Should babies be at high-end restaurants? Should restaurants give rain checks when your sitter cancels?

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A chef created an uproar when he tweeted asking if parents should be bringing a baby to a high-end restaurant. You can watch the story on the Today show clip above or read the AP summary below.

From The Associated Press:

“CHICAGO — A chef at a high-end restaurant in Chicago has stirred up quite a controversy after sending out a Tweet asking, in short, what he should do when a baby disrupts other diners.”

“Chef and owner of one of the world’s top restaurants, Grant Achatz, sent out the Tweet Saturday night after a couple brought their 8-month-old to his restaurant Alinea.”

“Instead of traditional reservations, Alinea offers a ticketed system, where diners must pay between $210 and $265 up front for the tasting-menu-only dinner (the price does not include tax, tip or beverages). The restaurant does not accept walk-ins,” Today.com’s Tracy Saelinger wrote.”

“The couple said their babysitter cancelled on them at the last minute and they were given no choice but to bring their child to the eatery that charges customers before they enter the door.”

I think it’s important to note: The parents had a babysitter who cancelled on them at the last minute. The parents had already paid more than $210 to hold the reservation for that night. They would have LOST that money had they not gone to the restaurant.

I think most people, even these parents, would agree that under normal circumstances babies should not be in a high-end restaurant. However, if a restaurant is going to charge you more than $200 up front then I think there needs to be some other recourse than the parents just losing a large amount of money if their sitter cancels.

It seems to me that the parents made a good faith effort to have a sitter, and the restaurant could have improved the situation for all their high-paying patrons by offering the parents a rain check.

I think when the hostess saw them walk in with a baby she should have said, can we offer you a rain check until you can get a sitter? Now you can’t force them to take it unless the chef has a policy about no babies, but I bet they would have taken the rain check in a flash. They want to enjoy their night out and their $250 tasting menu. Offering the rain check would have solved both problems: No noisy guest in the dining room and the parents wouldn’t haven’t lost a large sum of money through no fault of their own.

I think the restaurant would be wise to keep a wait list for cancellations who they could call to fill a table if something like that happens. If my hairdresser does it, why couldn’t a restaurant?

I understand the chef doesn’t want to lose money on the table and wants to give his other diners the best possible experience, and I think a rain check and wait list would have solved the problem.

So no, in most cases babies don’t belong in high-end dining rooms, but high-end restaurants need to also be thoughtful of their high-paying patrons – all of them, even the ones with babysitters who flake out.

What do you think: Should the parents have just “eaten” the loss and stay at home? Should they have tried with the baby? Should the restaurant have offered a rain check or maybe a take-out version when they showed up with the baby?

89 comments Add your comment

Tim

January 15th, 2014
4:01 pm

IF A RESTURANT DOES NOT WANT MY GRANDDAUGHTER I WILL NOT GO TO THE RESTRANT. IT IS A PLACE TO EAT, KIDS ARE GREAT AND OCCASIOAL NOISE IS LIFE. I STAND BY WHAT I STATED EARLIER STUFFED SHIRTS GET A LIFE!!!

aon

January 15th, 2014
4:04 pm

@Tim. And I’m sure they don’t want you with that selfish attitude.

Scotty

January 15th, 2014
4:20 pm

@a reader : I’m not sure their policy of no refunds / prepay is out of a lack of good will (though I do agree that largely, good will by businesses would go a long way in this world). They have a months long waiting list because they are one of the most sought after restaurants in the country (and frankly, the world…and that is not an exaggeration!). The ticket system is how they’re able to manage the demand and to ensure that people show up and don’t cancel their reservations.

