Should kids be allowed in fancy restaurants?

Eating out with kids is about courtesy and common sense, says Kerri Sackville

Practical Parenting / July 16 2018

Should children be allowed into fine dining restaurants? It’s a question I was pondering just a couple of weeks ago, when my parents took me out to dinner at a fancy-schmancy French bistro. We drank from huge bowl-like goblets, ate with silver cutlery, and dined on very delicious food that I would have no hope of replicating at home. It was lovely. The restaurant was filled with adults. It was an adult kind of place. However, just two tables away from us was a family of four – a mother, a father, and two very young-looking boys.

The boys were aged around four and six. They sat up at the table beautifully, dressed in matchy-matchy outfits, their little legs swinging under the chairs. They ate their dinner nicely, talked in indoor voices, and seemed to greatly appreciate the gourmet food. I was fascinated.

Mine is mine, yours is yours

Generally, I’m not in favour of taking kids to fine dining establishments. Having said that, I do take my kids to restaurants all the time. They love going out, and I love not having to cook. But my kids aren’t like the boys from the French bistro. My kids are noisy, they get up from their chairs, they spill things, and they lick their fingers at the table. Then again, they get that from me, so I really shouldn’t complain. What’s more, it simply isn’t worth taking my kids to expensive restaurants. I love sitting around a table with them over food I haven’t cooked, but they would no more appreciate a perfectly presented Cordon Bleu meal than they would an ancient Greek thesaurus, or a new packet of socks.

It’s for these reasons that we only ever go to family-style restaurants. After all, I don’t want my kids bothering fine-dining adults with their chatter, chair scraping, and finger-licking activities, nor do I wish to spend my evening off worrying about keeping my children in line. And furthermore, why spend a hundred dollars on steak béarnaise when my kids are just as happy with nuggets and chips?

However, the little boys at the French bistro were clearly loving their meals and were beautifully behaved. They had as much right to be in that restaurant as any adult person. And if their parents had the money and the inclination to feed them there, then all kudos to them for raising such sophisticated children.

The judgement zone

I have to say, I get very irritated when parents don’t consider the needs of other adults. I feel strongly that all adults deserve to have adult time and adult spaces where they are free from the intrusion of kids. However, I don’t believe in blanket rules banning children from any establishment. Kids like mine are an intrusion, and don’t belong in adult spaces. Kids like the boys at the bistro are not, and I would be delighted to dine near them again in the future. The key, to me, is considering the needs of other diners, or, to put it another way, ‘common courtesy’. In this, as in every other aspect of parenting, it is simply a matter of judgement.

Kerri Sackville is a columnist, social commentator and author. Her latest book, Out There - A Survival Guide for Dating in Midlife, is available now.