In the competitive and fiscally risky business of restaurants, incentives have always been used to drum up new customers, whether it be happy hour specials, two-for-one appetizers, or the promise of a meal undisturbed by children. The latter has lead to a big spike in business—and a helping of controversy—for one North Carolina eatery.
At Caruso's—a Moorseville Italian restaurant where, according to their website, "proper attire" is required to eat at the "traditional, classy, intimate" space—a no-child policy put into effect in January has lead to an uptick in customers seeking a quieter, tantrum-free dining experience.
According to manager Yoshi Nunez, once children under the age of five were banned from the restaurant, the daily customer count quickly rose from 50 to 80. Taking a cue from other successful kid-free dining establishments—such as the Australian spot that did its best-ever weekend sales after enacting a similar policy—Caruso's adopted the rule after receiving numerous complaints about screaming, crying, and iPad-wielding children from the restaurant's patrons.
"I had several customers complain, get up and leave because children were bothering them, and the parents were doing nothing," owner Pasquale Caruso, himself a father of two, tells the Mooresville Tribune, noting that this behavior made the restaurant feel like "a local pizzeria," rather than the upscale dining experience they were advertising.
The restaurateur claims he was "starting to lose money and customers, because I had very young children coming in, throwing food, running around and screaming." After word of the new policy got out, diners took to the restaurant's unofficial Facebook page to weigh in on the decision. Some took offense to the policy, like user Glen Peterson, who commented: "Now that you have banned small children, who is next: blacks, Jews, native people? Shame on you!"
However, the majority of comments heaped praise on Caruso's for the decision. "When my husband and I go out to dine, we also do not want to hear children crying or misbehaving," writes Nancy Shroudy, a mother who suggests upping the age limit to ten.
For the most part, commenters agreed that parents who don't know the time and place to bring along their offspring are the real ones to blame, including Betsy Bennett Weaver who writes: "I'm the parent of 5… don't bring little ones to a nice restaurant and expect them to quietly sit still for an hour. They CAN'T DO IT."
As for the kids of North Carolina, they'll have to get their calamari fritti and fettuccini elsewhere—might we suggest somewhere with crayons or a mouse mascot?
MUNCHIES has reached out to Caruso's for comment but has not yet received a response.