I’m perplexed by the parental mentality that says, “If I can go there, my kids should be able to go as well.” There are venues that are just not child friendly and bringing a child means that no one will have a good time. The parents won’t, the other patrons won’t, and the child certainly won’t. Is $200 really worth a night of complete discomfort for everyone involved? I also second what others have said: if this were a concert, play, sporting event, plane trip, or any other kind of ticketed event: would you really expect to get a refund if your sitter cancelled so you couldn’t go? It’s unfortunate that the parents would have been out that amount of money, but things out of our control happen and fudge our plans sometimes.

motherjanegoose

January 15th, 2014
4:37 pm

@buckheadgirl ^^^^ LIKE. That was a wonderful idea.

FYI we went to Movie Tavern a few weeks ago. I do not care for their food, so we did not order anything to eat. Just a Coke. I did read that no children under 16 are allowed to attend a movie without an adult over 21. I am thinking this is perhaps because they serve alcohol? There were no kids at the SAVING MR. BANKS movie. I am wondering if it is because it could be expensive to take a family of four to that theater and order food too. It would also be awkward to listen to your kids whine about having food, as they see everyone else eating.

a reader

January 15th, 2014
4:40 pm

Please note I am in now way arguing for bringing kids to a place like this (I’d actually argue for adults to stay away too, but that’s another story). I’m just saying there should have been a better way to resolve the issue.

I guess I’m just wishing for more good will in general. If I have a plane flight, I now have travel insurance. In fact, I have it for all travel now (stays, car rentals, etc.) and it annoys me that there’s not a way to give up ones spot when there are people waiting. It just ups the profit for the business, which I know is perfectly within their rights to get both the $ for the cancelled spot plus the money for the resold spot, but I just wish for a bit of a gentler world.

If folks are waiting (for a show, for a meal), then let them know they can have it and all are happy.

Just because you can justify a policy doesn’t mean it’s right or deserved or kind. I just would like there to be more kindness.

Matt

January 15th, 2014
4:44 pm

Give the baby enough beer, wine, and/or other forms of alcohol to make it drunk and pass out. That will solve the problem of the crying baby.

Denise

January 15th, 2014
4:45 pm

Noise at Applebee’s where I’m paying $20 is fine. Noise where I’m spending $250/person is not. No one would think to bring a kid to a fancy fundraiser, the opera, or even a business dinner. Why? Because it is inappropriate. There are just places that are inappropriate for children. We know this. Everyone knows this. We just “forget” when we have plans that we don’t want to change and expect that others are okay “just this one time” with our “well-behaved kid” being somewhere she has no business.

And for the record I don’t want to deal with a drunk and disorderly adult any more than I want to deal with a fussy baby or unruly child.

motherjanegoose

January 15th, 2014
4:48 pm

@ a reader….you wonder why there are more places with a prepay policy? Perhaps because so many people have no problem backing out of things they committed too or changing their minds.

Your comment made me laugh.

I had a contract with a midwestern state that had a $500.00 cancel clause. My contact left the group and passed the contract to someone else, where it got buried. . They were very surprised that I told them they did in fact have to pay the $500.00, even though no one advertised for the venue and thus no one was planning to come. No one even knew about it except me. I had declined other work for that date. The opposite side is true…what if my husband decided to book us a cruise on that date and I decided not to go to the meeting, when they had 300 people signed up and paid to attend?

If you owned a catering company and ordered/prepared food for 100 people, then the group realized that they were only having 50 people…would you forgo charging them for 50 people ( say at $30 per person) ? If so, you probably would not be in business very long.

motherjanegoose

January 15th, 2014
4:49 pm

@ Denise ^^^^ LIKE!

aon

January 15th, 2014
4:57 pm

Here’s a thought. The parents knew in advance that there was a steep cancellation fee, make the babysitter pay the $200 for backing out at the last minute.

HB

January 15th, 2014
5:00 pm

I think the chef was kind. He didn’t kick them out, but he did put the question out to the twitterverse afterwards about how to best handle the situation to be fair to all diners and the restaurant. He also seems hesitant to ban children entirely. I think the couple was very unkind for bringing the baby and putting both the restaurant staff and other diners in an unpleasant situation. That was not right or deserved or kind.

a reader

January 15th, 2014
5:14 pm

Please re-read what I wrote: it annoys me that there’s not a way to give up ones spot when there are people waiting.

