Earlier this year, an upscale Italian restaurant in North Carolina banned children under age 5. What's that all about, does he hate kids? Apparently, that's not the case. The owner, Pasquale Caruso, defends his choice. He says it's not even about the children at all. "I have two children myself," he said in an interview with the Mooresville Tribune. It's about the other restaurant guests - he's trying to create an atmosphere, and apparently children under age 5 aren't part of the upscale environment.
Caruso says that customer complaints drove the decision to keep the restaurant "elegant." He imagines his restaurant (which is located in a strip mall) as a place where couples and friends can enjoy a nice evening out. Children under age 5 destroy the magic behind a beautiful meal. They throw food, run around, and scream and make loud noises.
An Upscale Experience or a Family Friendly Restaurant?
Honestly, this struggle is nothing new for restaurants. I ran a restaurant for almost four years, and during that time, I saw just about everything. Nothing we saw deterred us in our mission to create a family-friendly environment. We created an outdoor play area for kids, which was fantastic for parents. They had a place away from home where they knew the whole family could enjoy the meal.
On the flip side, however, this environment sometimes caused problems for other customers. They complained that the kids were running wild and out of control. Many customers complained about bad parenting, as the parents sat back and "allowed" their children to be unruly.
There was little I could do. As the chef, it certainly wasn't my place to tell parents how to discipline their children any more than it was their place to tell me how to cook their food (although they did that too, sometimes). I tried my best to keep the peace between the customers, but I couldn't help but notice that the playhouse we installed outside was badly abused and falling apart after only one year.
Caruso was feeling the pains of this exact type of customer complaint, and he wanted his business to be less "local pizzeria" and more like an upscale Italian restaurant. He had a hard time charging high prices while children threw food on the floor, and he felt like the electronic devices and children's loud, inappropriate noises were a distraction.
So, what did the people think about this decision? When we visited their Yelp page, a pop-up alerted us that the page had been cleaned up. Because of the news attention, there were a lot of people making comments and Yelp wanted to keep the reviews about personal experience.
Customers seemed to have very mixed reviews about Caruso's kid policy. In addition to commenting on the ban of children under age 5, many reviews mention bad service and communication in general. All of the positive reviews rave about the excellent quality of the food.
The most common complaint seems to be that the policy wasn't mentioned when they made the reservations and they were turned away when they arrived with young children.
One reviewer applauds the decision because of a past experience at this very restaurant with "parents who failed to control their young children." Another reviewer would have passed if they knew how Carusos would "discriminate against children." They feel the decision was "snooty."
Other reviewers brought up a good point - a drunk couple would be louder and more obnoxious than young children, and older patrons with hearing aids can also speak in loud tones. Should the restaurant also ban these customers? The company has opened up their Facebook page and invited customers to comment.
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