Earls Restaurants: don’t bring your kids. Restaurant chain getting slammed on Facebook for family unfriendly policies.

no babies

On Thursday, January 3rd, local mom, Michelle, decided to meet some friends for lunch with her husband and 9 month old baby.  The group decided to go to Earls in North Vancouver as they have been long time patrons of the restaurant chain.  Michelle was shocked when she asked her server for a highchair for her son and was told that the restaurant did not have any…later when she went to change the baby’s diaper, she was even more dismayed that there was no change table in the washroom.  Following her experience, Michelle wrote a message to Earls on their Facebook page.  It read:

I am a long time customer of Earls and have enjoyed many years at your restaurants dating back to when Earls Tin Palace opening on the North Shore years ago. Tonight, I had the opportunity to meet some good friends at the Earls in North Vancouver along with my husband and 9 month old son. We figured Earls would be a good choice as its always had a great atmosphere and great food. I was quite disappointed when we asked our hostess for a highchair and were told that the restaurant didn’t have any. Our hostess offered us a booster seat, but as any parent knows – a booster seat is completely useless with a baby. I was also unhappy to find there was no change table in the restroom (most restaurants will have them discreetly installed on the wheelchair stall wall). I understand that Earls isn’t a Kinder Cafe but people who enjoy your restaurant also have babies and we should be comfortable bringing them to your restaurants. I urge your management to consider providing these inexpensive conveniences for your customers. Thank you.

The following morning, Michelle received a reply (via the Earls Facebook Fanpage):

Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback. We certainly understand and are sorry to have disappointed your family in this way. 

Every restaurant has to make a choice as to what they offer based on their market; from the menu to the decor to the music they play and the volume they play it. To that end, and although we at Earls love families, we would not classify ourselves as a family restaurant. Our restaurants do not, as a rule, offer highchairs & booster chairs or changing stations. I know this may not be the response you are looking for, but I hope you can understand that we have an obligation to our customers and our shareholders to make the best decision for each business.

We work hard to create a place where everyone can take a break from everyday life and in many cases that includes meetings between partners, gatherings of moms to reconnect or friends sharing time together. We hope the setting we are creating will meet your needs in the same way. 

All comments are read by our management team and by the President of Earls, Stan Fuller. Thank you again for taking the time to write to us.

To date, there have been 250 comments and 454 likes on this Facebook thread.  Most commenters agree that Earls should reconsider their “policy” (which it seems is not actually a policy at all, as many of the chain’s restaurants do have highchairs and change tables).  A few support Earls’ decision, saying it’s nice to have somewhere to go where there’s a small likelihood of being sat beside a crying child.  Some of the comments include:

Crazy!!! I didn’t know this about Earls and though my guy no longer needs a high chair or change table, not providing them certainly leaves a bad taste in my mouth and a black mark on the restaurant’s name. Wow, shocking especially in this day and age. If given the choice, I definitely will be taking my business elsewhere. You’re very right, Michelle about comparing Earls to the likes of Milestones, the Keg, etc. What does Earls think it is, fine dining!?! Please. – Tara Parkinson

It baffles me that they would choose to alienate such a large customer base, when the cost of providing the service is minimal, and all their competitors provide it. Families want to go out for a nice dinner. Your competitors get that. We don’t all want chicken fingers for dinner. – David Andrew

You’re not gonna want to hear this, but (and speaking as a parent of a 9 and 14 year old), I like having some restaurants where I know I won’t see or hear kids. frankly, I like the escape from time to time. Can’t tell you how many times I went to a bar or nice restaurant only to have my romantic evening interrupted by some screaming or vocal kid. now, never been to earls but sounds like they want to cater to a certain ambiance and crowd. mark my words, 2 years from now when you escape for a date night last thing you’ll want to sit next to is a toddler. bet ya. – Sean Blair

If I do end up dining Earls Restaurants in the future, I’ll be sure to change my kids poopy diaper @ the table in full view of the other patrons;) Thank you Earls for allowing me to stay @ my table when Nature calls for my wee ones!Overall, Earls is being absolutely slammed on social media with this.  However, it looks like the chain is sitting tight, and not responding.  – Kelly Kroll

What are your thoughts?  Is it unfair to not offer highchairs or have change tables in a restaurant that many people might consider to be “family friendly” or is it a parent’s responsibility to check ahead to ensure their child will be catered to?

