You can bring your baby…but it will cost you! A mum was flabbergasted when she was charged a hefty cover charge for her baby! She shares her story with us.
“Still or sparkling water?”
The words sounded so sweet as we sat down to our first ‘fancy’ meal out since our local restaurants had reopened (thanks COVID!); and since the birth of our now 3-month-old daughter. In fact, she was 3 months to the day, which happily coincided with my birthday and we were out to celebrate.
I smiled politely and answered “still is fine thank you” and with that, a drink menu was placed on the table.
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Grateful to be out
My husband, holding the baby, began asking our 10-year-old what she would like to drink and we discussed the specials board we could see. It was nice to be out and feel some small window of normalcy after what had been a tumultuous few months. The stress of giving birth during lockdown restrictions and then that of breastmilk supply issues had consumed my world, and I was grateful for this time with my now family of four.
My train of thought was broken as the waitress returned to take our drink orders and hand out the food menus. As she placed the children’s menu in front of our 10 year old, she paused and looked at my husband, then the baby and finally landed her gaze on me.
Cover Charge For A Baby?
“Now,” she began, “normally we charge a $30 cover charge for children…”
But…? I thought to myself.
I realised I was staring blankly at the waitress and watched as her gaze shifted from mine and landed on… the baby. Our precious, boob sucking, formula drinking baby.
Surely not! Again the words cycling through my head but not coming out of my mouth.
My husband, who could clearly see the gears turning over in my head broke the silence.
“So you mean for her?!” Signalling down to the now drooling infant in his lap.
The waitress nodded, “yes, but if you like you could use it on another item, like the cheeseburger” she said pointing towards the children’s menu.
My husband and I locked eyes.
“But, she’s 3 months old!” I blurted out. “She physically can’t eat! She can’t even sit up, which we’ve already established from the high chair I declined when we walked in.”
The waitress shrugs “well we have a cover charge, but you can eat the cheeseburger or whatever you decide.”
I say nothing. It took over 3 hours to get out of the house in the first place. My husband had this lunch booked weeks in advance and the cancellation cost to leave would have been equal to our bill to stay (thanks again, COVID!).
She walks away and my husband suggests we ask to use the $30 dollars towards our entrees, and we begin to pick our meals.
We have dined here many times before, prior to having our new addition, and we have always splashed out on an extra side or entree plus desserts and drinks. We had budgeted that today would be no different and with $30 to spend, we add an extra entree to our plans and wait to order.
The waitress returns and our 10-year-old orders her meal first. The waitress then looks to my husband. He orders our mains and then queries using the cover charge towards an extra entree.
The waitress raises her eyebrow. “Well, tell me what you were thinking of ordering and I can see if you can.”
My husband rattles off the items from the entrees, all of which cost more than $30.00…each!
“No, sorry you can’t use it for any of that, but like I said before, you can order an extra meal from the children’s menu instead” she answers bluntly.
There are words brewing in my head again, and I struggle to keep my cool. My husband looks embarrassed. The waitress, smug.
I didn’t come out, on my birthday, after months of isolation, home learning, cracked nipples and sleep deprivation to eat from the children’s menu! The children’s menu marked clearly for under 15 years. I was here for a real meal. The only way my toothless little angel was going to get her $30 worth was from the food I consumed, and that was going to be delicious steak and seafood, not a cheeseburger!
I’m shocked. I’m hungry. I’m defeated.
“I’m not ordering a child’s meal. We’ll just wear the $30 I guess and cancel one of the entrees.” I hear myself saying.
The waitress speaks once more “oh, okay so cancel that dish? Are you sure?”
I look at her and don’t speak. She gets the hint and walks away with our order.
Is This Really The New Normal?
Was I overreacting? Was this the new ‘normal’ (really COVID, thanks!)? Was I going to be charged for a seat each time I dared take my baby out with us?
We ate our meal, and though I tried to enjoy it, there was a sour taste in my mouth from what had occurred.
A part of me felt bad for the waitress. I’d been her once and knew she was just following the policy of the restaurant. I wondered if she felt it was over the top. I wondered if I was the first person to question the charge. I wondered if my hormones and sleep deprivation were to blame for my reaction…surely not.
We finished our meals and finalised the bill.
Once in the car my husband agreed that we would take a break from supporting our beloved restaurant. A heartbreaking decision in the current climate, but one we feel we had to make. At least until our daughter was welcome… or on solids!
What would you have done if you had been handed a cover charge for your baby? Tell us in the comments below.