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No Kidding

There can be little else more trying to the gastronome's nerves than the sound of shrieking children ricocheting off the walls of a favourite restaurant. Badly-behaved brats can ruin your well-earned meal out, but what's the form when it comes to letting your displeasure be known? Restaurants could take matters into their own hands: Last year Olde Salty, a restaurant in N. Carolina, banned children outright – 'Screaming children will not be tolerated' is their hard line and they have reportedly seen a rise in custom to compensate for the undoubtedly peeved families taking theirs elsewhere. We're a bit politer in this country, however, and Hardens the restaurant guide, in conjunction with, has now published a guide to eating out with young children. Having packed it with essential information and tips on just how to get through it successfully (without causing other diners to stage a walk-out), Hardens are no doubt hoping that the publication will encourage parents to continue taking their children out to eat and the rest of us will just have to put up until the bambini get some table manners. According to a recent survey, 31% of adults with young children have been turned away from restaurants mindful of their other customers. We're surprised it's that high – and how many have been turned out once the children start raising the roof? Chains such as Giraffe have made young families their life-blood – and good for them. It's refreshing to see restaurants taking the young diner seriously but what's the deal with finer dining? Should children be allowed anywhere near the higher echelons of the dining experience? Actually, we're not against children eating out, but there must be savvier ways of doing it. Children should be exposed to a variety of eating experiences and food, but surely good table manners start at home: shouldn't they be fully trained before they hit the high street? Are separate dining times or even rooms the answer – where appropriate? What's your take and where have you dared dine with your children?

John - March 31, 2011

I remember many years ago in Italy, a restaurant that had a separate room for kids to eat in.

Teresa - March 29, 2011

I have taken my daughter to restaurants since she was a baby and she knows how to behave, yes table manners start at home but children learn by seeing and doing, so if parents and siblings are eating tv dinners or using poor table manners kids will copy Kids in schools these days are allowed to eat like animals, I work as a volunteer at a primary school and it's like a zoo at lunch time, no table supervision at all.... table manners are appalling, only few know how to use a knife at all, either forks held badly or fingers are the norm and its a case of eat the very bad food quickly and get out so the next batch can eat..... I think there is a breakdown in parenting skills and family eating time generally and how can we expect children to suddenly start behaving just because it's a restaurant. I would hate to be eating out and have screaming kids running about.... but if they were well behaved it's fine, I would like to see families being given the chance but if kids start playing up should be asked to leave immediately, that would soon get the message across....

Paul - March 29, 2011

Started to take our son to 'good' restaurants as a soon as it was practical to do so. He knew how to behave and thoroughly enjoyed the experiences. In fact, he was a far more refined diner than numerous loutish and loud adult party members that I have witnessed in some eating establishments. It's entirely down to how parents educate and control their children.

Stan Cotter - March 29, 2011

i too have had really annoying experiences of little brats in the dining room. a local restaurant we used (used) to go to in one evening one child picking up the table mats and banging them on the table and yelling and screaming at the same time. another climbing up the back of my parters seat, leaning over her shoulder and giggling (her parents were sat next too her) and another child running amok round the dining room and we later found the childs mother sitting in the bar (alone) drinking lager and smoking (it was a while ago). i refused point blank to go there again. it is not my place to admonish these children but if the management do nothing about it they dont deserve any custom.

Pam Tarn - March 29, 2011

I think children should be allowed only if they can behave, feckless parents who allow their children to spoil the dining experience of others should be made aware. We took our young son out to dine but would not have tolerated it if he had misbehaved. There should certainly be a cut off time, say after 6.30 when children are no longer allowed.

Paul - March 29, 2011

We have encountered this problem too, its definitely a recent phenomena. Previously kids were not taken to pubs or restaurants, but we do accommodate children making it clear that its only WELL BEHAVED children. Many parents don't seem to know what well behaved means, some cant even behave themselves! Our ground rules are, no shrieking, or screaming, no standing on the seats and NO Running about. Kids who do so are asked to go outside and eat in the garden. When we opened four years ago I even put it on the menus - "well behaved children and women are welcome" but my staff were uncomfortable with the PC-ness of it. Unruly children were the only time I lost my rag (and we serve about a thousand meals a week) was a family table of 8, two young girls of about 10, who just ran back and forth to the toilets, stood up to eat lolling over a chair and threw food. I asked them to behave a bit better and sit down, and their father blew his top and said it was insulting. He was well oiled and a bit of an oaf, so I invited the whole party to leave. They seemed delighted they were getting out without paying for their drinks and food - one wanted to take his pint of Guinness with him, but i do draw the line somewhere and insisted we pour it away.

Keely - March 24, 2011

No, Ban the idiotic parents that let their kids run wild in restaurants without a thought to other diners or their own childs safety! and yes, I do have a child.