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44 Comments

  1. We only went to Earls once as a family – a few years ago when my step-daughter was 10. Because we hate food waste we asked that her portion be brought out in a smaller or half size because she doesn’t eat a full restaurant portion and we don’t like doggy-bag options that have us bringing home a large styrofoam carton. The Earls staff refused to bring out a half-sized portion even though we said we would pay for the full-size and it wasn’t an issue of price, but of wastage. They claimed that all their meals come pre-packaged and they couldn’t divide them up, so we couldn’t be accommodated. Then I asked to speak to the operations manager rather than the floor manager who had given the advice that it couldn’t be done. Shortly afterwards I was informed that they would do it, and we would be charged less (not the point, but we took the discount anyway). In any case, we haven’t been back and won’t go back as a family or as a couple. There are many nicer places to eat in this city that don’t serve pre-packaged foods and where customer service is a top priority, not secondary to corporate policy. This isn’t so much about being family-friendly (though it’s not) as about being good hosts. I tend to agree with people who want kid-free or kid-limited eateries… we want those too! But then we tend towards higher-end licensed establishments for those special (infrequent) times. For casual non-kid time, we’ve got a neighbourhood bar with a pool table that suits us just fine. Earls just isn’t great food, and has terrible service and bad corporate policies. There are so many nicer locally-owned places in this city…..

  2. I wish restaurants would be clear and upfront about not being kid friendly – like straight up put it on the website ‘we don’t cater to families’. I know more than once I’ve tried to book a place (Earls, Original Joes) and was told they don’t have high chairs. It’s stupid fuc***g code for *no kids* and it’s frankly insulting when they dance around it.

    Almost no one with kids is going out when single people do. My toddler goes to bed at 7. Why can’t they have chairs available for families eating earlier who are annoying no one and then ‘switch’ to a more adult oriented place after 8? They’d sure as hell make more money and stop pissing people off…

  3. I’m glad Earls stood their ground. Earls isn’t a family restaurant and has never purported themselves to be one. Yet, I’m not surprised to see a complaining mother here who feels that the world should evolve around her. Clearly she’s use to going to Earls before her days as a mother, and now that she has a young child, she somehow feels that everything around her should evolve with her including restaurants that she use to patron before her motherly days. A business is a business, it will continue to function as it always has because when one group of customers graduate to another phase of their lives, another group moves in to fill their void. Chucky Cheese has their arms wide open for young families, please give them a try. I, for one, will take all my personal business and corporate business away from Earls if it turns into a family restaurant.

    • I totally Agree with Sean. Earls is not a kid friendly resturant go else where not every rest is for kids people get over it and leave ur kids at home…

  4. Personally I’ve never liked Earl’s. Their food and their service sucks. I’ve been maybe 3 times over 15 years and each time I don’t go back for another 5 years because I hate it there. Having said that, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a “no kids” policy, as long as a restaurant is up front about it. So rather than waiting ’til families show up and then saying “oh gee we don’t have high chairs I guess you’ll have to hold your baby on your lap and change his diaper at the table”, which can only make the experience unpleasant for those customers and frankly all the others in the restaurant who will end up with a crying cranky baby next to them, they should be right up front about it. Put it in their advertising. Say “We cater to adults – please note we do not have high chairs, booster seats or children’s menus. Please consider this when deciding whether to bring your young children here.” BTW I am a mother of a 6-year-old. It doesn’t offend me at all that certain restaurants are not open to kids – as long as I know in advance which ones they are. There are plenty of other choices.

  5. 35 years ago I walked into a high end shoe store with my toddler in a small folding umbrella stroller, (a shoe store, not crystal/china) the clerk told me they did not allow strollers in the store. I walked out saying “I will never return to this store”, and I never have. Stores/restaurants can make their decisions and the consumer can make theirs.

