So: kids shouldn’t go to Alinea, but they’re welcome at Chuck E. Cheese. Where’s the cut-off?

First, let’s just dispense with the obvious (in my opinion, as a restaurant marketer and a Dad of three): if your sitter cancels and you seriously, literally cannot bear to let your $265 per person reservation go up in smoke, then you only have one choice—you feel lucky today, punk mom and dad?

Take the kid, accept it’s a risk, and the very second it starts making noise, you leave. You lose. Good day, sir. Right?

I have rushed our kids out of far less classy joints than Alinea.

If you’re not following the controversy, here’s a summary. Oh, by the way, here’s a good joke-Twitter-account:

Hahaha. Funny joke fake Twitter.

Now, here’s my question.

Where is the cut off?

Let’s work it out. I’m a big believer in making kids welcome as a way of recruiting future customers and bringing the family together to make decent, honestly warm, creatively invigorating memories. That kind of stuff.

But I never thought about where that stops.

Kids are welcome at McDonald’s and all the other fast food. Easy.

They’re welcome at the lower and middle tiers of casual dine. Fairly easy: everyone has kid’s menus, Applebee’s hands out balloons, lots of places draw anthropomorphic food characters emblematic of their restaurant and put them on special placemats.

Now let’s head up the chain-restaurant chain. Would you bring an eight-month-old to those expensive concepts, like Maggiano’s Little Italy or Sullivan’s Steakhouse or Oceanaire Seafood Room? Ruth’s Chris Steak House? I don’t know. I never did.

I think you could get by at The Cheesecake Factory because they’re near malls and loud. But those others are pricey and imitating very “grown up” one-of-a-kind places, the kind every city has.

And what about those one-of-a-kind places that every city has?

Do kids go to Murray’s Steakhouse in Minneapolis? I never saw kids there. We got a sitter when we lived there and I wanted to visit because I loved their ads so much:

Fallon Murray’s butter knife ad

I think Chicago’s only three-Michelin-starred restaurant is off limits.

I hereby declare The Cheesecake Factory your cut-off, parents-of-babies.

Take my word for it: they grow up fast.

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UPDATE, FRIDAY, JANUARY 17TH, 3:59 P.M.:

I always like making the time on the updates very precise, like this is an international press release with urgent historical impact. WHICH IT IS NOT. I don’t think it is, at least.

The update is this: a friend of a friend sent a link to a Chicago Reader article that asks and gets answers to a lot of the questions hovering around this Alinea incident. Unfortunately for the parents, it makes the restaurant look pretty good and them look pretty unattractive. Here’s the link:

http://bit.ly/1mhS9J7

2 comments

  1. I agree. However, to be scrupulously fair, some of the blame in the original situation can be laid at restaurant policy. If a restaurant requires pre-payment, they *have* to have some kind of return policy to cover just this situation (and death, death should be covered too). Maybe not a total return (except maybe for death), but how about allowing a night switch with maybe an extra 10 % re-booking fee.

    (The word of the day is Maybe: M A Y B E. Maybe…sigh)

    1. I agree. Well, maybe. NO, definitely. And as it happens, a friend of a friend has shared an article from Chicago Reader (which I’ll link to in the article up there as an update) that goes into more depth on the questions that hover around that particular Alinea situation—and it sounds like it’s all very much on the parents. At least the chef whose tweet started the whole thing makes it sound like the restaurant is reasonably blameless. Of course. Maybe.

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