a family to leave because of its allegedly rowdy children this week,
the incident prompted a fast moving chain of events: calls to the
police, outcry from the family, explanation from the eatery chain, and
an online debate about what constitutes inappropriate restaurant
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"I feel disrespected," Lillian Maliti, mother of 3-year-old Ryan and 1-year-old Ethan, told KHOU News in Houston on Wednesday. "This has never happened in my life."
Maliti’s husband Eli Gau told the news station that his young kids are “active,” and that they “act like children." He added, “I feel heartbroken. I feel very sad.”
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According to a spokesperson for the Harris County Sheriff, the station first received a call at 10 p.m. from an Applebee’s employee who reported “arguing” among the family in question. Six minutes later, Gau called the police to report that he and his family had been kicked out of the restaurant and that they felt “threatened.” An officer met the family out in the parking lot, but did not file any charges, citations, or warnings.
Applebee’s issued a statement about the situation in Katy, Texas, to Yahoo Shine. "Our franchise owner-operator has apologized to the guest and invited the party back into their restaurant to demonstrate the standard of service each of our guests deserve to receive during every visit,” it read.
But it went on: “As a brand, our focus is and must always be providing the best possible experience for all of our guests at all times. When a disruption in our restaurants affects any of our guests, it is the manager's responsibility to step in to resolve the situation. It is exceedingly rare that a situation requires the assistance of law enforcement, and our franchisee is using this instance as a teaching moment to better manage future disruptions in their restaurants.”
Local Applebee’s patrons, at least one of whom claimed to have been present that night, defended the restaurant through comments posted to KHOU’s online story.
“This child was not wandering around.... he was running around the restaurant screaming at guests as they tried to enjoy their meals. The whole time they were in the building,” wrote Randal Smith. “Then the parents raised hell in front of the whole restaurant. This is funny to me since I witnessed the whole thing. Haha crazy people will do anything for attention/money.”
Another local resident, Shahira Mandy, wrote, “I go to this establishment all the time and for these people to say they're racist is far from the truth. Their children were out of hand, the mom was probably embarrassed, and why do you have your kids out that late at night? I have only seen Applebee's call the police [in] extreme situations. I believe management did the right thing [in] asking that woman and her ill-mannered children to leave. Race has nothing to do with bad parenting.”
Yahoo Shine was unable to reach the parents for further comment.
The debate on what is and is not acceptable restaurant behavior among children raged on through KHOU’s Facebook page, with a great many of the nearly 400 commenters siding with Applebee’s. One mom wrote, “I have 3 kids and I cannot stand it when people let their kids act like heathens! My kids know to eat, not be loud, and keep that butt in the seat!”
Another echoed her sentiment. “I have no sympathy here,” she wrote. “I have raised 3 boys and I tell ya, I never hesitated to take care of business if either one of them acted up in ANY public place!!! I CANNOT STAND parents who allow their kids to act like animals!!”
This situation is not the first time the topic of kids and public behavior has made headlines. Recent stories include two families being kicked off of airplanes for not being able to control their children’s outbursts — one in August by US Airways, and another in 2012 by JetBlue.
Rainy Days Caffé in Washington faced major online backlash in August after its owner asked a family and its rowdy kids to leave and then posted an incriminating photo on Facebook of the mess they left behind. The image was captioned: “I’d like to take this time to thank our customers with small children who don’t make messes.” It went viral and prompted both angry and supportive reactions.
And at least one restaurant, La Fisheria in Houston, recently made the move to ban children under age 8 from dining there after 7 p.m. The owner of the restaurant said he “instituted the policy following complaints from a number of patrons who were bothered by loud children.”
Anyone with children knows that they can sometimes be restless or unruly while dining out. So where should restaurants — and fellow patrons — draw the line?
Child etiquette coach and author of “Socialsklz for Success” Faye Rogaski de Muyshondt told Yahoo Shine that the answer is simple: “Everyone has their own sense of what’s appropriate. But if what you’re doing is no longer confined to your table, and it affects other diners’ experiences, then there’s a problem.”
Taking children out to a restaurant, she added, is like going anywhere else — the movies, for example. “You don’t just walk into a movie theater and let your kid race around,” she said. “The nature of a restaurant is that it’s social, but that doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all for everyone.”
Rogaski de Muyshondt stressed that it’s important for parents to teach their kids the guidelines of public behavior, because kids don’t “just pick up these skills,” she said.
“Having respect for other people is one of the big lessons we can teach children in life,” she added. “And while a restaurant is a great setting for instilling those lessons, the place for teaching is at home. Correcting your kid in public by letting them run around a restaurant and then chiding them is not a lesson. And it’s a terrible dynamic to set up with kids.”