Child Free Zones--Do or Don't?

It's no surprise to most managers, but today's clubs host a wide range of complex demographics within their membership base each with their own specific needs. Younger club members in their 20s and 30s are more child centric and thus are interested in kid's activities and childcare, while the eldest members tend to enjoy more of a quieter adults-only experience at the club. (There are of course a handful of other equally important member demographic groups, each of which is explain in depth during the RCS Food & Beverage Boot Camp.)

Popular food and beverage website Eater recently published an article discussing the restauranteur trend of banning children from their dining establishments. Owners and managers made this decision for a variety of reasons: loud or crying children ruining an expensive dining experience for other patrons; children causing physical damage to the eatery; or in some cases, simple frustration with the parents themselves.

Photo by The Impact

'“A lot of parents think they’re paying for the space and service and taking a break, and therefore taking a break from parenting as well,” says Liam Flynn, owner of Australia’s Flynn’s Restaurant. He instituted a ban on unruly children under seven last year in response to a crying infant and its poorly behaved parents. “There’s a lot of people that feel they are not accountable for their own or their child’s actions,” he adds.' reports Eater.

Many of these restaurants faced instant backlash from parents and grandparents on social media and elsewhere who felt like they were being attacked and maligned. But at the same time, some of these same establishments saw a dramatic uptick in attendance as other customers came to appreciate a quieter, more sophisticated, and adults-only dining experience.

There are a handful of risks to having children in a restaurant: while some are well behaved, others may not be, and little ones running around have the risk of bumping into a server carrying hot liquids or glass putting both parties--along with nearby diners--at risk of injury. Permitting children also requires the dining establishment to invest in high chairs, booster seats, and a children's menu.

However a ban on kids brings the heavy risk of alienating families. In today's society dining out is a much more common occurrence than it was in the past. Part of this increase can be attributed to the busy lifestyles that many of us lead, but it also may be because the average family size has decreased from 4 children (in the 1970's and before) to just 1 or 2, making dining out for the whole family much more financially feasible.

Photo by restaurant Cuchara, which doesn't have a ban on children but which passes out these cards to all parents as they enter to enforce the standard of etiquette expected.

Some clubs can very easily circumvent this problem by having multiple dining rooms, some for casual family dining and others restricted to more formal adults-only dining. However other clubs may not have this luxury and face the dilemma of attempting to be all things to all members.

The decision managers must then make should be a compromise based on the needs of their unique membership. Consider opting to host several "adults only" dining nights per week and allow family dining at all other times. Or perhaps what's needed is a concerted effort to host a handful of kid-friendly events per week while maintaining an adults-only dining environment. (And if you need more customized one-on-one help, our Signature Food & Beverage Audit can help!)

How does your club handle this kid conundrum? Tweet your creative ideas to us at @ConsultingRCS, post on our Facebook page or e-mail us at info@consultingRCS.com and you could see your ideas featured in an upcoming article!

Reid Consulting Services, the creators of Food & Beverage Service Boot Camp(TM), specialize in operations consulting, strategic planning, food and beverage management, and training programs for private clubs around the world. For more information, phone (623) 322-0773; or visit the RCS website at www.consultingRCS.com.


Whitney Reid Pennell
 Founder & President

Whitney Reid Pennell is the founder and president of the award-winning RCS Hospitality Group (formerly Reid Consulting Services). She is a published author and widely praised seminar leader, with over 20 years of club operations management and consulting experience. 

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