You haven't known suffering until you've known a child with a fork and a strong stabbin' arm.
Small children make dining experiences categorically worse. They deface the aesthetic of the restaurant by drawing on the walls or even scratching them with coins. They bother diners by blasting their iPads (meant to pacify them) at full volume. Parents will bring tiny snacks (such as Goldfish crackers or Cheerios) to distract the kids until the food comes, only to have them thrown everywhere and ground into the floor. Aisles are blocked with high chairs and strollers, making spills inevitable. All this mess makes it harder to clean up, which raises wait times for tables, meaning servers are getting fewer customers and those customers are getting more irate. That's actually the most important point: Kids tend to make the dining experience less enjoyable for every customer, which can impact their generosity when it's time to calculate the tip.
Some diners may recognize how much their server is struggling with a particular table and its particular high-chaired bastard king and be sympathetic. However, the party that brought the child almost never is. According to a survey of servers at Cornell, families with children are notorious for tipping below average, meaning kids probably possess the most disparate effort-to-reward ratio of all diners.
"Every dollar we save on not leaving a tip is an extra dollar in the 'We bought you a toy, now shut up for ten minutes' fund."
Understandably, restaurants dislike allowing small children, but this has become a contentious debate. They can receive horrible backlash for even thinking about banning children, and there are no shortage of mommy blogs that will happily point the blame for their disruptive children straight at the servers, offering helpful "suggestions" for dealing with their darling children, including "Come back to the table often so the child doesn't get restless" and "Don't allow us to order a dessert and then discover that it's sold out" -- the latter of which you may recognize as something that is literally impossible to avoid. That link also includes a helpful letter full of instructions you can print out and hand to your server, as if you two are trying to coordinate a flawless meal for a foreign head of state instead of a group of children who are too young to be expected to sit still in a public setting for longer than five minutes. The general retort from both restaurants and servers is that Applebee's is not a daycare, and waitstaff already have their hands full dealing with adults who behave like children, which is frustrating for parents who expect you to feed and entertain their children for $2.19 plus a shitty tip.
Unfortunately for servers, the messy ethics of banning children means they will have to deal with these little poop tornadoes until the end of days. Sure, fine dining might get away with restricting children, but it's not like Outback Steakhouse can pretend it's too good for screaming toddlers. People show up there in sweatpants to eat fried onions.
Isaac actually kind of enjoyed working at Chipotle while he was in college, and still has the guacamole recipe memorized. Follow him on Twitter.
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