Dear Salty: Yesterday we decided to go out to dinner at a nice sushi place we have frequented before. We were promptly seated and within seconds we were assaulted by the ill-behaved offspring in a group at another table. This kid was not crying, he was just shouting. This happened often enough that before we even opened our menus I excused myself to “go to the bathroom,” cruised by the offending table, and observed that they were just eating their salads.
Considering these idiots were only starting their meal and the adults at the table were completely indifferent to their child’s actions, we walked out. On my way out I mentioned to the staff why we were leaving. They offered us a different table but considering the size of the place and the volume of the child we declined.
In my 51 years on this earth, I have been exposed to loud kids before, but nothing like this. I know we need to be tolerant of families with kids. It’s tough turning ill-behaved rug-rats into adults, but what is the limit? I mean I wasn’t eating at a Chuck E. Cheese’s. This was a sushi place. What could I have done? What could I expect the restaurant to do?
Seeking Silent Sushi
Ah, children. We’re long past the days of “seen and not heard,” to the point where most times, I hear these little angels in my section before I see them. Used to be, kids were kept at home or with the babysitter until they could sit still for more than four seconds (approximately age 12), and then maybe their parents would dare bring them to TGI Friday’s or something. These days, with kids everywhere from sushi restaurants to brewpubs, the issue of noise is more common.
Your case sounds especially high-volume. Usually at nicer places, you can count on a few stares from other diners to do the trick before a server even has to swoop in. But I’m really surprised the restaurant didn’t say anything, frankly. If a family is that oblivious, I do think it’s my job as a server or better yet, my manager’s job, to do the shushing. I can do it in a polite way—“We have a front bench outside if you’d be more comfortable sitting there for a minute while your son calms down”—but it should be clear that they’re asking you to leave momentarily.
I also find that a preemptive sign near the entrance to the restaurant—or, if this becomes a frequent problem, on the menu—can help. There’s a restaurant near me that has a sign saying that “Families are welcome, but we may ask unruly, disruptive, or loud children to be escorted out by a parent.” I think that’s fair, and it helps the staff point to something when they need to tell you and your kid to take a breather. If a kid really can’t be tamed, their family shouldn’t expect to be able to bring them to quiet restaurants. It’s the restaurant’s job to maintain a reasonably calm environment that you’d expect from a nicer, no-crayons-and-placemats-type place. Unlike airplanes, families have their choice of restaurants and can pick one that’s kid-friendly.
As for your sushi dinner, it’s too bad you had to leave before the main attraction. If the room had been big enough, you could have asked to be reseated, or just complained about the noise to your server and let them find a solution. If they can’t, then there’s no reason to continue giving them your business.
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