What happens when an upscale restaurant bans young children?

This seems to be a perennial argument in the food service industry but it never fails to attract my interest. The Washington Post picked up the story of an an upscale Italian restaurant in North Carolina called Caruso’s. They had run into a number of issues with parents bringing young and too often horribly behaved children into the eatery for dinner who then wound up annoying the rest of the clientele. As they tell the story, the straw which broke the camel’s back was a young girl with an i-Pad who was playing videos at full volume despite being asked to turn it down (or off) and the parents were completely failing to discipline her or resolve the situation. Shortly after that they imposed a ban on bringing children under the age of five into the establishment.

The typical howls of outrage from some parents began immediately, but there was another reaction as well.

The ban — conceived by the restaurant’s owner, Pasquale Caruso — has led to a dramatic increase in reservations, said Nunez, who said Caruso’s has seen a spike in diners, from about 50 per day to around 80.

“Banning children has always been a topic in the industry and every owner says, ‘I wish I could do it,’” he said. “Our owner has the full support of the staff. We work here to make a living, too, and we support our owner 100 percent.”

It’s hard to say whether child bans are officially a restaurant industry trend, but they’re no longer particularly unusual. Caruso’s — which describes itself as “traditional, classy, intimate” on its website — is the latest in a series of eateries to ban children or introduce measures to control them.

Good for them. Too often you see only one side of this debate in the press and it centers on the parents who are complaining and saying that families are being stigmatized or punished or what have you. But there are too many of us out there who feel precisely the opposite for this to not be a popular idea. Let’s face it… the dining market space is vast and highly competitive. Wherever there is a demand, someone will pop up to serve it. If you want “family dining” where you can take your children there are a dizzying array of options. In fact, several common outlets are designed specifically with kids in mind.

But what about those without children or parents who simply want to get a sitter and go out for some adult time? Particularly at upscale eateries such as Caruso’s, nobody wants their very expensive meal and slightly more formal service experience interrupted by some wailing, screaming or generally disruptive child and the clueless parents who apparently follow the “time out” school of child rearing. This is not a subject for government intervention because the free market responds quite rapidly to such demands.

Frankly, I’m just surprised and a bit disappointed that the restaurant put the ban all the way as low as five. I would think twelve would be a far better minimum and for really high end joints, a minimum age of 18 should be encouraged. The fact that Caruso’s saw such a huge spike in reservations immediately after doing it should tell us all we need to know. There is absolutely a demand for this type of service and those willing to absorb the endless media abuse for doing it will probably be rewarded.