  6. Our family experienced this years ago, when the downtown Earl’s was brand new. We understood in advance that they do not provide seating for our young boys, we brought our own… we waited over an hour as they continually seated other parties of four. We left and I emailed head office (I used to work for Earl’s) and their response was that they were sorry to hear of our bad experience and to come back and let them attempt to serve us better. It felt like a very lame response.
    It was a bitter pill to swallow and accept that the restaurant that I loved was shunning me during this phase in my life, and really did not value my patronage if I had my children with me. We didn’t go back.
    When we go out on date nights, we prefer something a little more fun and gourmet anyway…
    I

  7. “Sean” can’t wait until you get some girl knock up and you are faced with endless evenings of Chucky Cheese (is there even one in Vancouver??) and then we’ll see if you change your tune.

    • Well said! Instead of being an ignorant brat, he could keep his silence and observe before making such inconsiderate comment. He will pay for that, eventually.

  8. Not only do i support earl’s I also want to open a new rant…. TV’S in restaurants. I stopped going to White Spot in Maple ridge because you can’t escape the idiot box. If i wanted to eat and watch the box I would have stayed home. Try and find a nice quiet pub… ??? forget it, going to be worse again now that the hockey is back… UHHG there goes that last bit of quiet eating. Many pubs and eateries have lost my business over the years.

    • You support Earls but complain about TV s? Earls has TVs the size of walls! However, I totally agree about the TV issue and hardly go out anywhere a there’s about 20 licensed restaurants in Vancouver who don’t show sports on a big screen while you eat.

  9. I have children and I wouldn’t bring them to Earls, even though they’re well behaved. What confuses me is why Earls has locations then in the most suburban areas of the suburbs. Who the heck do you think live in the suburbs? A bunch of sexy singletons? Nope. Families.

  10. The same thing happened at Joey Tomato’s in Eeau Claire, Calgary. Literally situated across the bloody street from a high-end (meaning high-cost) daycare, they recently renovated and changed to NO booster seats/high chairs and I’ve almost lost it several times while there trying to find out why they hate parents. And yet I’ve NEVER been in there OR Earl’s and NOT seen a baby. Usually in a carseat. If people don’t want to see my kid when we’re having dinner with family at the closest place to our home, then go sit in the lounge or f-off. I can’t tell you how pissed this makes me. They CATER to my generation (20s/30s) and thus I’ve been a LONG time customer. Even while 9months pregnant I was in their restaurants. They should have told me to get lost as my belly was causing the singles and parents on a date severe discomfort. Joey’s is owned by Earl’s BTW. F-you Joey’s AND Earls. Pfff.

  11. Meh.
    There are so many wonderful mom and pop places that WILL cater to you- at far less cost and better food.
    I have a business where I get to go into all these chain restaurants, in the kitchen- and YES. It is all prepackaged. No joke.
    It all comes from bags and cans. There is absolutely no creativity or soul in that food. It is just the same as Mickey D’s or Burger Thing.
    Now you know- you can make an informed decision.

  12. I’m not really sure what the problem here is… some restaurants have high chairs and cater to “families” with smaller children and some do not. This is great because when you don’t have children you can go to the more grown up ones and don’t have to worry about it. There are plenty that do have high chairs so there really is no problem, just go to those. We shouldn’t condemn a restaurant for providing a more adult atmosphere. People take things way too personally these days. I’m surprised at the responses for sure. Plus I’ve always enjoyed Earl’s food and service, especially the clam chowder! Yum!

  13. Oh please Earl’s who do you think you are? I took my 8 month old to the Capital Grille in Seattle last weekend. We were done by 6 pm and the baby was a whole lot quieter and better behaved than the drunk Seahawks fans at another table.

  14. I never knew this about Earls. Previously a Vacouverite, now living in Barcelona. We have a 2.5yr old and another one on the way. We take our little guy out in Spain everywhere, including bars and nobody seems to bat an eye. It is just the norm to bring kids out. It is not strange to see kids out after 9pm or sleeping in their strollers while their parents have a late meal. It is one of the reasons it makes being a parent here a little mre enjoyable. Kids are so well received here and pretty much treated as royalty. I am thinking Earls is not alone in being reluctant in accommodating for children and the chain is just following industry standards.

