Restaurant Rage?

I need to calibrate my behaviour – is it reasonable to ask my friends?  Will they tell me straight?

My parents are returning to Australia tomorrow and they wanted to take me, Katie and the kids to dinner before they went.  The kids are still small – 5 years, 3 1/2 years  and 16 months – so it was never going to be easy.  We though the early sitting at the local gastro-pub would be OK so we all got there at 6:30.  It wasn’t busy – just one other table occupied when we arrived and we ordered and had some drinks and thinks were good.  Around the time the kids were getting bored food arrived and things were OK for a bit longer.

After eating for a bit, however, the kids did get bored and Jemima, being very little, was also tired and decided that a small tantrum was needed.  So we tried to deal with this and then the boys needed the toilet.  Katie dealt with that and Jemima calmed down a bit and then the waitress tells us that Jemima’s noise is disturbing the other diners.  Some more have arrived by now as it’s getting on towards 7:30.   Apparently someone has made a complaint.

I ask the waitress what she suggests we should do?  I’m a bit angry with this situation – a 1 1/2 year old can’t be reasoned with, you can only try to comfort or change the environment or work out what will help them calm down.  The other diners had a choice when they saw kids in the dining room (the other table that was occupied when we arrived also had children but a little older).  I feel that I want to know who has complained so I can talk to them directly and ask them perhaps what they think we should do – clearly the point of the complaint is just to try to make the noise go away but that’s either clueless about children or just plain intolerant.  Anyway the waitress is a bit clueless and looks blank so I ask if she is saying that we should leave (we are still waiting for our deserts to arrive – not the most brisk service).  She then makes a big blunder.  She says, yes, that is perhaps what she is saying.  I tell her that it should probably be her manager that tells us that but before anything like that can happen the family is getting their things and preparing to go.  This, to me, is just not on but clearly we are now leaving the pub.  So I raise my voice enough to be heard and tell the whole dining room what has happened – that someone has made a complaint about my daughter and that we have been asked to leave and I angrily ask what sort of people they are?!!  I didn’t really hold back any of my contempt for the complainers I suppose.

As we leave the dining room the manager finally arrives and we have a discussion about whose behaviour was least acceptable – theirs or mine.

I still think, though, that it had to be done.  I really wanted to confront the people who made the complaint – to address them directly and have them address me directly if they had the courage.  I wanted the rest of the dining room to understand the culture they were dining in and share my disgust at a culture that doesn’t tolerate the way that children will behave.

So was it reasonable behaviour on my part?  Hard to say unless you were there I guess but Katie thinks I was a bit OTT.

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3 Responses to Restaurant Rage?

  1. Hi Alan,

    Well, you asked for an honest response… 😉

    My take on this is that you were out of line (although I sympathise, given the stressful nature of the situation).

    Young kids behave anti-socially, because they don’t know any better, and parents often can’t control that behaviour. But you’re still in charge of them. So if you take that uncontrolled, anti-social behaviour into a dining room, you’re effectively being anti-social.

    And nobody owes it to you to cut you any slack in such situations because you’ve chosen the difficult path of parenthood.


    All the best,


    • The grouch says:

      Of course you know I’m going to disagree! 🙂

      Consider that the pub dining room had just one table occupied when we arrived at 6:30pm and that was a family with kids. Every other diner had a choice when they arrived as to whether they wanted to dine there or not.

      Also, its not a public space, it’s up the the proprietor whether they want our custom or not. If they agree to serve us then there’s an implicit contract that says that they are going to feed us the meal that we ordered and that we are going to eat it and pay for it. It’s not straighfor

      In retrospect I guess the other diners have a right to complain to the proprietor (which they did) but its really up the the proprietor to manage things as best they can. If they have a table with kids then they can make sure that there are no delays serving that table (which there were) and there are things that they can do to the environment to make it better: fewer hard surfaces that reflect and amplify noise might be at odds with the goal of selling more booze so perhaps there’s a commercial trade-off there. We were just waiting for desert when all this happened so it could have been handled by simply serving desert.

      The establishment also has to fit into the community they’re in and there happen to be a very high number of families with kids in this area. It should be no surprise to anyone that there might be children eating in the pub at that time of day.

      So I think the other diners might have expectations that the place is well managed and my dissatisfaction is really with how the situation was managed.

      I think society does have an obligation to cut all it’s members some slack. That’s why we have wheelchair access to places and laws about equal opportunity.

  2. I would have been cranky too Alan but not sure if I would have created a scene although I did just confront someone about an issue that was annoying me in our local post office because I happened to meet the person there…..sometimes we act impulsively when it is better to turn the other cheek. I would have voiced my displeasure to the manager and seen what their response was to the situation?? Sadly it ends up spoiling the night for all involved 🙁

    PS Nice blog… you have a followers button or can I subscribe to your diatribe 😉

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