Restaurants have been the family business as far back as I can remember. As it was the family business, I reluctantly but inevitably got dragged into this industry. Hospitality & Catering has been in rapid decline more so for independent businesses as opposed to chains, a lot of businesses going bust, or having to sell due to rising costs and dwindling revenue. People simply don’t have the bank balance to justify eating out 5 days a week, which I used to see a lot. Or they have the bank balance it just simply doesn’t stretch as far as it used to due to rising costs, inflation, the recession etc.
In my time in this illustrious industry, I have not only seen a decline in the amount of people eating out, what I have also seen is the decline of control over kids in restaurants. I can recall that myself and my friends when we were youthful, innocent and not shackled down by the regulations of what’s considered acceptable sociable behaviour, were to either be sat at the table without moving from our seats, we’d occupy ourselves through drawing, or colouring in, or act as if we understood what our parents were talking about by making a contribution with humorous results or we’d be outside climbing trees or playing football. If we stepped out of line, acted out, caused too much of a ruckus we were given that glare from our parent(s) that clarified what would be waiting for us when we’d get back home, or if that couldn’t wait, we’d be taken outside where there would be no raised voices, or smacking or anything of anger, just pure authority, where we’d be reminded of the potential punishment should we repeat the unsociable crime we’ve just committed and there’d be no effort in executing that punishment, it would simply be enforced regardless of your defiance or resistance. You daren’t complain about it or even pull that “as if” facial expression.

Of course, as kids, it’s in our nature to step out of line. It’s not intentional, it’s just we don’t understand what the boundaries are of our behaviour, especially depending on where we are, what’s considered acceptable or right or wrong. So it’s up to our parents or guardians to educate us on those boundaries. Here, is the essence of the type of adult we grow to become. I don’t see this education being enforced as often as it should.

I’ve worked in restaurants since I was in my early teens; I never encountered problems with kids as often as I have done more recently. A lot of parents seem to lack the appreciation that we’re carrying hot plates of hot food to tables, hot drinks, heavy trays, trying to provide prompt and efficient service which can’t be successfully achieved when we’re having to watch our step, juggling said items we’re holding to keep a grip of them and jumping over an obstacle course of young ones running free in the land of youth whilst not being reprimanded by the reality police (Parents). I don’t see the intervening of parents or guardians during these instances. It also can result in loss of business based on people entering the venue as they feel the whoosh of stranger’s children circling them which has deterred their attraction to dine there so they turn around and leave.

This isn’t just a social issue, it’s a safety issue. Should an innocent server simply be going about their job, misjudging where to step when a child practically runs between their legs and the spaghetti Bolognese that’s steaming fresh from the kitchen slops onto that child’s head scalding them, who will get in to trouble? It certainly won’t be the child.

I see little or no interest by the parents as they let their children run amok in a social environment which is not safe for that kind of activity. They not only show lack of regard or consideration for the staff in restaurants but also other diners. I can appreciate that parents deserve to go out, enjoy a pint or a glass of wine or a meal, just like everyone else but that doesn’t mean they’re entitled to relinquish their duty and responsibility as parents. Not only that, I believe witnesses to this sort of behaviour, or lack of it by the parents, as would I, develop a perception of the extent of those people’s parenting abilities. The child may act like that simply because they run amok at home, they get some sort of bribe to try and behave but if they don’t they still get the bribe anyway because for 5 minutes, they did what they should have done, in other words, spoilt with materialistic items instead of the morals and etiquette they haven’t been educated in yet.

If the Hospitality & Catering industry doesn’t make a turn around, I hope at least the authority of parents in public places does.