Crying Baby – Fancy Restaurant – Piece of Pie

Now here is a dilema for you to chew on.

Friends of mine just went out for a fancy dinner. They don’t normally go out, married over 30 years, both busy in their careers, they are lucky if they have time for a quick spin through the local drive through. But last weekend they decided to “dude” it up and go out for a special evening.

Seated at the table next to them was a couple with a baby. The baby was crying.  Not little delicate sounds but full on screaming crying with tears and hiccups and the whole nine yards.  This must be the baby’s regular mode of communication because the parents continued to enjoy their dinner without missing a beat.

Meanwhile, the guests at the nearby tables could barely hear themselves talk.

The waiter came up and apologized to my friends. “I am so sorry. The management would like to offer you a free dessert. Would you like a piece of pie?”

My friend replied, “Why on earth would I want to stay here longer? Isn’t there something you can do – say something to the parents? Suggest they take the baby out in the hall for a minute to calm her down?”

The waiter said “Oh no, I couldn’t do that.”

“So basically, what you are saying,” my friend surmissed, “Is that their money and their dining experience is more valuable to you and the management of this restaurant than all of the other people having to endure the screams.”

He didn’t know what to say and so quietly left the table. He brought them their check – no discount – no coupon for a return visit – no futher word about the fact that the evening out for my friends was ruined.

So what should have been done? Do you favor one customer over another because it is easier than confronting an unpleasant discussion?

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9 thoughts on “Crying Baby – Fancy Restaurant – Piece of Pie

  1. Wow – tough one. In the hospitality business you never want to offend anyone, but in the process the staff here made a major blunder!

    The elephant in the room is the screaming child. As a parent of 7, I completely understand that children are unpredictable, and sometimes they demand to scream, despite the best parenting techniques. In this situation, the parents have the obligation to protect the experience of the other diners. If the parents refuse to fulfill their social obligation, the restauranteur must do it for the benefit of the other diners.

    No doubt this would mean that the parents will be offended – after all, their little darling wasn’t *that* loud, and didn’t yell *that* long. Man, we’ll never go to that place again!

    Let’s modify the scenario – let’s make the child a teenager, or another adult. If someone is irrational, screaming, and it continues for more than a minute or so without someone taking significant action to stop the process, the restaurant staff would CALL THE POLICE who would arrest the offender for disturbing the peace and trespassing.

    I’m not suggesting that the baby or parents be arrested, but that the restaurant should consider who they want to have as customers, and who they don’t.

    Again, I’ve got a large brood, and would not tolerate that behavior. Yes, I have taken my child out to the car during an irrational fit. My liberty to express myself stops when it affects your ears.

  2. Deborah:
    I wish this was an uncommon occurance, but sadly, today it is becoming more and more the norm… parents take their children out to a restaurant and while they sit there chatting, their kids yell at one another, throw food around or just run around the restaurant. Staff are not permitted to say or do anything about it while the rest of the customers suffer. This is more a parental issue than it is a management or customer service issue. We raised our son, now an adult, to understand that he was not the only person in a restaurant and everyone wanted to enjoy themselves.

    While the offer of a free desert was at least some attempt to acknowledge conditions were less than idyllic, had there been space available, it might have been nice to offer them a table farther away from the screaming child, or the discount or desert on their next visit back to the restaurant.

  3. Thanks Tom and Terry for your comments. Tom your idea of switching it up and thinking through the scenario as if it were an adult was brilliant. And so right.

    Istarted taking my two kids out to dinner shortly after birth and they knew how to behave early on. Like you both – if one of my kids acted up – and they did on occassion – I would go out to the lobby or the car or another room to walk them around, soothe them, plead. when my youngest was in her 2s there was just no controlling her behavior and so for a year we stopped going out. Man, that was hard, but I didn’t want to listen to her cry either!

    Tough call but as Terry says – this isn’t as unusual a circumstance as you might think.

    Food for thought.
    pun intended.
    D

  4. Some thoughts –

    First let’s all agree that todays parents believe their child can do no wrong and should never be disciplined. All of you raised your children differently.

    This is not a question of how to raise children but, what’s the restaurant staff’s role here? Where is their loyalty? Let the child scream so as not to offend the parents and thereby drive away the rest of the customers? That doesn’t sound like good business to me!

    The staff needs to know they can address such a situation for the benefit of their majority of customers. Management/Owners needs to put down some guidelines for the staff so they know how to handle situations like that. Business is business and you can’t sacrifice the masses to save one sole customer. If no other solution is available (like a baby crying section), then the business needs to protect is customers from such an unpleasant experience and “fire” the offending customer. Perhaps a discount coupon to come back when the child is under control.

    Yes the self consumed parents may complain to others, but the majority of customers will tell others the positives about being considered a valued customer. I’ll take a roomful of positive customers and one negative vs. a roomful of negatives and one that may not even respect what was done for them.

    Business is business!

  5. Kathleen Guillory on said:

    What was the reasoning behind the waiter not requesting the parents to take their child out of the room? I have two children ages 2 and 12. My 2-year old does become unruly from time-to-time, but my daughter soothes easily. I agree, disturbances such as a screaming child can ruin a nice dinner. I’m surprise the crying didn’t bother the parents of the screaming child. Makes me wonder what was so special about this family, and whatever happened to the complementary dessert?

  6. haha – pie never showed up – my friends refused to stay. Should have been offered in a “to-go” container.

    Tom S – you nailed it when you said The staff needs to know they can address such a situation for the benefit of their majority of customers.

    This is what sets the Ritz apart – they have empowered their employees to fix the situation on the spot – no questions.

    Thanks to you both for sharing your thoughts.

  7. The waiter should have involved the manager. The manager should have spoken to the parents of the crying child and offered assistance or offer to box up their dinners.

    When my children were younger, one of us would take our crying child outside until he calmed down.

    Funny you mention the Ritz. When we were traveling and stayed at a Ritz, my eldest son was 2 years old and had a melt-down at dinner. I immediately picked him up and took him into the hallway. A manager saw what was happening and went to the gift shop. She bought a book for him, compliments of the hotel, and offered to hang out with my son so I could eat.

    We left a nice tip and I wrote a nice letter to the hotel about that employee.

  8. Julie-Ann on said:

    What an excellent dilemma to point out! This situation could have been handled much better. The restaurant could have quietly talked with the family and asked them if they would be more comfortable in a “more private” location. It could and should have also offered those who were terribly bothered something more for their troubles. This was a great opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade – http://www.upyourservice.com/learning-library/customer-service-recovery/turning-provocation-into-pleasure.

  9. LeeAnn on said:

    This week, Management politely asked a parent to walk their screaming baby around outside to calm the baby. This request came after several complaints from other restaurant patrons. The Parent happened to be a member of a Mom’s Forum group and had her group bombard the Restaurant’s Facebook page with negative comments like “this is not a family friendly restaurant” “we will never eat here again.” Maybe this is why Management/Owners are hesitant about asking a parent to act responsibly and remove their screaming baby/child for the sake of the majority of patrons. They can’t win.

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