On Feb. 7, the Italian-eatery chain Olive Garden is offering parents the opportunity to dine without their kids — because the restaurant will foot the bill for babysitting. According to Fox News, My Gym, which is a chain of children’s activity centers, will be the place where kids can play while their parents eat — all Mom and Dad have to do is pick up their kids after dinner and show their Olive Garden receipt in order to take advantage of the freebie.
Some restaurants have always made it clear that young children are not welcome — by not offering high chairs or boosters seats, or children’s menus and crayons, for instance.
However, there have been a spate of restaurants over the past year or two that have let it be known in less subtle ways that kids are not welcome. Some have emailed customers telling them to leave Junior at home. Others have placed signs in the window saying no kids allowed.
I get not wanting kids at a neighboring table to ruin your special evening out. Still, it seems the exception rather than the rule that parents would bring kids out to fancy restaurants, especially if they are kids not likely to behave themselves. Kids are not a lesser class. They are kids. It can be hard to sit still or keep quiet at all times — for adults, too. It’s hard to imagine who goes into the restaurant business and expects that all clientele will act on par with angels at all times. Waiters are often not on their best behavior. Why is anyone so surprised when kids aren’t?
One of my pet peeves is people who complain about a problem without presenting a solution. Those who dislike kids in restaurants can now take a page from Olive Garden’s playbook. Maybe this free-babysitting promotion is a way for them to let adults know they want to be seen as a bit of a more sophisticated locale, and if they try it once without the kids, they might like it enough to come back again.
I’m not sure Olive Garden is where I’m going for a romantic night out with my husband, but I’ve never actually been there, so maybe without my kids spilling salt on the tablecloth for sport, it would be just the right atmosphere. I do know, however, that you catch more flies with honey. If you don’t like the restaurants who are nasty about the presence of kids, then supporting the ones whose kid-free approach is benign is the way to go.
Go to Olive Garden for the unlimited salad and breadsticks. Stay for the free babysitting.
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