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WATCH: Are eateries really 'child-friendly'?

Parenting
It’s great to brand your business as child-friendly, but the label comes with a great deal of responsibility, Marchelle Abrahams reports

Play areas in restaurants across SA need rules set in place to ensure fair, safe play.

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Spur is a restaurant chain that prides itself on being child-friendly, but the incident shows cracks in its management style. Picture: Supplied

The Spur video that sparked a storm of controversy showed a fellow patron confronting a mother after an alleged incident broke out in the play area between their children at the Texamo Spur in The Glen Shopping Centre.

Profanities and table-turning ensued, all in front of young children and fellow dinners. It’s a situation no parent wants to be put in.

Spur is a restaurant chain that prides itself on being child-friendly, but the incident shows cracks in its management style when it came to taking control of the situation. Various witnesses say staff only intervened once things escalated to a near-physical altercation.

Spur has acknowledged the inaction of its employees and says it is reviewing its procedures: “We acknowledge that the staff and management of the store did not sufficiently assist Ms Mabuya.

“We have addressed this with the store management and we are reviewing our internal procedures to ensure that restaurant staff are better equipped to manage an incident such as this.”

A manager at a Spur franchise, who chose not to be named, says there are already procedures in place when dealing with altercations. He explains that on a busy, shift waiters can be allocated up to 14 guests.

Spur’s play area is divided into two separate zones, each with its own minder at any given time, who keeps a close eye on the children and quickly diffuses any scuffles.

When called on to deal with a situation between customers, he says that the waiter is always the first port of call, or any other employee in close proximity. The staff member then assists the customer to the best of their ability, then alerts the manager.

Mike’s Kitchen says its waiting staff can service up to five tables on a busy night, while its play area has two minders.

Asked if its staff are equipped to deal with aggressive customers, a franchise manager explains that as soon as the waiter senses trouble, the procedure is to call the manager before it escalates. The owner is notified if the manager is not able to mediate.

As a parent, you want to be assured that your children are in safe hands when allowed to go off and play on their own. But as of yet, South Africa doesn’t have regulations in place that make an establishment child-friendly.

Pallet Jacks in Hillcrest, Durban, says it prides itself on taking the utmost care when dealing with young patrons. The play area has rules that are printed out on flyers and clearly visible on the play area wall. There are always three minders present, no matter what the time of the day.

The area also has designated play zones, each with its own age restriction. The role of the minders is to make sure kids always abide by the rules, and in a case where a misunderstanding arises, they deal first with the children and then alert the parents.

The Spur incident has shown that something is lacking in our hospitality industry. If an establishment claims to be child-friendly, it has to encompass the ethos of truly being just that.

Maybe it’s time to regulate the industry so restaurants can be held accountable and better equip their staff to deal with the downside of “the customer is always right”.

How to handle bullying

By Lee Koetser

One of the hardest things for a parent is to see their child being bullied, hurt or hit in public. As parents we instinctively react with raw animal impulse. How should you handle the situation?

1. Remove yourself from it.

2. Count, breathe, do whatever it takes to calm down and know that reacting will not help the matter but worsen it for all parties involved.

3. Deal first with your own child. By dealing with them and focusing on them you will be buying time to calm down.

4. Once your child has been consoled, walk across to the parent and address them in a calm and collected manner. If you yell or use physical actions, you are only condoning bullying to your children, and not benefiting or resolving anything in the process.

5. Get a third objective party as a witness and mediator in this event.

6. Introduce yourself as the child’s parent and express your concerns in the following way:

Head to a private space. You do not want to embarrass yourself, those involved or other family members and friends by blowing this out of proportion.

Do not go on the attack. It will land up being a juvenile power struggle rather than settling this as adults.

State what happened and ask what they will do to assist. By putting the ball in their court, you are trusting and empowering them as parents to take action. As soon as you take parental power away, they are going to react negatively and this will not help the situation.

Bullying is wrong so as parents you should agree to bring both parties together and ask for an apology, and make it known that bullying is unacceptable.

When parents handle the situation this way, children will mimic their elders’ behaviour and feel equipped to handle a situation like it better in the future.

* Koetser is a qualified remedial therapist and parenting columnist

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