Family restaurants. FAMILY restaurants. Emphasis on the FAMILY. With the cost of living in South Africa soaring almost every single day it seems, when I do go out to a restaurant with my daughter, I generally end up at the same one because of the fact that it’s a family restaurant, with great activities and play area for my daughter.
On Friday evening my bestie V asked me if M-L and I wanted to go out for supper. After the long ass week that had just ended, YES! So off M-L and I went, and we had a lovely evening. V and I sat chatting and eating, whilst M-L played and then came back to our table, played etc. Now I do understand and respect the fact that my child’s safety and whereabouts are primarily my responsibility, however when your drawing card is that you are a family restaurant and that you pride yourself on child safety within your restaurant, surely the onus is on the restaurant too?
When it came time for the bill, I went to my car to go and collect my family card so that the cashier could swipe it. I told M-L and V that I’d be a few minutes and off I went. Well thank GOD I was only a few minutes; as I was walking back to my restaurant, I saw M-L RUNNING OUT OF THE RESTAURANT towards the parking lot! I got such a shock that I stopped, and shouted at her to stop! She in turn got such a shock, that she ran to the door and waited for me. As M-L ran out, I witnessed a waitron opening the door, stand there, just stand there, and call her “hey little girl, where are you going?”. Seriously, where are you going? First of all, why the HELL wasn’t the front door being watched, and secondly why didn’t he go after her? She’s a tiny, skinny little 4 year old who somehow managed to push open a heavy front door, to run out to look for me. V also couldn’t believe how quickly it happened; unfortunately kids are quick. I ran to the restaurant and scooped her into my arms, and with my voice shaking with anger I asked the waitron how he could let her out of the restaurant alone. His response?
“I didn’t let her out, she let herself out.”
That was an unacceptable excuse to an unacceptable situation. I immediately
demanded asked to see the manager, who was busy making her way toward me, as she witnessed our ‘encounter’ at the front door. She apologised profusely, saying that she had given instruction for the front door to be locked as it was close to closing time and she didn’t know why it wasn’t, and I just said simply, “UNACCEPTABLE”. 1 of 2 things could have happened had I not gotten there in time;
1. She could have run right into the parking lot (she was about 1 step away from being in the parking lot) and then she was at risk of being hit by a car, or
2. She could have been kidnapped by some sicko and then who knows. I can’t even think of option 2.
At this particular brand of restaurant, it is common for kids to be running around the restaurant, being kids. Every 10mins or so I do go and check on M-L, but as she stays primarily in the play area, we wave to each other and I know that everything is ok. What makes it worse is that I used to be a front of house manageress at this very franchise! I know how it works; fair enough it was almost 5 years ago and the restaurant has had 2 new owners since I left, but the basics of the brand have to be instilled, and 1 of the primary focuses is child safety. I do not feel safe going to this restaurant anymore, as how do I know that my daughter will actually be safe? How do I know that some new waiter, who doesn’t actually care about the restaurant brand or the safety and wellbeing of my child will just stand at the front door, feebly calling after her? I say new waiter because when I asked the manageress who that waiter was, she told me his name and that he was new. Either the training has seriously gone down, or he just doesn’t care and it’s just a job to him.
I went home after this whole debacle, a wonderful evening really ruined by this incident, and once I’d calmed down, I went onto their website and wrote a complaint to their head office. I was contemplating writing it directly to the store but decided against it because I was lucky on Friday night. What if some other family isn’t so lucky? This to me is a VERY serious thing that happened, and if I can prevent it from happening again then I’m glad that I sent the complaint through.
Parents, don’t take for granted that your kids are safe in these ‘family’ restaurants.
To so many of those employees, it’s just a job to them.