Earl’s and The High Chair Issue

I usually don’t voice my opinion about every little thing happening around the world, but there’s this one issue that’s hit close to home and I can’t help but say something about it.

First: the issue. A woman went to an Earl’s restaurant and they didn’t have a high chair for her 9 month old, nor did they have change tables in the washroom. She left a complaint on their Facebook page which got lots of attention. Earl’s response is that they don’t see themselves as a family restaurant so they’re not sorry about not having high chairs.

What’s interesting to me is how upset people are on both sides of the debate. Parents are saying that they’re now going to boycott Earl’s restaurants since they clearly don’t want their business, while people oblivious to the parental situation are saying that they don’t want to eat their meals with kids around!

Jeez.

Since I have a 2.5 month old now, going out with the little one is obviously something that concerns me. I haven’t gone out with baby much, but I plan to in the coming future. I’m definitely one of those parents who would rather my child go with me than find a babysitter. That said… the furthest I’ve gone recently is to get a coffee…

I’ll start by saying that I’m not really a huge fan of Earl’s restaurants anyway, so I’m not inclined to stick up for them. Nor am I inclined to be upset that they’re not family-friendly because it’s probably not a restaurant I’d have eaten at anyway.

That said, I can understand where the mom who complained is coming from. She felt alienated by a place where she had spent money in the past. Perhaps this was a place where she came to feel safe and welcome, and all of a sudden that isn’t the case… as long as she’s with her little one. She wants Earl’s restaurants to be consistent – why do some locations have high chairs and others do not? And are they really ready to give up her business? … it seems they are. They released a statement saying that they do not view themselves as a family restaurant, although they welcome families (and they don’t have to provide high chairs and change tables to be family-friendly).

I’ll share what happened to me recently: a friend (a good one, I might add) is having a house party and when she invited me, she specifically said “no kids”. Obviously this wasn’t just directed at me, but all her friends with kids. Maybe it’s me being a sensitive new mom, but I couldn’t help but be a little hurt by her request. If I was bringing my child, I’d obviously have to leave early for the baby’s bed-time, which probably wouldn’t interfere with a rowdy party. Who’s to say that I’d really want to spent that much time at a house party with an infant? Why not invite your friends with kids early and say “no kids after 10pm”? I can respect my friend’s wishes to throw a crazy party… but I also feel that I need to look for some new friends, those who would appreciate my child as a member of my family and would welcome baby into their home. See, a kid isn’t like a pet that you can just leave at home.

And that’s when I come to my response to all those who say that kids don’t belong at Earl’s or any other restaurants other than Chuck-E-Cheese. I don’t think that this should be the case. Kids need to learn to interact and live with adults. They need to learn to eat food other than chicken McNuggets, and they need to learn to use their inside voices, eat with a knife and fork, and have proper table manners. When I was young, my parents took my sister and I out to eat with them all the time. The understanding was that going out was a treat and a privilege, and we were expected to treat it as such and be on our best behaviour – and believe me, we were for there were consequences if we weren’t.

At the end of the day, I don’t think that Earl’s is wrong to not stock high chairs and have change tables. If that’s how they want to market themselves, that fine. They don’t owe old or new customers anything. And most parents understand that a lot changes when you have kids. You gravitate towards the people and establishments that welcome them. Today a friend told me that she went to her local pub for dinner and took her newborn along. The pub manager served her and her husband their meal and then held on to the newborn and walked around the pub with him so that the two parents could eat in peace. Did she expect that of a pub? Definitely not. Will she go back there, over going to her local chain restaurant? Of course, she will!

The lesson is that I need to find new friends, and the woman who was disappointed at Earl’s will find another good (and hopefully better) restaurant to eat at. Earl’s will continue being Earl’s.

Your thoughts?

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15 Responses to Earl’s and The High Chair Issue

  1. Lien January 16, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

    Man. I loved Honolulu. Every restaurant was kid friendly. Even the most swankiest and expensive restaurants!! In fact, the even made sure the table was pre set up for the kids with highchairs before seating us. Although I definitely understand that other other people don’t want to eat around screaming kids, I figured it was law to install a change table. Weird. Maybe I’m wrong.

  2. Karen January 17, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    Your friend said no kids because she didn’t want kids at her party. Accept the fact that kids (being kids) touch things they shouldn’t – crawl on things they shouldn’t, break things they shouldn’t touch, leave finger prints on walls and are just not welcome visitors in everyone home. Just as they need to respect your children – you need to respect the fact that they don’t want your child in their home. It’s their home, their party. Accept it. There are events that children just aren’t welcome – deal with it!

  3. Henna January 17, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    Gee, thanks for the amazing advice, Karen. I wasn’t accepting facts before, but now I’m just going to “deal with it!”

    I should clarify that I have an infant. No crawling, touching, messiness, etc. Just hanging out with me.

    And yes, I get that they’re not welcome… that was precisely the issue.

  4. Henna January 17, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    Lien, do you think it had to do with the fact that Honolulu is a tourist destination?

