It’s happened to every childless person at least once. You’re out at a restaurant trying to enjoy your meal when a family comes in and all kiddie hell breaks loose. Before you know it your space is being encroached upon by a baby seat or perhaps the peaceful silence is broken by a cranky toddler refusing to eat their chicken fingers and fries. Either way it’s annoying and you wish they would take their chicken fingers to go so you can eat in peace. In response to that sentiment being expressed by some of its customers some restaurants have started charging small surcharges for families and in some cases banning children all together.

At Cosmo Restaurant in South London’s Croydon area, a mother was charged an extra £3 (around $5) on her bill for bringing her 6-week-old son along even though he didn’t eat. Although she complained Cosmo’s staff refused to remove the charge and told her she had to pay because her baby was taking up space in the 22,000 square foot restaurant. The uproar that the so called “baby tax” caused prompted a formal apology from Cosmo Restaurants, who claim it was all a misunderstanding:

“We pride ourselves on making children and parents feel valued — which is why we serve thousands of families every single week. The Minimum Charge Policy is intended for toddlers who eat but not as much as a child. It was and never will be intended as a charge for Prams or for babies. COSMO would like to assure customers that this is an isolated incident and we will be retraining all employees at Croydon as a matter of urgency.”

But not all mothers were outraged by the charge. The Stir’s Adriana Velez thinks that a policy that charges for babies isn’t all that crazy:

“Come on, parents. Haven’t you seen the mess your babies leave in restaurants? If it’s not the mess, it’s the stroller people keep tripping over (which should be either left in the car or folded and stowed completely under the table), or it’s the crying, or it’s the restaurant food the baby actually is eating, or it’s the way the baby distracts the parent who spills her own tea — you get what I’m saying.”

While many of us would applaud a “baby tax” now, most of us won’t stay childless forever and at some point will become part of a family with a cranky toddler, so with that in mind, is it fair for restaurants to charge parents for bringing children, will we think it’s fair then? Another issue is where do the surcharges stop? If you allow surcharges for babies, will you be okay with surcharges for loud talkers, people who curse, people who linger at tables over one glass of watered down Coke during peak times, etc? Personally I feel that when it comes to dining with children fees aren’t necessary. Parents should simply use their best judgment, procreating doesn’t make you Top Flight Patron of the World (cue Day-Day) and give you the right to ruin a peaceful meal for someone else. But that’s just one person’s opinion.

What do you think of restaurant surcharges for children?

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  1. I think some people want to almost punish those who decide to have children. Yes, children are often annoying (I have two kids under 6-years-old, so I know). Yes, they can be loud/whiny. But to ban children from places or tack on extra charges at restaurants that are supposed to be family places is not fair. Being a child is not avoidable, nor is having them (yes, many people can and do avoid being parents, but someone has to have children or else we’d cease to exist as humans) and as annoying as they can be, babies/children are a part of our society, too.

    Our society is becoming increasingly anti-child, if you ask me. Why not ban strollers? Why not have a section for those who are child-free and don’t want to be seat near them (I mean they did it for non-smokers, so why not have an “ages 14 and up section” or something)? How would people feel if they had an elderly-surcharge or ban on anyone over the age of 55 or 60 at these places?

    I honestly think that if you have that much of a problem with kids, don’t go to places where they are likely to be present. Go to bars, upscale/more expensive restaurants, clubs and not your local Applebee’s.

    • Oh, n@Len: Oh, and with that said, I still think that parents who let their kids run around, crawl under tables, and throw tantrums should be asked to leave, and really people who know they have no handle on their kids should have more sense than to take them out to eat.

    • @Len: I love the idea of child-free eating. I’d glady pay more to sit in a child free area!

      And my wife and I do usually avoid family places with lots of kids. I agree don’t punish people for having kids, someone has to do it, but do offer those of us who are child free the option of eating in peace.

      It’s a win win!

  2. I agree with Len in the sense that instead of a “tax” or a ban, these establishments may want to look in to assigning areas of their establishment for “14 & up,” “adults only” or “families.” I do not have children myself so I am sometimes extra sensitive to the cries and tantrums of a child. When that occurs, I do glance over at the parents, albeit annoyed, I have never once had the thought that they and their child should be banned from a place for ruining my time.

    I do not necessarily see where Len is coming from with saying that our society is becoming more anti child, but again, I am not privy to her experiences as a mother. I do feel that I am noticing more parents indifference towards their children’s behavior while in public. Sometimes acknowledgment of one’s child’s disruptive behavior goes a long way in public. A bystander may be less annoyed seeing that the parent is observing the bad behavior and addressing it.

    In the end, God put us on this earth to live with one another. We need to figure a way to make this work. The earth is filled with innumerable annoyances. We can not tax them all.

  3. I love this… I’m sorry. It may seem mean and insensitive. But a fancy restaurant is just like a movie… Leave the bad, loud kids at home!

  4. If you can’t control your children throughout a meal, at least take them to a restaurant where there’s a children’s menu…
    That said…just because it’s “kids eat free” night at your local family sports pub, it might be nice to throw more than 2 or 3 bucks as a tip when you consider the amount of beverages spilled, crackers crushed into the floor, extra refills you asked for, etc. The food may be free but the service is Not.

  5. Our society grows less child and elderly friendly, choosing to pretend they don’t exist rather than incorporate them. Children shouldn’t be a super fancy restaurants as a matter of etiquette, but they have every right to be. If a parent doesn’t keep their children at the table the restaurant has every right to ask them to leave. If children make a mess their parents should clean it up but, there is no excuse for charging for “space used by baby”

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