Restaurants Charging for Babies

January 7th, 2012 by Andrea Bennett

Is taxing patrons for their infants outrageous – or understandable?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

We’ve all grown accustomed to the surcharges associated with air travel, especially after the holiday season. Airlines are filling the gap with an array of new fees, from charges for overweight or checked bags to more legroom to traveling with a pet.

But airlines aren’t alone in their reliance on surcharges; restaurants everywhere are assigning new costs to formerly free items, such as filtered tap water to accompany meals. And now, a new fee for restaurant goers: a surcharge for bringing your baby along for the meal. 

The London Evening Standard reported that several mothers were charged $5 by a South London Asian buffet because they brought in infants who were not dining but “taking up space.”

According to the report, mother Natasha Young requested that the restaurant remove the charge but they refused, saying her baby was occupying room in the 22,000-square-foot restaurant. Another mom, Ana Sheridan, tried to explain that her 6-month-old daughter couldn’t yet eat solid food, but would simply sit on her parents’ laps during the meal – she still received the charge. “They said it was their new policy. That was all,” she told the paper.

The restaurant has since issued an apology on its website, but not soon enough to quell an outrage among media and mom-bloggers. “It’s hard enough taking children out in public,” says Monica Bielanko at StrollerDerby, “Unless my kids start to act out and I do nothing about it, leave me alone.” She says this latest baby tax is part of a no-kids-allowed policy that’s “spreading the globe.”

But Adriana Velez, mom-blogger at The Stir, wonders if it’s really so outrageous. “I can admit that my son has brought his share of chaos – which I always took responsibility for. But I've also made it a habit to leave an extra tip for the staff's trouble,” she writes. “Consider it a mandatory baby gratuity.” 

Still others are speaking out in favor of an outright ban. The Huffington Post notes that Chicago-area restaurant Sprout has banned kids from its adult-friendly brunch, and McDain’s in Pennsylvania began banning all children under the age of 6 in July. According to a Gothamist poll, 71 percent of respondents are in favor of restaurant bans on babies.

What do you think of the baby surcharge in restaurants? Should parents be held responsible with a mandatory charge or is an expected gratuity enough?