London McDonald’s tries to ban teenagers after 7pm: How to manage unruly customers

A London McDonald’s has been forced to apologise after it tried to ban teenagers in the fast food restaurant after 7pm.

A misspelt sign was placed in the window of the Sidcup McDonald’s reading “No youths will be serverd (sic) after 7pm”.

The sign led to mass outrage from local London teenagers and attracted negative comments on Twitter, most criticising the restaurant for trying to impose a 7pm deadline on teenagers, others equally shocked about the McDonald’s management’s poor spelling.

The incident led to protests outside the McDonald’s, with English paper London Evening Standard reporting dozens of teenagers campaigning outside the fast food restaurant.

Thanks to the public outrage, McDonald’s UK master franchise overruled the Sidcup restaurant’s decision to ban teenagers and the sign has now been removed.

In a statement to the London Evening Standard, McDonald’s said there would be no age restriction policies at the Sidcup McDonald’s.

“On Saturday evening, the restaurant experienced problems with a group of individuals causing sustained disruption to the restaurant, affecting fellow customers and employees,” McDonald’s says.

“As a result, the restaurant management took urgent steps to try and prevent repeat anti-social behaviour. The wording of the initial signage displayed in the restaurant was incorrect and we apologise for any confusion caused. McDonald’s is a family-friendly restaurant that welcomes everyone through its doors.”

Local police also confirmed the reports of anti-social behaviour taking place at the restaurant.

Holding Redlich special counsel Trent Taylor told SmartCompany it would be illegal for a McDonald’s in Australia to ban all teenagers after 7pm.

“It would be very hard to adopt this type of policy in Australia as it would be discriminatory on the basis of age,” he says.

“A person may be banned from a place as long as the ban is not in breach of applicable laws, including anti-discrimination laws… Security guards or bouncers are allowed to ask a person to leave private premises or functions on behalf of the owner. For example, shopping centre management, staff and security guards or bouncers can seek to ban a person to stop them from being in certain places.”

Taylor says businesses can also ask people to leave if they’re exhibiting drunken behaviour or violence and have the right to impose “reasonable” dress codes.

“Recent examples of dress code infringement being reported include a West Australian patron who was removed from a licensed venue for having a mullet style haircut,” he says.

“In Queensland, new laws require hotels, restaurants, clubs and any other premises subject to a liquor licence to expel persons carrying prohibited outlaw motorcycle gang items (such as clothing or colours) from their premises.”

While businesses have the right to police how patrons dress and act within their premises, they don’t have the right to control people’s behaviour on public property.

“Any ban cannot extend to a public place (such as a street or park near the business premises),” Taylor says.

“A business owner may need to involve the police if it’s a public area. McDonald’s could only really ban people from walking in their front door if they wanted to, but not from sitting on the footpath. They can’t remove someone from a public place unless they call the police, file a complaint and then the police have powers to move people on.”

Taylor says for franchise store owners it can be more difficult for business owners to make decisions about who to let into the business.

“A franchisee is expected to comply with their franchise agreement and with the operations manual which may govern how the business may be conducted,” he says.

Setting clear policies about condition of entry, having these policies clearly displayed at the entrance to the business premises, and ensuring the policies adhere to local laws are steps businesses can take to police who enters their business.

“Ensure any policies are applied consistently and without regard to unlawful grounds,” Taylor says.

He also recommends communicating polices to managers, employees and security guards and making sure the process for removing patrons is in writing.


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