible – you have the choice to make things better or worse, that’s true.
And one final story. A few years ago we went to Great Wolf Lodge in North Carolina for a conference. We got there early and went into a somewhat empty restaurant for a bite and to regroup. Zoe was “off” thanks to a long drive and by the end of lunch, had a massive melt down on the floor. The waitress came over and discretely asked if there was anything she could or that Zoe needed – a glass of water, perhaps? I was apologetic and embarrassed but she reassured me. With great sensitivity in her eyes, she told me not to worry and to definitely take my time. Her main concern was that Zoe was ok. That lady is a hero in my eyes. She made sure that eating out with my kids was a pleasant experience even if the worst happened.
THAT is the kind of customer service that paying patrons should get, pure and simple. Whether you are with a crying child, a disabled person who speaks loudly, a person in a wheel chair, an elderly person who can only walk very slowly, or anyone else, you deserve respect when you’re paying for food. I’m wondering now if we have lost this last frontier of dignity.