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

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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,”’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


January 14th, 2014
9:10 pm

If the restaurant does not have high-chairs, then NO. There are plenty of other decent dining choices. I was always aware of this. I realized that people may be on a special date, and/or have saved up $$ to get away from the kids, so I feel other parents should show the same courtesy.

I really like that some restaurants have instituted an 18-year and up policy.


January 14th, 2014
9:11 pm

also… this could be an excuse. If a restaurant bends the rules this time, they will have set a precedent.

Cheez Whiz is cheese peeing?

January 14th, 2014
9:20 pm

I am tired of these “parents with kids who don’t want the responsibility of raising kids” stories. If you can’t deal with the EVERYTHING that goes with raising Nichiren, then DON’T raise them. If it is a hassle, well then, welcome to parent hood and shut your grunt hole.

Also, shame on the blogger for another idiotic blog. You continue to copy and paste the work of others. It is so very weak.


January 14th, 2014
9:22 pm

(the other) Rodney

January 14th, 2014
10:11 pm

Simple answer – no. Babies, or toddlers, should not be at high-end restos.

April Mae

January 14th, 2014
10:22 pm

The point of a pre-pay is to ensure that people show up for this very exclusive dinner (there’s a months-long waiting list). Life happens – babysitters cancel, people get sick, people get stuck in traffic or sent on an unplanned business trip. You deal with life as it happens, and sometimes that means losing some money.

At first I wondered why they didn’t already have a no-kids policy at Alinea, then I realized they probably thought it would never be necessary. Little did they know how insistent some folks are on bringing their kids!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

January 14th, 2014
10:36 pm

I suspect that this rarely happens and they could have discreetly handled it by offering this one person to come back another night and all would have been happier.


January 14th, 2014
10:39 pm

No, babies shouldn’t be at high-end restaurants and no, they shouldn’t offer rain-checks! If parents are going to spend that kinda money, then they should make sure that they have a back-up plan in place.


January 14th, 2014
10:40 pm

But if they offered this one person/couple a rain check, then they would have in turn told their friends who would in turn tell their friends, etc.


January 14th, 2014
11:20 pm

Check the baby at coat check. Problem solved.

Atlanta Mom

January 14th, 2014
11:35 pm

I think there is a big difference between an 8 month old and a 2 year old. I have no problem with the 8 month old, she will not be running around the restaurant and being generally disruptive. A 2 year old is a whole different story.
I do like Ed’s solution.


January 15th, 2014
12:57 am

The restaurant runs on a ticket system similar to a performance or sports event. What if they had tickets to the opera? Would it be acceptable to take a baby to the performance and remain as the baby cries (chef said he could gear the baby crying in the kitchen)? $500 + tips for a table that cannot be filled by walk-ins is too much to expect the restaurant to absorb as a loss through a rain check.

I’m generally pretty cool with babies being in semi-upscale restaurants as long as parents quickly take them out if they get fussy, but this is a seriously upscale tasting menu in a small, quiet setting (only 80 diners). As someone said above — life happens. They should have given the tickets to friends.


January 15th, 2014
1:48 am

No, babies should not be at high end restaurants. They should have forfeited their tickets or given them to friends. I understand that they paid $265… but so did everyone else.


January 15th, 2014
6:31 am

NO! and NO! ( my shortest post ever?)


January 15th, 2014
6:34 am

Oh boy… Hate to be so negative, but, NO. At least for this scenario, no children. I certainly can see the parents were probably be quite upset for losing money if they did not go. That said, in this case I think the parents should have thought more about all the other folks that were going to be there…
It saddens me, though, that this story has received such coverage (not meaning you TWG) when there is so many, seemingly more important issues out there. To quote a friend of mine, “This is such a first-world problem.”


January 15th, 2014
7:13 am

agree with MJG.

Mother of 2

January 15th, 2014
8:16 am

I have to agree with the other posters. I think this couple should have thought about the consequences before they made the reservation. Perhaps making such expensive plans isn’t a good idea when using an unreliable sitter.


January 15th, 2014
8:19 am

As the restaurant did not have a no-children policy, they’re stuck with having the kid be with the parents. If the chef really didn’t want the kid there, then give the parents a refund.


January 15th, 2014
8:41 am

Perfect example of the self absorbed, me-first society we have created. I think the parents are just incompetent.


January 15th, 2014
8:46 am

NO, NO, AND NO. Crying, misbehaving children should never be carried to places where adults are trying to have a retreat from daily life-concerts, opera, church, and restaurants, etc. I’m 70 years old, raised 3 children and 3 grandchildren, and a retired teacher. I love children and continue to work with them, but adults shouldn’t have to “put up with” other peoples children who are not disciplined. I never took my children to places where they would be a distraction to others, but waited until they were old enough to act in an acceptable way.

