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Is Banning Children from Your Restaurant a Good Idea?
By Amanda DiSilvestro

crying baby The customer is the most important thing, right? When you first get your job at a restaurant, this is told to you as if it were simple. Veteran restaurant employees, however, know this is not the case. What happens when one person loves item #10 on your menu, but that item is not popular with other customers? Eventually, that item has to disappear because after all, majority rules.

What happens when a group of people despise country music, but the majority of your customers listen to nothing but country music? Once again, you will be losing customers like the rock n' roll fans to the majority. In most cases, everyone will agree that a business cannot make everyone happy, and the majority is the fairest way to run a business. I agreed with this until I went out to eat last night and found myself next to a crying child. I wondered, would this fit into the "majority rules" category?

There are certain times when I love children and the adorable two year old next to me actually makes my meal more enjoyable. Usually, these times occur when the baby is not crying. I could not help but wonder if banning children from a restaurant would get a positive response from the majority. Furthermore, what if this action was put into place and it made the customers happier, but you lost businesses because you lost the families with children?

Apparently, one Pennsylvania restaurant owner was willing to take the risk. Owner of McDain's Restaurant in Monroeville, PA Mike Vuick banned children under the age of six from coming into his restaurant. He thought that their volume was uncontrollable and disturbing other customers. As I continued to research, I found that this has occurred in a few other restaurants around the world. I decided that the question should not be "is this ethical" or "will this be liked by the majority," but rather "is this a good business move?"

Banning Children-When It Will Work and When it Might Backfire

If you're considering not allowing children in your restaurant, it is a good idea to analyze the type of restaurant you run first. Although some of these ideas may seem obvious, one slip up could cause you the success of your business. After all, you do not want to be the restaurant who doesn't want kids, realizes revenue is down, and suddenly wants them again-not very welcoming.

When it will work:

  • Current Customers - If your restaurant is primarily an older crowd (bar scene, sports bar, etc.), banning children would likely not hurt your sales. In fact, if you made this announcement, your restaurant would likely get some free press. If you did not have a big draw to families anyway, this will probably be the extent of your profits.

  • Location - If you're located in a quiet area, people will tend to hope for a quiet restaurant atmosphere. For example, if you are located near a golf course or in the mountains, people will respond well to the idea of no children. The appeal of no children would likely increase the flow of customers into your restaurant.

  • Cuisine - Fancy restaurants are meant to be classy. If you have a fancy restaurant, banning children probably won't hurt your sales; however you must be careful. You do not want families to feel as though they are forced to eat fast food just because they have children. Market your restaurant as a place to take a break from the children, and be sure to remind parents that it is important to take time to relax.

When it will backfire:

  • Current Customers - This verges on obvious, but it is important you do not "try out" banning children if your restaurant brings in a lot of families. I say this to remind the owner who may be tired of hearing loud children and dealing with little kids running around the restaurant. Remember: they are why you have a job. The best thing you can do is embrace it by creating kid friendly meals and coloring activities to keep them occupied. For the kids that are too young to color: cross your fingers!

  • Location - If you are located next to a kids fun world, families will want an option to visit your restaurant. Chances are if you are located in a kid-friendly area of town, you're located in a kid-friendly town.

  • Cuisine - If you have an affordable restaurant open all day long, it would likely been seen as rude to shut your doors to children. After all, children need to be eating more than fast food, and that would be difficult if they were unable to go out to eat (especially if their parents do not cook).
I think that these considerations should go in order. For example, if you had a fancy restaurant in a kid friendly area, your restaurant falls into both of these categories. I would focus on where you are located before focusing on the type of restaurant you run. If you're interested, the restaurant in Pennsylvania was a small restaurant located on a quiet golf course, and sales did increase after the decision to ban children. Do you think this idea will work if a restaurant falls into the descriptions described above?

Photo credit

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer on topics ranging from social media to business phone services. She writes for an online resource that gives advice on topics including voip small business phone service to small businesses and entrepreneurs for the leading online B2B Directory,

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