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?by