Bobby Sue

January 15th, 2014
8:49 am

Why would anyone spend that much for a meal in any restaurant??

Good Grief

January 15th, 2014
8:53 am

“As the restaurant did not have a no-children policy”

That’s the problem with our entitlement attitude, self absorbed society – everything must be spelled out in detail for the dumbmasses. Even then people find loopholes and excuses why the rules don’t apply specifically to them. Really tired of there are always “exception to the rule” excuse.


January 15th, 2014
8:55 am

I would be really annoyed at losing that much money, but I would not have tried to bring the baby to such a high end place. I don’t even like bringing my 2 year old to casual restaurants sometimes because I know she might act up. If they can afford to pay that much for a meal, I would think either they could have found other arrangements or just taken the loss. I’m sure they knew or should have know the restaurant’s policy if you can’t make the reservation.


January 15th, 2014
9:00 am

I’m curious if the baby was making a fuss or if chef is just so far removed from normal society that he forgets children do exist. A restaurant with such strict policies (prepaid with no waitlist) is bound to have run into this. If they really don’t want kids, then they should say no one under a certain age is allowed.


January 15th, 2014
9:12 am

Why didn’t one of the parents tell the other to go ahead and enjoy the meal with a friend while they stayed at home (or wherever) with their child? Win, win in my book since you are doing something nice for your spouse along with the friend and being a real parent to your child.

Good Grief

January 15th, 2014
9:15 am

I would have been mortified to make even the local news with this fodder, is there no embarassment of shame for people anymore? Does social media and / or mass media have people so disconnected with what is right and wrong that we just don’t care anymore? This will snowball into other so called high end venues giving these people free meals looking for publicity. Everyone wins in these situations and these stories keep making news.

Road Scholar

January 15th, 2014
9:16 am

Unruly children should not be allowed in not only high end restaurants but all restaurants! You chose to have a baby…responsibility goes with that! If the baby or child acts up, you should pack up and leave. Yes you have a right to go out and enjoy a meal…so does everyone else. I have seen a couple bring their child, he gets unruly, and they ask for their meal, which has not been delivered to the table yet, be packaged up to go. How hard is it?

Why do parents (and I use that term loosely) let their child run rampant in a restaurant? Maybe it is cute…for a short time.. but it is rude and uncalled for. Have you been hit in the head by a child in a neighboring booth? Come up and try to take stuff off your table? Usually the parent is face down in their martini!

If you have children, and have not taken the time to teach them manners or how to act in public, then I have no support for you. Get a sitter! Sometimes the parent itself needs a sitter!

Maybe restaurants could supply you a reference if you need one!?


January 15th, 2014
9:48 am

They should’ve either refunded the money or given a rain check. I wouldn’t throw away that much money either. An 8 month old isn’t running around the restaurant. Poor planning in my opinion on the part of management. Don’t expect people to do anything. Create a plan and follow it.


January 15th, 2014
9:53 am

If the restaurant wants a policy, it needs to have one. If this is a ticketed event, I don’t get a rain check for the Falcons game if my babysitter cancels, so I don’t get one for this either.

With that said, a lot of this depends on the kid. About 6 years ago I took my daughter (now 8) to Morton’s in Buckhead to celebrate a special occasion (which I consider semi-upscale). We went early (right when they opened) so as to not interfere with the dinner crowd, and her behavior was always so good we knew she wouldn’t be a problem. The staff loved her, she was great, and everything went superb. I could see the look on their faces when we walked in, but they fell in love with her. She was right in her element and acted like she ate there everyday. However, I would never take my boys there. I won’t even want to take them to Taco Mac.


January 15th, 2014
10:38 am

No on the money back and maybe on the rain check. Can’t make exceptions for people who consider their kids “well-behaved”, either. 8 month olds may not be running around the restaurant but they can be fussy and not want to sit still on the parent’s lap or in the high chair.

I agree with buckheadgirl. The best case scenario – to cause the least amount of confusion for all involved – is to allow one parent to go with a friend (who hopefully offered to pay at least the tip). Sometimes you have to suck it up.

You may think I don’t have a dog in the fight because I don’t have kids but I have been stood up by friends whose sitter cancelled and have had to decide whether to go alone, not go, or find someone to fill in. The pain is that the friend with the child care issue usually doesn’t tell you until the last minute because they are trying all their options so finding a stand-in is often difficult. I don’t like to go places alone so I have on several occasions had to sit events out because of someone else’s child care issues. I’m facing that a lot here in TX because most of my friends (pretty much all but one) have kids. Fortunately they have husbands that are true partners and co-parents so with notice there is no real problem with connecting and going places.