I’m not talking about losing the money. I’m talking about double dipping. You charge a cancellation fee (or keep the full amount that was pre-paid) AND you can now charge someone else full freight for same spot. Yes, it’s allowed. But wouldn’t it truly be more gracious and kind to find out the individual circumstance and see if it’s necessary to do all the time?

It’s not a loss of money that I’m arguing about. I do understand business. Rather, it’s the ethics of making double off of someone’s misfortune (and note, I’m not necessarily talking about this case, but rather the ability to make individual judgement calls and be kind and gracious)).

HB

January 15th, 2014
5:25 pm

I do agree there are times it seems wrong to double dip, and I try to take my business where I feel like the company isn’t looking for ways to screw me (that’s one reason I usually fly Southwest). In this case, though, it sounds to me like the restaurant is being fair in its cancellation policy and is not double dipping. It’s a small, specialized operation, so I don’t have a problem with their choice not to manage walk-ins or a stand-by list.

Scotty

January 15th, 2014
5:27 pm

But if the restaurant made an exception for this couple because their sitter cancelled, they’d have to honor it for any other couple that claimed their sitter cancelled as well when they couldn’t be bothered to show up for their ticketed time.

I do agree that it’s unfortunate that the business mentality in this country is to essentially double charge people for misfortune, but I’m not sure what a solution would be. It’s asking a lot of time, work, and loss on the part of the company to figure out refunds and replacement tickets, not to mention it is unfair to others waiting to get tickets for the same things that can’t now because others couldn’t be bothered to show up or go to something when they said they would. This couple has a decently legitimate excuse of a cancelled sitter, but there are plenty of people that make reservations places, buy tickets to things, and then just don’t bother showing up.

And I agree with the poster who says that the chef / restaurant was kind in this case. The chef could have told the couple to leave, or charged them for another meal ticket (since they brought an extra person), but instead they were allowed to stay and eat their meal. And where was the couple’s kindness or consideration? Their money was more important to them than the fact that they disrupted an entire restaurant of people and ruined the dining experiences of many others who paid just as much (if not more) than they did for their meal. Kindness and consideration goes both ways. I don’t think businesses can be expected to be kind and considerate until their patrons and customers are as well.

Barbara

January 15th, 2014
5:30 pm

The dingo ate your baby.

Denise

January 15th, 2014
5:36 pm

@a reader – that would be very good for business and I think it would be something to be considered depending upon the amount of notice given for the cancellation. One day? Sure, no cancellation fee IF it can be rebooked, and count on honesty on the restaurant’s part. One hour? Absolutely not; no one is sitting by the phone hoping for that call. It would also be a benefit to potential customers to be put on a waiting list for “next available” in case of cancellations sort of like a doctors office.

Derwin0

January 15th, 2014
6:02 pm

All the people talking about Falcon games should really check out the Ga Dome policy before speaking. The Ga Dome allows children in for free if they sit in the parents lap.

@ @ @

January 15th, 2014
11:15 pm

@ Derwin0 … A baby would be miserable with the noise and chaotic atmosphere at a Falcons game. No different than the weeks old baby I saw at a Braves game on a very hot Saturday afternoon game. Is your social life so much more important than the comfort and security of your infant child?

@ Tim … You and the family just need to stick with the Golden Corral buffet. Let your precious ones bathe in the chocolate fountain for all I care.

@ a reader … Understand completely where you are coming from, but I am afraid we are in for a lot more of this “fee for all”. I hate having to pay for other’s “mistakes” but that seems to be business as usual these days. It is painfully obvious that more and more people feel that they are the exception to the rule. The “you got yours, I better get mine” attitude is socially and politically correct in our uncivilized nation.

missnadine

January 16th, 2014
8:07 am

Doesn’t look like Tim could even read a restaurant’s child policy based on this gem:

IF A RESTURANT DOES NOT WANT MY GRANDDAUGHTER I WILL NOT GO TO THE RESTRANT. IT IS A PLACE TO EAT, KIDS ARE GREAT AND OCCASIOAL NOISE IS LIFE. I STAND BY WHAT I STATED EARLIER STUFFED SHIRTS GET A LIFE!!!

