An eight-month-old crying baby at three Michelin star restaurant Alinea in Chicago has sparked debate about whether small children should be allowed in dining venues.
Famed Alinea chef Grant Achatz turned to Twitter after the experience to ask if he should have requested the parents and the baby leave.
“Tbl (table) brings 8mo.Old. It cries. Diners mad. Tell ppl no kids? Subject diners 2crying? Ppl take infants 2 plays? Concerts? Hate saying no, but…”, he wrote on Twitter.
The tweet received at least 147 ‘favourites’ on twitter and 138 ‘retweets’, sending the debate viral.
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Comments in response to the tweet spanned support, or other solutions.
“I would not have been pleased. Unless we had a sitter, we did no fine dining when we had a child that age. Not fair to others,” wrote one follower.
“Parents should’ve gone to bathroom with crying baby. Miss a course or two. No big whoop,” said another.
The chef, who charges around $US265 for a tasting experience which must be booked three months in advance, spoke about his uncertainty about what to do in this situation on television program Good Morning America.
“I could hear it crying in the kitchen,” he said.
“We want people to come and enjoy Alinea as it is, but we also have to be cognisant of the other people that came in to experience Alinea that night.”
The chief executive officer and founder of Tasting Table, Geoff Bartakovics, told the program: “We had on the one hand parents who understood the predicament, and on the other hand you had those guests who think there is no place for an eight-month-old baby in a fine dining establishment.”
The issue has also resonated in Australia. In 2013, anger ensued in a Sydney café when a patron asked a fellow diner to leave with their crying child.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported the patron asked the child’s parents to “take their child for a walk or find another solution”, to which the parents were upset.
”The cafe was full and we snared one of the last free tables. As we began reading the menu, the atmosphere suddenly changed,” said the patron’s partner, Jodie Noyce.
”Every single person in the cafe, including the staff, seemed to notice the screeching sound.
”After around 10 minutes of continuous crying, my partner had clearly had enough.
“It’s one thing for a baby to cry but this is ridiculous. Thinking that he wanted to leave without eating, I began to gather my things. But he had other ideas. ‘No one has said anything to them, so I am’.”
Allens Linklaters partner, workplace relations, Simon Dewberry told SmartCompany while it is not technically illegal to ask someone to leave a premises over a crying or disruptive child, the act of denying them a service on the basis of being the parent could lead them to complain of discrimination.
“The message is that you need to proceed with caution,” he says.
Dewberry says business owners in this situation should aim for a positive solution, perhaps helping the parent, or suggesting a quieter place they could sit until the child calms down.
He says in cases where a child is at risk of hurting themselves, or could hurt other patrons by running around and causing damage, it is not unreasonable to request the parent or care giver to take action.
“At the point that it is really affecting the comfort of other guests, it is understandable to ask. But do so in an understanding and controlled way,” he advises.
Peter Curcuruto, restaurant manager of upmarket restaurant China Doll in Woolloomooloo, Sydney, thinks it is up to restaurant owners, not patrons, to step in and mediate.
He told the SMH last year, “When it does happen, we try to be more of a mediator, going for a diplomatic approach, rather than demanding people get out.”
“There are much better ways of dealing with this sort of thing; we’ve had staff defuse situations by helping parents calm their babies, or offering to take them for a walk.”
He said it gets more difficult if patrons try to deal with it themselves.
“It’s much easier for us when patrons let us politely convey information to a family, rather than take matters into their own hands. I think it’s up to the establishment to handle any potential problems,” he said.
The baby battle reflects a recent incident in the UK, where youths were ‘banned’ from a McDonald’s restaurant after 7pm in the evening.
Another debate in the restaurant sphere ensued when ‘ugly diners’ were reportedly seated at the back of an upmarket French restaurant, which aroused concern about discrimination.
However the Alinea debacle has found a light-hearted twist, with a new Twitter member @AlineaBaby gaining over 844 followers.
“I’m a baby who likes fine food, fine drinks, and crying,” it says in its profile.