    • THANK-YOU! Exactly! Classy places, as Miranda said, or just, the whole of a country, will accomodate the fact that families make the world go round.

    • Its the same in Italy as well. We definitely have a more immature and individualistic society here in North America and this is just a very small reflection of that.

  15. Here’s the thing: a truly classy place will accommodate your needs, and will do so cheerfully, “no trouble at all”.

  16. Been there, done that. Worked at Earl’s (several locations) Had four kids that had to eat while we we were out and about. Tried to go to places like Earl’s. Wished they had a policy that had kept us out. We would have saved plenty of money and avoided those infant meltdowns that come out of no where. There’s plenty of places to eat with kids. I don’t know if it’s good marketing for Earl’s to take this route but time will tell. Now that my kids are grown up, I enjoy going to kid-free places. The only thing: Earl’s should just state clearly that there are better places to take your kids than their restaurants. Everybody will be happier.

  17. I certainly appreciate how important it is to cater to your clientele however I certainly do not think others should be intentionally selected against. Will restaurants also select against the elderly using equally clever tactics since the may take more time and attention from staff or perhaps they walk too slowly to their table or washroom which would frustrate their preferred clientele? Would this be extended to disabled or wheelchair bound patrons if you felt they also didn’t go with your ‘image’ If they choose to continue down this path I would suggest adding folks who answer cells and those with dietary restrictions. FYI to all Earls folks. All parents know to take their kids to resaurants BEFORE the dinner rush when you have many many open tables and space between tables anyway.

  18. As a DINK family who lives in the suburbs, I can atest to the fact that there are plenty of single & or childless people in most Vancouver suburbs. Personally, I don’t have a problem eating in a family friendly restaurant (and often do so), but sometimes it’s nice to have the option of going to an adult-oriented establishment.

    As Sean points out, businesses have the right to determine their target audience, just as consumers have the right to choose where they spend their money. It is Earls’ prerogative to not cater to families and it is your prerogative to eat elsewhere. I’m fairly certain if you live in a neighbourhood that has an Earls close by, there are other restaurants just as close to your home. Furthermore, I’m unsure why I am a jerk for wanting to eat in the quiet restaurant section (rather than the overly-noisy lounge) without being disturbed by ill-behaved children. Why should your needs be more important than mine?

    Oh, and as a side-note, Earls doesn’t really cater to our generation – they’re more after the early-twenty-something market, so we’re probably too old for them to be worried about whether or not we are their patrons.

  19. I had a similar experience a few years ago when my husband, son (4 months) at the time and friends of ours from out of town, with their 3 kids met up for lunch. We decided on Earl’s and it was awful. They were rude to us from the minute we got into the restaurant. They didn’t have a high chair for our friend’s 2 year so she sat with us. From the minute we got there, we got the impression we were not wanted, but what choice did we have? We were all hungry and we didn’t want to cart around 3 grumpy kids. It was lunch time not dinner time, so I don’t want to see any comments about that. I have the right to go out and eat a restaurant with my kids if I want to. The service was so rude that we haven’t returned and nor am i ever planning to after reading their policy. At least they finally had the balls to make it public. If that’s what they want, then that’s what they’ll get.

  20. I’m with Sean. I have been in restaurants at 10pm and had to listen to bratty children acting up when I have been trying enjoy an evening out with mature friends. I applaud Earls for taking a stand. I put in my time with young children (who never acted up) but I took them to family friendly restaurants. As they grew older they were given the privilege of dining with adults as they behaved appropriately.

  21. I am glad Earls is not kid friendly. I am tired of going to restaurants who allow noisy kids to run around and ruin my evening. I want to relax and have an enjoyable dinner. Note to parents–get a baby sitter. Gary

  22. Thank you Earls , you’ve won my business back. I hate to have any meal, breakfast, lunch, or dinner ruined because of noisy, unruly kids. There are many restaurants who will accommodate them. It may be hard for the people who, before kids, used your restaurant, and possibly would have complained if they’d had a screamer sitting next to them. Shoe’s on the other foot … adjust.

