An upmarket restaurant in Mooresville in North Carolina known as Caruso’s has taken the rather unusual step of banning children under the age of five from dining in their restaurant.
The Washington Post reported that the restaurant has received both praise and anger since making the announcement; however, it’s understood that since taking this stance, restaurant reservations have doubled.
— Susie Blackmon (@SusieBlackmon) March 31, 2017
The final straw for the owner of Caruso’s, an upscale Italian restaurant, was when a little girl was using her iPad with the volume turned up high. Her parents ignored many requests from Caruso’s staff and refused to turn the sound down.
Yoshi Nunez is the manager of Caruso’s restaurant, and said that he’s had to deal with unruly children in his restaurant in the past, but this time was different because the parents were misbehaving too.
“Finally, we had to ask them to leave. They were upset, but they didn’t seem to care about what the other guests thought. We tried to be nice about the situation, but we’re here to take care of customers and we can’t tell a parent how to control their kids. That was the incident that triggered the entire thing.”
When referring to “the entire thing,” Nunez is referring to the restaurant’s new but very strict ban on children under the age of five. The announcement was made in January and has been widely condemned by some, whilst drawing applause from others.
Nunez said that the controversial ban has led to a dramatic increase in reservations, increasing from 50 diners a day to around 80.
“Banning children has always been a topic in the industry and every owner says, ‘I wish I could do it.’ Our owner has the full support of the staff. We work here to make a living, too, and we support our owner 100 percent.”
On its website, Caruso’s describes itself as “traditional, classy, and intimate” and it’s certainly not the only eatery to either ban children or introduce measures to control them. It’s not that a ban on children has become a restaurant trend, but they’re not that unusual. In fact, there are restaurants in Italy, Texas, Korea, Australia, California, and Pennsylvania that have complete bans on young children, or have introduced measures to control their behavior.
— Lauren Petrelli (@LPetrelliTV) March 30, 2017
In 2015, a Mexican restaurant in Houston known as Cuchara, which is full of intricate and valuable artwork, handed out cards with behavioral instructions to customers who dined with their children. This came about because a child scratched the restaurant walls with a quarter and caused $1,500 worth of damage.
Ana Beaven is the owner of Cuchara’s.
“How do we stop that kind of thing? We’re busy serving and cleaning and moving around and we cannot babysit a child.”
When asked if the etiquette cards offend their customers, she replied, “It doesn’t offend anyone, it’s a set of rules.”
There’s much debate at the moment about the ban on small children, which invokes the larger question about parenting trends. Some researchers say this is the inevitable result of overtaxed parents trying to spend as much time as possible with their children, even though that time is often at the expense of other people around them.
Liam Flynn is the owner of Flynn’s Restaurant in Australia, which decided to ban children under seven-years-old. He has a very simple explanation as to how casual dining has become for many families.
“A lot of parents think they’re paying for the space and service and taking a break, and therefore taking a break from parenting as well. There’s a lot of people that feel they are not accountable for their own or their child’s actions.”
Sarah Dolan is Director of Media Relations for the National Restaurant Association, and she said her group has not noticed any evidence of this becoming a trend.
“Every restaurant is different, and it’s up to each operator to make decisions that are best for their business and their guests. There are more than one million restaurants in the United States and the majority of them welcome families with children.”
— Mark S. Luckie (@marksluckie) April 11, 2017
Pasquale Caruso, the owner of Caruso’s, said that his regular customers began complaining about young children’s behavior in his restaurant around Christmastime last year, according to the New York Daily News.
In his estimation, he lost around 30 per cent of his trade because parents started bringing their children into his restaurant. And, Caruso wants to make it very clear that he likes children, but he doesn’t like having unruly children in his restaurant.
“For seven years, we had no kids. Then somehow, we had a couple of customers come from out of town and they wanted to be with their mothers and fathers so we put them in discreet corners of the restaurant. Then all of a sudden, more kids started coming.”
He went on to explain that it “not about the kids,” but rather the parents who are to blame.
“They put them on a smartphone or a computer and turn the volume up. We had customers say, ‘This is not Caruso’s anymore. So we are not going to come back, because we don’t want to spend $200 and have kids next to us crying.'”
A check of Caruso’s website clarifies that the restaurant does not provide a children’s menu and that proper attire is required. Caruso said he is trying to educate his customers.
Since implementing the ban, Caruso says he’s now welcoming back old customers who are happy to return to his restaurant.
“We got phone calls saying, ‘Thank you very much. We are going to come back.'”
— Gene Marks (@genemarks) April 9, 2017
Of course, the ban on young children has created a lot of press for the restaurant, and it’s obvious that this press that has increased dining numbers considerably. For the restaurant owner and his staff, they’re happy they no longer have to babysit young children, and they’re all happy to once again be catering to an adult clientele.
And yes, Pasquale Caruso does have children of his own, but, even though some people have posted negative comments about his restaurant on social media, he stands firm on his decision to ban small children.
“You have to choose and you have to stand up for what you believe. I want a decent, high-class restaurant. We work so many hours every day and we can’t make everybody happy. I want my customers to be happy and come back and not be disturbed by situations.”
[Featured Image by Roman Kosolapov/Shutterstock]