Tim, I will get a life once you learn how to spell, deal?

Mark

January 16th, 2014
8:37 am

Parents either don’t care or don’t realize how rude they are by not watching/disciplining their kids. It makes people hate them.. and their kids. Stay home.

hockey goalie

January 16th, 2014
8:52 am

I dunno. I don’t think Tim is that off-base. Perhaps worded a little scornfully, but hey that seems to be the norm around here when you don’t agree with someone. He’s not the only one guilty of that here.

Is a young kid at a 5star joint really a problem if he/she behaves? While my son is often rambunctious, he’s actually really good at restaurants. If he’s not, we leave mid-meal and he knows it. I’d have taken him if it were me and likely no one would have even noticed he was there.

Of course if it were me, I also wouldn’t have paid $200+ upfront for a restaurant in the first place…

hockey goalie

January 16th, 2014
8:54 am

@ Barbara: always love a good Seinfeld ref. Noice!

Tim is a Turd

January 16th, 2014
9:41 am

hockey goalie = Is a young kid at a 5star joint really a problem if he/she behaves?

A baby aka infant is not a young kid!!!!!!!!

That is the problem = people that try to muddy the waters and change the subject for their own benefit. Polite does not cut it with these selfish people, scornful is the only way that they are going to understand the word NO. Polite, respectful people have to get down to that level to make them GET A CLUE.

That crying baby that is the subject of this will be most likely grow up to be just as selfish as the parents.

Michael

January 16th, 2014
9:43 am

Talk about a turn off for that romantic first date: the presence of a baby

Hahahahaha

January 16th, 2014
10:00 am

@ Tim … You and the family just need to stick with the Golden Corral buffet. Let your precious ones bathe in the chocolate fountain for all I care.

Hahahahaha

hockey goalie

January 16th, 2014
10:52 am

@ “Tim is a Turd”

1) way to play to play the semantics game. I wasn’t changing the subject at all.

2) “scornful is the only way that they are going to understand the word NO” : being scornful to reemphasize your opinion as fact is laughably stupid.

3) Being nasty is the only way to get your point across? OK, fine. The whole point of most of TWG’s articles are to generate discussion and help provide newer parents with advice. You (and a few others) who come on here slinging mud and acting like your opinion is divine providence isn’t being helpful. It’s being a tw@t. You’re acting like the kangaroo mother from the Horton movie.

There’s a “CLUE” for you.

Real Life

January 16th, 2014
11:03 am

We have reached a mindset in this country that parents and children should be accommodated as much as possible–even if it inconveniences other people. Some businesses are simply not child-friendly and we need to accept that as reality. Some business are very child-friendly and we need to accept that as well. This restaurant was not infant- or child-friendly. The parents needed to deal with that and realize that a crying infant was not appropriate there. Sorry, but that is the way it is.
There are appropriate times and places where families with small children should be celebrated and accommodated. But that does not mean that children and infants must be welcomed and tolerated at places that are set up to cater to adults.

Abby

January 16th, 2014
11:25 am

I’ve read all the articles regarding this but am wondering if the parents allowed the baby to continue crying & wailing while they had their meal or if they stepped outside with it until things calmed down.

If this is accurate (taken from Huffington Post) “The baby, as babies tend to do, proceeded to cry, throwing a fit Achatz told Good Morning America he could hear from the kitchen” then I can see why other diners were annoyed.

It’s one thing to say yes or no to allowing children in certain places, but if your child is obviously disrupting/annoying other patrons then one or both of the parents needs to step away with them. It’s about having consideration for others around you – if the roles were reversed, wouldn’t you want the same respect?

hockey goalie is a Turd too

January 16th, 2014
12:03 pm

The truth hurts hockey goalie aka Tim. Crying like a baby There’s a “CLUE” for you.

