Should Restaurants Charge More For Bad Kids?

One restaurant in Singapore has added surcharges for kids who disrupt other diners.

The subject of unruly children at restaurants is a tricky one, and there's no one right way to approach it. Some restaurants ban kids after a certain hour, while others have special rules for them. (And of course, some places simply ban kids altogether.) But here's a new solution we haven't seen before: A restaurant in Singapore has reportedly added surcharges onto customers' bills for children who were disruptive during the meal, reports NextShark. The charge is approximately $7 USD.

Singaporean website Mothership first shared a screenshot regarding a particular incident in which a customer at Angie's Oyster Bar and Grill had requested a baby chair prior to their reservation. The restaurant informed the customer that the business didn't have any such chairs, offering instead to make space for the child's stroller and notifying the customer that there would be a surcharge in the event that the child was disruptive to other diners.

Obviously, some parents aren't so pleased with this policy. A negative review about Angie's Oyster Bar on travel website Tripadvisor reads:

Been to Angie's a couple of times with my family (& baby) and food was decent.

We wanted to head back to Angie's so we made a reservation and indicated that we were bringing our child along. Angie's then got back to us informing us that they were not a kids friendly restaurant and that there would be a "screaming child surcharge" if a child was "screaming/uncontrolled" and this would "NOT be tolerated".

This was the first time we were informed of this even though we had been on other occasions. While I understand that a screaming child would disturb other guests, I thought Angie's could have take a more polite approach. Am pretty put off by the reply. Guess we won't be heading back.

An account labeled "Marketing at Angie's Oyster Bar & Grill" (who we can only assume is a representative of the business) responded by saying:

Over the last few months, we've received an increasing number of complaints of children running around unattended or disturbing other tables during the service period. Not only is this dangerous as servers are often moving around with hot food and sharp cutlery, but it is also disrespectful to other diners who may wish to dine in a quiet and comfortable atmosphere. In these instances, our team speaks with the parents or caretakers and they are almost always able to manage the situation. However, we occasionally experience situations where nothing is done and the matter is ignored altogether. As a restaurant, this puts us in an awkward position when we try to explain to other guests why nothing is being done to address the matter. Because of these experiences, we felt we had no choice but to impose a "penalty" to address such unfortunate situations.

A few subsequent reviews on Tripadvisor show that some people seem to support this course of action. "I have never been here, but as a mother of 2, I agree with the $10 charge for unruly kids," one post reads. "If you're going to take your kids to dinner, then be responsible parents and watch over your kids."

As many of you know, I'm a former restaurant pizzamaker. Typically line cooks (such as yours truly) are insulated from unruly kids, but I worked in an open kitchen with a low counter, meaning kids could, and often did, interact with us. Personally, I loved seeing them, answering their questions, making drawings in the flour, and playing entertainer until I finished cooking their meals.

But on occasion, some children would cause a fair amount of trouble by slamming on the glass demanding attention from us, screaming at the top of their lungs, and trying to eat raw flour from our stretching station, which we did our best to discourage. They'd sometimes run in front of servers and food runners carrying scalding pizzas, too, and as someone who's been burned by plenty of pies, I can attest to how potentially dangerous that is.

Most parents would wrangle their kids at the first sign of mischief, but sometimes a guardian was nowhere to be found. (Obviously I wasn't in the position of running around the dining room looking for them since I was handling pies.) As a diner, of course, I've had a few meals disrupted by screaming and running children, but almost every parent I've seen has dealt with the situation quickly. In those cases, anyone would agree that some type of surcharge would be unwarranted.

Still, I can easily see how diners and staff could get frustrated with a shouting ping pong ball barreling through a dining room. A $7 charge is probably not meant to be punitive, but rather a last-resort deterrent. I'm not trying to play both sides; it's just hard when you know that two things are true at once: that everyone deserves to go out for a meal, and that employees deserve an environment free of wee ones who might be injured if left unsupervised.

If this is what it takes to keep kids safe (and other diners sane), I think the concept isn't the worst one. It would really depend on some objective oversight by the restaurant, though—parents shouldn't get slapped with a fine if their kid lets out one odd shriek before the check is paid. In fact, this kind of deterrent might be best if it were evenly applied to restaurant disruptions of all types. Drunken rowdy revelers at table three? That'll be $7, please.