Never has a topic garnered so much interest from all corners of this column’s readership. Everyone, it seems, has a horrifying or heart-warming story around the multi-faceted phenomena of children in restaurants.
A few of you, citing examples at length, chastised parents and blamed technology for making dining out such a low-tech, thus undesirable, experience. Another reader shared disgust at the way he has seen fellow servers treat families.
“I’m a dad, but really, I get it,” the Brunswick bartending veteran wrote. “They know the bar tab will be next to nothing, and when the family leaves, the table will look like a food fight took place. I tell them someday these kids will grow up and make restaurant decisions. I think it’s why so many of my friends and I miss the old Village Cafe in Portland. They were cool to us when we were kids.”
One guy told me about a “fancy Portland restaurant that double-booked his Friday evening reservation.” He was informed of the “unfortunate situation” when his party arrived 10 minutes early. It was then the owner/host realized three of the seven diners were children under the age of 13. His solution? He offered to call Elevation Burger to see if they could squeeze the group in.
More than one childless reader weighed in on my snarky comment that “people without children make the best parents.” Conceding they have their opinions, but perhaps not a clue, those readers were clear about what they don’t like. Once again, it isn’t always about the kids.
“As a childless person I am always aware of the tendency of the inexperienced (me) to find better ways to deal with kids,” emailed a sassy Forecaster colleague. “So I hang back and put the veil of humble ignorance on my head and say, ‘God bless and I have no idea.’”
One last observation before closing the lid on kids, at least for now, came from Brian L. of Portland, an unlikely, but valuable source:
“Dear Natalie, My name is Brian and I am 11 years old. My mom showed me your newspaper story and I think people are unfair to kids. We went to Friendly’s for my birthday party and a man kept telling us to be qiet (‘quiet’). The waitres (‘waitress’) wanted to give him a new place to sit. Maybe he was sad because he was by hisself (‘himself’). So tell people to be nice to kids and kids will be nice back. I gave him some of my cake.”
Rather than a Q&A this week, I’m posting a public service announcement about a discounted Groupon-type social media organization called Localvore Today. It originated in Burlington, Vermont, and has branched out to Maine. It offers deals at local businesses, all of whom buy locally themselves.
I just purchased a $40 voucher to Artemisia in Portland for $20; it feels like I won the lottery (request Ryan “DUDE!” Chamberlain as your server). Aside from loving a hot deal, what really sold me was the small copy on the bottom of the printable voucher: “The spirit of Localvore Today is to encourage the economic growth of the community served by the service. Catch the spirit!” Check them out at localvoretoday.com/location/me.
Natalie Ladd lives in Portland. When not pecking away, she can be found serving the masses at a busy eatery, or tirelessly conducting happy-hour field research. Hospitality questions or comments should be sent to email@example.com, and may be featured in a future column. Follow Natalie on Twitter: @natalieladd.