January 15th, 2014
10:41 am

According to more detailed articles, the baby was crying and other diners were angry. So what if the kid isn’t running around?

As for refunds/rain checks, pre-paid is the restaurant’s business model, and people know that and agree to it when they purchase the tickets. I just don’t see a cancelled sitter as an excuse that warrants special consideration. A health emergency? Yeah, it’d be nice if the restaurant refunded for that, but I wouldn’t expect it. Major accident/disaster that shut down major routes to the restaurant preventing many guests from arriving? May deserve consideration. But a cancelled sitter? To me, that’s incredibly far down the list of possible refund-worthy excuses. I think that’s the equivalent of getting stuck with a last minute project at work that prevents you from going. Tough!

I’m generally not a fan of policies outright banning babies or children. I think the restaurant should state in their sales policy that 1) they reserve the right to ask anyone disruptive to leave, regardless of age (and then actually do so) and 2) ALL individuals in the party must have a ticket (charge full price for each baby). Those two rules would probably keep most kids out while making an (albeit difficult) allowance for quiet babies to be brought in with the clear expectation that they remain quiet or leave.

Don't Tread

January 15th, 2014
10:59 am

Should parents have a better Plan B than to bring a screaming baby to a restaurant?


January 15th, 2014
11:06 am

Why don’t restaurants consider a baby room where parents are charged a fee for a sitter?


January 15th, 2014
11:16 am

Babies and toddlers don’t belong in high end restaurants. Period. They don’t “misbehave”. They just behave as they’re supposed to at that age. It’s inevitable they will occasionally cry, fuss, yell or otherwise do things that create disturbances. A few decades ago, parents knew that. It would never have occurred to anyone to bring a baby to a nice restaurant.

Sore subject for me, because I had most of a very expensive meal ruined recently because some dimwit parents at the next table brought their infant. The baby wasn’t unhappy or temporarily fussy. He let out an ear piercing scream every 3-4 minutes for a couple of hours, because that’s what babies at that age do just because they’re delighted to find they can. This was a very expensive anniversary dinner we’d planned for a month.

Bottom line – a parent’s desire to not waste $200 on an unused dinner reservation doesn’t trump my right not to have my $200 dinner ruined. Your kid, your life, your problem. If it’s that important, it’s your responsibility to have a back up plan in case the babysitter cancels. (The same is true of any other personal issue – car trouble, a crisis at work, etc.) It’s not the restaurant’s responsibility, nor that of other diners, to make adjustments for you.

Real Life

January 15th, 2014
11:21 am

Absolutely not. This is not the atmosphere for an infant or small children. People are paying not just for the food but for the ambience. In this instance the baby was crying, disturbing others paying the high prices commanded by this restaurant. The restaurant has strict policies about bookings and cancellations so it is up to diners to have a contingency plan if something goes awry.
And TWG did leave out the part regarding the infant’s crying. That detail was in all the articles I have seen about this, but this blog only selected the parts to make us feel sorry for the parents.
Parents need to learn that not all places are suitable for their children. Some places simply are not family friendly. Parents of small children are not more important that the others who have also paid a fortune to dine in that restaurant.


January 15th, 2014
11:38 am

As usual you twisted this around and didn’t show the part where the baby would NOT stop crying.

Mom of 3

January 15th, 2014
11:42 am

No!No!No! And they don’t belong in the movie theater, either. Good grief, all you selfish parents out there! When you have a baby, you have to give up a few things for a while. If you don’t want to do that, then don’t have children.


January 15th, 2014
11:52 am


I find it hilarious that you think children don’t belong in church. I agree, in fact, no one should be subjected to that type of abuse.


January 15th, 2014
12:33 pm

GET A CLUE, A little crying does not ruin a meal. The selfish people are those that think parents should not take their children with them. For a child to learn how to behave in a situation they have to be in the situation. If you have that much money for entertainment allow the free entertainment form the kids or just stay HOME. Those of you who are sticks in the mud could try donating your money to a worthy cause instead of your belly.


January 15th, 2014
1:00 pm

Tim, a wailing 8-month-old is not old enough to learn from the experience, and yes, it does ruin a fine dining experience. Expecting 80 other people who paid for a high-end experience to be ok with you keeping a wailing baby in their midst is the epitome of selfish. Go to a livelier, noisier, pretty good place like the Cheesecake Factory instead.


January 15th, 2014
1:06 pm

No one has mentioned this, but why have only one sitter on the list? We NEVER went out when the kids were small to anything nicer than McDonalds, but as a teen I was a sitter and I did a few “emergency” fill-ins when someone’s sitter cancelled, IF the parents had already established a relationship with me. Last minute, I would expect a little extra.

