Toccoa Riverside Restaurant is known for its fresh trout and fried oysters, but this casual seafood joint won’t put up with any fishy business from kids.
The Blue Ridge, Georgia restaurant, went viral this week when its surcharge for poorly behaved kids hit the news. According to the menu, the restaurant will add a surcharge to customers’ bills if they are “adults unable to parent.”
While the owners of Toccoa have not yet offered a comment on this breaking story, recent Google reviews allege that the surcharge is $50.
People have strong opinions about this business practice, of course. It’s part of a long-standing debate over whether children should even be allowed into restaurants. Some, like Nettie’s House of Spaghetti in New Jersey, have outright banned kids under 10. On the other end of the spectrum, certain restaurants go out of their way to attract children, like the Rainforest Cafe.
Toccoa Riverside restaurant has seemed to come in on the anti-kids side. While it stops short of forbidding kids at all, it does what some people might consider worse — make them feel unwelcome with what some customers view as a cash grab.
“From the moment my family and I walked in, we felt not welcomed by an elderly man who was in charge of assigning the tables,” Google reviewer Carolina Bruce (Caro), who gave the restaurant one star for its unfriendliness and food, states. “He was annoyed by the stroller of my baby and then annoyed because I was walking with my baby inside the restaurant. After a couple of minutes he approached us and moved my stroller violently to ‘make space.'”
“If you have children, absolutely avoid this place at all costs,” writes Google reviewer Danielle Hampy, in a statement that was reported by many media outlets.
“Holy moly — the most disrespectful owner made a huge scene in front of the entire restaurant because our children were ‘running through the restaurant’ — they were down by the river… we were told we need to ‘go to Burger King and Walmart’ and that we were bad parents. They have a $50 surcharge for ‘bad children.'”
Another widely quoted reviewer says, “The owner came out and told me he was adding $50 to my bill because of my children’s behavior. My kids watched a tablet until the food arrived, ate their food and my wife took them outside while I waited and paid the bill.”
You might think that this is a white tablecloth restaurant with servers walking around in a serene hush as they serve their patrons.
Not exactly. This is a casual eatery in a tourist town built on hiking and fishing, and according to the Toccoa Riverside Restaurant website, you can “paddle a canoe down the river and plan your lunch or dinner stop with us.”
Now, maybe I have been canoeing with the wrong people (ahem, children), but nothing about canoeing suggests elegance and sophistication. Nor does the restaurant’s “Pooch Patio,” which promises dog-friendly dining (although, sadly, if the reviews are to be believed, pups are no more welcome than children).
Shawn Kesten’s review of the restaurant says they went because the place was advertised as dog-friendly and they came with a friend with a service dog, only to find the Toccoa Riverside owner “very argumentative” and asking for documentation as well as a high-visibility vest.
Polite behavior should be encouraged in children, but it can’t be expected at all times. Especially on vacation, when bedtimes and mealtimes get disrupted and everyone’s running on fumes. While this isn’t an excuse for rude or disruptive behavior, we can all offer each other a little more grace.
No one is more pained by a child’s poor behavior than an embarrassed parent, and no one is more on edge than the parent who is pleading with their child to sit quietly and color their menu instead of stabbing their sister with the crayon. For most parents, dining out and traveling is a tense affair, but how can kids learn these restaurant manners if they only ever eat at the drive-thru?
Jonathan Swift, the famous satirist and author of “Gulliver’s Travels,” once famously stated that “Good manners is the art of making those people easy with whom we converse,” or in simpler terms: “Good manners is the art of making people comfortable.”
By this metric, having good manners is not about chewing with your mouth closed or eating your trout with the right fork (is there a right fork for trout?). It’s about making the people around you feel welcome and relaxed, which might mean offering more kid-friendly activities or games for the table as they wait for their meal. Or, it might mean making it more obvious to your patrons that this space is geared towards adults only by banning them outright.
And if we are going to expect impeccable behavior from children, we must hold adults to the same standard: No phones at the table. No cursing. No lying. No gossip. No X-rated talk. No over-imbibing.
Who’s up for the drive-thru?
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