Restaurant Charges $50 For 'Adults Unable To Parent'

The internet is divided over a policy aimed at keeping kids under control in the dining room.

Another week, another debate about children in restaurants. This time, Today has the story about a family charged $50 in accordance with a restaurant's policy regarding "adults unable to parent." It is a tale tailor-made for internet outrage.

Let's get this out of the way first: Toccoa Riverside Restaurant in Blue Ridge, Georgia looks like a gorgeous establishment. It is indeed right on the water, a cabin-like restaurant surrounded by forest and featuring a menu that showcases fish, pork, and beef. Actually, pretty much everything on the menu sounds delicious except for the disclaimers that line the bottom of the page.

Restaurants and children, an endless debate

The menu features a typical list of restaurant policies in the fine print, such as a $3 share charge for those who wish to split an entree, automatic 18% gratuity for check splitting, and a prohibition on outside food. Among these, however, is the unique inclusion of the phrase "Adult surcharge: For adults unable to parent $$$."

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At first, the disclaimer reads like a jokey but firm warning to parents that their children's behavior is their responsibility, not the restaurant's. And that's a stance I happen to agree with! If a child is antsy, loud, or running around, at best it detracts from everyone's meal, and at worst it presents an actual danger to employees and patrons alike. However, if the goal is to minimize a source of dining room disruption, why not ask patrons to leave rather than waiting until the end of the meal to enact a surcharge? Why devise a punishment rather than a more immediate solution?

A parent spoke with Today about having been slapped with the charge on their final bill, despite the parents' estimation that the children had been unusually well-behaved. The restaurant has declined to comment on the incident, except to note that the policy has been in place for years. The Today article also lists some comments from around the internet both against and in support of the surcharge, each as strongly worded as you might imagine.

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Interestingly, the restaurant's website also lists a Pooch Patio where patrons can bring their pets, and its Instagram page (though outdated) features some warmhearted posts about dogs dining with their owners at the restaurant. This seems slightly at odds with such an unyielding child policy, given that dogs can present many of the same issues as children, but maybe the fact that it's outdoors mitigates the disruption.

About those disruptions: Parents should not ignore their children's outbursts in a restaurant, even if that's the approach they might take toward such behavior at home. Other people are paying good money to enjoy a meal, and the restaurant itself promises patrons a certain atmosphere that a temper tantrum is sure to wreck. Dining with kids might mean bringing them outside for stretches of time so they can cool down or get their wiggles out. In turn, a restaurant can take measures to accommodate their littlest diners by serving them first (and fast). A restaurant shouldn't be required or expected to offer kids menus, or crayons, or chocolate milk in a lidded plastic cup—plenty of places already do that—but simply getting the kids distracted and fed early on can make a huge difference in how the rest of the meal plays out.

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Different restaurants have tried different approaches to family dining, to mixed results. Toccoa is far from the first one to enact an unruly child surcharge; a restaurant in Singapore made headlines for the same thing last year. Some establishments outright ban children, while others ban them after certain hours. Sometimes a warning is issued alongside the menus at the table. In all cases, the public is both passionate and torn in their response. For our part, we'll just say that it's harder for a restaurant to make headlines for an excellent child policy rather than a divisive one—but it does happen occasionally.

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