    • You guys are really missing the boat with your support for Earls. Think about the fact that sometimes you don’t have a choice to go to a family restaurant when you are the only ones with a child in a group of say, 10. And for every single comment that has suggested another restaurant, I have only seen Chucky Cheese as an option. Are you kidding me? My parents who happen to be Baby Boomers, and thus control a lot of the economy and will be for the next 2 decades, will not be going to Chucky Cheese. When they want to go out to dinner during a visit, Earls makes sense. We’re not going to a fine dining place with a kid, and they aren’t going to be caught dead in what, Chucky Cheese? Spaghetti Factory? What the hell people??? You’re way off-base. Earls is discriminating against people, period. I had a kid, I am not going to stop going to a restaurant I liked going to and could afford just because I had a freaking kid. I will keep going and I would be the first to leave if my kid got loud. Can’t say the same for drunk hockey fans. Ridiculous comments here.

      • Earl’s isn’t saying you can’t bring your kids. They’re saying you’d be happier at another restaurant that has high chairs, because, they don’t have them. Does Hooter’s have high chairs? Maybe that’s a good place. What about Cactus Club? Why not bring your own clip on chair like we did?

          • Sure they’re not telling me not to come to their restaurant, but if a law doesn’t force them to accomodate small people (they ARE people you know) then they won’t. Which is why wheelchair acccess IS a freaking law! I’ve also sat next to an autistic kid having a freak-out, which is totally normal for autistic kids. There are different Earls’ out there and I’m dumbfounded that your commentors are clearly blind to those restaurants where there are kids going there all the time. If I have a birthday and my friend needs to bring her kid, I don’t want her feeling uncomfortable and I don’t want to feel uncomfortable that they are purposely making me so! Seriously, who is doing business at Earls? I’m OFFENDED that so many idiots read the same blog as myself. Go try out for Housewives of Vancouver, you’d fit right in.

      • I take my grandson to the White Spot. He loves it and so do I. Earls is for evenings with my son and daughter-in-law who have hired a sitter!!

        • Thanks for the suggestion on White Spot. Next time my parents are in town and we want to eat deep-fried food rather than the nice grilled chicken and potatoes I would prefer at Earl’s, I will be *sure* to look them up. And when I do get a sitter for a special night, you can be sure as hell I’m not going to Earls. I’ll be going to a classier establishment. As for Earls’ reply on this stating they are not a “family restaurant”, good luck with that Earls. Growing up there were many family restaurants that basically were an Earls pre-franchise days. You are a family restaurant. Get over yourselves.

  23. We should leave a memo then for folks without kids, who hog tables at Little Nest. They should be celebrating their child-free lifestyle at Earl’s.

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  25. Somebody call the waaaambulance. No high chair for you, oh my god, what will you do? How did all the generations before you survive? Oh that’s right they just dealt with it and went on with their day. Stop crying, grow up and get on with your life. And to the posts above about Barcelona and Italy being so kid friendly; perhaps it may have something to do with the fact that you wouldn’t imagine complaining about such a trivial thing there?

  26. Alexandra Suhner isenberg says:

    “You support Earls but complain about TV s? Earls has TVs the size of walls! ”

    i never said i eat there. i support the no kids is all.

  27. Earl’s stopped trying to cater to families around the same time we had our first (he just turned nine). At the time, I spoke to two managers who were utterly indifferent to our need for a highchair and/or a changing station. We were disappointed that they didn’t want our business so voted with our feet and we encouraged others to do the same. If they want to alienate a big segment of the market, so be it. There are much better places to eat.

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  30. Earl’s is run by the same people who took a customer concern high on the amnesty international list as one of the greatest threats to humanity to the supreme court of canada. They’re not interested in customer concerns. From customer concerns to their hiring policies – this is a bad taste environment. I’d be scared to have my daughter even work here.

  31. Just finished eating at the Surrey 102 and 152 earls just had a live spider crawling on my plate n I screamed hey there’s spider on my plate so everyone in the restaurant could here n they came n were shocked but they got mad at me for causing a scene cause the other customers were scared to eat they paid for my food n told me I’m not welcome to come back i still left a movie tip bunch of amateurs that run that place . Fu earls ur yesterday’s leftover cactus here I come!!

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