  5. Karen January 17, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    you don’t get it do you?

  6. Sunny January 17, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    I have agree with Karen, if the host doesn’t want children at their party – that should be respected. There is nothing to be offended about. I’m they think your baby is wonder, he/she is just not invited to the party.

  7. Henna January 17, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

    Karen, I’m pretty sure I do get it. It’s nothing against me or my baby, it’s just that they don’t want kids at their party. And guess what? I totally do respect that – it’s not like I’m going to take my kid over there just so I can crash their party. But this is now a totally different friendship.

    Sunny, thanks for weighing in. I hope you’re not agreeing with Karen just because you two are from the same ip address…

  8. Lisa January 18, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    My children are adults but I do have a 2.5yr old grandchild. When my husband and I go out for dinner (not often) we pick a place that does not have a child’s menu because we don’t want to deal with kids running around, crying, etc. If there are children at the restaurant and are sitting in their seats and not being disruptive I have no problem with them being there. We never take our granddaughter to a restaurant that isn’t a family environement. As for the house party it is their choice to specify no children but they are jeopardizing their relationship with friends that have children. I’m sure you don’t want to take your baby to a rowdy party anyway.

  9. Arrow January 18, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    Henna,

    I wanted to reply to your Earls post but first I want to weight in with the party thing. I absolutely agree with you that you feel unease about the “no kids” party. Babies are different in a sense of the damage they can cause, and also the fact that some are just too young to be away from mom for a few hours. If your newborn is not welcome at your friend’s house, I understand why you feel upset, as oppose to if your toddler wasn’t welcome.

    As for Earls – I’ve been going to Earls for years. August I was blessed with a baby boy. Yes, having kids changes everything. But as we started taking him out, he was always very well behaved, sleeping most of the time in the car seat, and people around us were not bothered and in fact, showed lots of interest in our little guy. In November I was invited to my niece’s birthday which was at Earls. This was the first time I went to Earls since my son was born, and I was shocked to see that they had no diaper changing tables! As a kid-free parent I’ve never bothered caring, but now I was. So how do you change a dirty diaper at Earls? Either you do it on the counter (impossible because of the sink design), or you do it in the dining area (very unsanitary and unpleasant for other customers. I went to the manager to complain, just to hear that he wasn’t there but they will “forward” my complaint. This incidence was put aside (though I am not going to Earls anymore) until this news item popped up which made me realize that Earls do that on purpose. I think they are making a huge marketing mistake because the generation that built them are now the parents, and they want to take their kids there who very well may become the next generation of customers. My 2 cents…

  10. Sunny January 18, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    LOL aren’t you smart. Anyway, I wouldn’t let it ruin your friendship. There will be similar invites from others.

  11. Indy January 20, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

    I can understand that as a mom you would feel upset.
    But your friend isn’t being callous by not wanting children at her party.
    There’s adult time and time for kids and adults to be together.
    She clearly wants only adults around. It’s her party you
    Should respect get wishes and to end a friendship on such
    a minor issue isn’t very mature on your part.
    You don’t disown your friends because she doesn’t
    want children at her party.

  12. Henna January 21, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

    Indy, no disowning going on here. :)

  13. Henna January 21, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

    You’re right, Lisa, I don’t… but I wouldn’t have minded stopping by before the rowdiness started…

  14. Angela January 22, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    Having a baby really does change who you are and it’s hurtful if a good friend doesn’t seem to understand that. Besides that, an infant is so incredibly portable (and necessarily so if you’re nursing) and usually sleeps the entire time you’re out anyways. Unless they’re my children, LOL. So I can be your friend under certain circumstances?

    It’s unfortunate that’s what Earl’s response was. I’m not a big fan of their restaurants anyways, but I’d like to think it should be mandatory to have at the very least a change table in either the men’s or ladies’ washrooms. I’m sure everyone’s heard of “those parents” who out of frustration change their child’s poopy diaper in the middle of the restaurant. I’ve had to take over floor space in a restaurant’s bathroom to conduct such business and it’s incredibly unpleasant. I can understand the high chair thing if only because some restaurants have booth-only seating, but my goodness even The Keg has booster seats/ high chairs and I find their restaurants to be much higher class than Earl’s. Great, now I’m craving steak. And congrats to you on your precious baby :)

  15. Henna January 24, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    Thanks, Angela!

    I have never seen anyone change a poopy diaper in a restaurant and I really hope that I never have to do that myself!

    One of my favourite restaurants in Calgary is Escoba and it has a lovely romantic atmosphere. But when I had my birthday there a few years ago, they were super accommodating to a friend of mine who came in with a kid. The manager in charge knew just the chair to put the carseat in and he was happy to have them there! Escoba is definitely not a “family restaurant” but they seemed to understand that since they’re a great “couple” restaurant, they would inevitably have to be an accommodating “couple + baby” restaurant. I think change table or not, it’s the attitude that’s going to make a difference.

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