If you can afford to go out for that kind of an evening, I am sure you have enough money to develop a list of suitable sitters. You should have several if you go out much.

I don’t think other diners should ever be subjected to misbehaving adults or children when they go out for even just a nice evening. That means no drunk men making obscene comments about other diners, too!

@ Tim

January 15th, 2014
1:18 pm

You are the one that needs to GET A CLUE. Your statement – “For a child to learn how to behave in a situation they have to be in the situation.” Babies cannot be trained to behave – crying is their only form of communication. Your retort – “If you have that much money for entertainment allow the free entertainment form the kids or just stay HOME.” That rule goes both ways Timbo!

Sorry, but the ONE couple with a crying baby has no more rights than ALL the other dining guests that are following the basic rules of intellect and civility.

Your final demand – “Those of you who are sticks in the mud could try donating your money to a worthy cause instead of your belly.” YES, those parents with the crying baby could donate their money too or better yet add it to their precious infant’s future fund.

Tim GET A CLUE !!!


January 15th, 2014
1:42 pm

@catlady – I agree 100%. I always had a few sitters on a list, and would pay extra for unscheduled events. I also had an agreement with several neighbors and would take their kids in a pinch, as they would mine. If these folks had enough money to spend that much on dinner, they should have had an extra $20 and hour for a sitter. Shame on them – I think they are using this as an excuse because they just didn’t want a sitter in the first place.

I think as a parent this gets me even madder as I always tried to be considerate of others, Did my kids cry and/or have meltdowns? Of course! Did I just ignore these meltdowns? No. Would I ever subject diners at a fancy restaurant to my crying child? Never. I realized a long time ago that the world revolved around more than me and my children. I think this type of entitled mentality is getting worse.


January 15th, 2014
1:49 pm


January 15th, 2014
1:57 pm

As someone who has been the the restaurant in question, I can say it is absolutely NOT child friendly. The whole restaurant atmosphere is set up to be an experience that accompanies the food experience. A crying 8 month old would absolutely have been disruptive and ruined that experience for all of the other patrons, who also paid upwards of $200 for their night out. Alinea is very upfront about their prepaid, no refund ticket policy. People wait months for tickets to this restaurant, and with good reason. It’s extremely selfish of the parents in question to think that their night out trumped everyone else’s in the restaurant. If their sitter cancelled, then that is unfortunate, but honestly, why didn’t they have a back-up sitter? When my children were that age (they’re old enough to stay by themselves now) I never would have dreamed of not having multiple sitters on my speed dial, including at least one that was usually available on a couple hours notice. The restaurant shouldn’t have to have a “no children” policy because it should be common sense that a 3-star Michelin restaurant is NOT suitable for anyone under 18. If the couple in question’s sitter really DID cancel, the couple should have stayed home and depending on when their sitter cancelled (i.e. – if they had 2 or 3 hours notice) they could have tried to either find another sitter or sell their tickets online. Tickets would have been scooped up in no time.


January 15th, 2014
3:04 pm

Since when should children not be allowed at church? Church is not there for YOUR personal enjoyment…it is there as a place of worship to God. Even the Bible states that children need to be a part of that. Perhaps you remember the rebuke of Jesus to his disciples for turning the children away.


January 15th, 2014
3:10 pm

NO! Good-gawd, what are we coming too!??


January 15th, 2014
3:13 pm

As a matter of fact, babies belong where babies are catered too. End of story. Their behavior is unpredictable and until they can understand how to behave they need to be at home or in an environment suited to crying children and hysterical, self-centered parents. I attended a memorial service this past weekend and the pastor had to ask a family to remove their crying baby. And we wonder why children are they way they are today. The acorn does not fall too far from the tree.


January 15th, 2014
3:43 pm

If the parents had tickets to a falcon’s game and their sitter cancelled, would you expect the falcons to give the parents a rain check or tickets to another game? no, stuff happens, sorry…

a reader

January 15th, 2014
3:51 pm

While I think a restaurant is perfectly within its rights to have a no refund / pre-paid policy, I really hope that this is and remains a rarity. I am *so* sick of the pre-pay / no refund world we are moving more and more in to. Flights, now hotels and rental cars, and now food? Geezy. People get sick, have emergencies, or even non-emergencies. A little good will by businesses would go a long long way (instead of the stuck up attitude of “we have a wait list months long”).

While I agree that small children don’t belong at upscale dining spots, I really hate the proliferation of the attitude of pre-pay / snobbyness that this restaurant embodies.