Deb

January 16th, 2014
12:08 pm

In this case the restaurant should honor rsvp at another time. People should never bring a baby to a highend restaurant. People with children can be so inconsiderate when it comes to their children crying and pitching fits in public.

Deb

January 16th, 2014
12:09 pm

It was your choose to have the little monsters. Don’t impose them on everyone else.

hockey goalie

January 16th, 2014
12:47 pm

“hockey goalie is a Turd too”, you’re a moron; I am not Tim, nor do I know who he is; I’m simply someone who dares to stand up for someone you were berating.

You’re also a coward; way to hide behind lame insults instead of your name.

C U Next Tuesday.

hockey goalie is a Turd too

January 16th, 2014
1:27 pm

hockey goalie cried … You’re also a coward; way to hide behind lame insults instead of your name.
_______________________________

So, Tim… hockey goalie is your real name? Yep, you are a Turd!

hockey goalie

January 16th, 2014
4:01 pm

@ ‘turd slinger’:

(sigh)

I’m really not Tim. My name is Thomas (an unfortunate similarity in this case). Hockey Goalie is a handle I always use here and elsewhere.

There is really no talking to you once you’re convinced of something. I got $100 that says you’re divorced or will be withing a couple years. I pity the poor guy you duped into spending time with you on a daily basis.

hockey goalie is a Turd too

January 16th, 2014
4:33 pm

I got $100 that says you’re divorced or will be withing a couple years. I pity the poor guy you duped into spending time with you on a daily basis.
___________________________

Gay men cannot marry in GA, therefore they can’t get divorced Thomas the Turd. No need to feel pity for someone that has a much better life than you’ll ever dream of. Epic failure for Thomas the Turd, bigot!

Keep my $100 – your divorce attorney needs it more!

hockey goalie

January 16th, 2014
4:49 pm

I am a coward and hide behind lame insults instead of my name.

C U Next Tuesday :) is what I call myself all the time!

motherjanegoose

January 16th, 2014
5:40 pm

@@@ @ Tim … You and the family just need to stick with the Golden Corral buffet. Let your precious ones bathe in the chocolate fountain for all I care.

FUNNIEST THING I READ ALL DAY!

We do NOT eat at Golden Corral nor Ryans. I would rather have a Subway. I cannot stand the feeding trough there. I love a nice buffet and am happy to pay $25-$35 for nice food and to eat with people who have some manners…haha!

Kat

January 16th, 2014
10:40 pm

I suspect that if I had plans for such an expensive meal that I would have a back-up sitter plan for my non-refundable meal.

Ganun

January 17th, 2014
12:37 pm

Ganunhub and I went out to dinner at a lovely resturant while on vacation in Florida. The couple that was seated next to us (after we had ordered and received our appetizer) had an infant in arms with them. They apologized to us and asked if they needed to be reseated….of course what could we say without sounding like jerks…we told them no problem we have grandchildren and the baby wouldn’t be an issue. They settled in and went on to explain that the reason they had the baby with them was due to the baby having a fever. They didn’t want to leave her with a sitter when she wasn’t feeling good. WTF!!! I didn’t say it, but I was sure thinking it. Why in the world would you bring a sick baby out to a resturant???? I couldn’t believe it…then all of a suddent the baby projectile vomited. If you are a parent you know how that little mouth opens and formula comes shooting out like a garden hose just came on. Needless to say after dodging the stream I didn’t want my lobster dinner anymore. Some parents don’t think at all.

In the case of the $200 dinner…find a back up sitter, give the tickets away, but DO NOT take a child. Its bad enough when parents have no concern for the health and well being of their child, but to force your baby on others is truly offensive. Our dinner was only in the $70 range..I would have really been pissed at $200 a plate. The other customers should have complained and asked for refunds from the resturant. I would have.