Discount for Good Behavior: Offensive or Not?

by Matt Villano

Discount for Good Behavior: Offensive or Not?

A Kingston, Wash., restaurant made headlines last week for giving discounts to “well-behaved kids.” Should this concern you?

For many family travelers, the incentive of a peaceful meal is what motivates us to keep kids on good behavior when we dine out at restaurants.

For visitors to Kingston, Wash., however, there’s a new impetus: Cold, hard cash.

A restaurateur from this Puget Sound city made news last week when Today learned that he generally gives families discounts when their children don’t terrorize the dining room. The news went viral after a local mom hit social media to share pictures of a receipt detailing a $4 credit for “well-behaved kids.”

The restaurant owner told Today that he routinely offers “complimentary desserts” to customers with well-mannered children, but this was the first time he had actually typed the discount on the receipt. He also fondly recalled the family who posted the receipt, describing the children as the epitome of good behavior: they were very polite, didn’t neglect to say “please” and “thank you,” and stayed seated during their visit.

Then he made a point of noting that these kids—and their good behaviors—were in the minority.

That was the part that irked me. I know the incident comes at a time when unruly children are an ongoing source of friction in the restaurant industry. And, yes, the movement for airlines to create kid-free flights (or kid-free zones on flights) is just another extension of this sentiment.

Still, instead of rewarding good parenting like it’s some once-in-a-lifetime Daniel Day Lewis performance, why can’t we just expect it?

The more about this “policy” I read, the more I find myself wondering: Where is the line?

Like, if my kid doesn’t spend the meal throwing sugar packets but generally is mouthy and loud, does she still get the discount? Furthermore, if the discount is designed to offset the price of an ice cream, could families that skip dessert earn free appetizers or pasta dishes instead?

Extrapolating further, how about a discount for families that avoid texting at the table? Or free glasses of wine for grown-ups who treat their servers with genuine respect?

My opinion on the subject is simple: On planes, in restaurants and at parks, kids always are going to act like kids. If you don’t want them to act like kids, don’t welcome them—that’s your right. But to welcome them with open arms, then arbitrarily decide that some are worth meal credits because they meet a certain set of predetermined and subjective requirements just seems condescending and rude.

Sure, the good-behavior discount makes good headlines. Reading between the lines, however, at least IMHO, it’s just another example of people assuming the worst about families on the go.