Darren Maule. Picture: Supplied
Opinion - Oh! So, you’re a “family” restaurant! What does that mean?

Just because you have a kiddies menu or a plastic jungle-gym, in a public space, or public restaurant in South Africa does not - as sad as it is in 2019 - qualify you to call yourself a family restaurant. 

If you’re going to call yourself a “family restaurant”, you are going to have to put a few more measures in place. As evidence of the Dros rape case presents.

Here was a little girl, who was inside the “family restaurant”, who was raped in the women’s bathroom by a patron. Your mind starts asking yourself and others: how could you have protected her against that?

In order for you to call yourself a family restaurant TODAY - where parents can feel safe with their kids in your restaurant - you’re going to have to start guarding against that “other” threat too.

Things are a little bit different for me because I am a super-paranoid father. I have been in the public eye for a long time, so I am always vigilant of my surroundings. I am constantly aware of the people who are around me and I am ultra-protective of my child.

Whenever we are out, no matter whether it’s at the beach, shopping, or at a restaurant/family restaurant, my child is always within my sight. Every single second!

In fact, even when she is out on a play-date or sleepover with friends (which are few and far between, compared to when we went out on sleepovers and spent all day playing outside), the parents, neighbourhood and history are scrutinised on a 20-point-check-list by me, before I consider a sleepover or a play date.

But that’s me; I am a super paranoid parent, and yet I still don’t feel my child is totally safe.

In an ideal world, you should be able to go out to a restaurant that calls itself a “family restaurant”, and let your kids go do their thing so they have a good time, and you have a good time with your friends, then you all meet up after you have paid the bill and you go home, and everyone is safe and happy. But that is not the reality anymore.

I think, today, if an institution is going to advertise itself as a family restaurant, I’m going to need a little bit more from you than smiley potato wedges and luminous slides.

There are a few places, mostly kid-focused places, where some have a bracelet where a child can’t leave the premises without an alarm going off.

I have also been to some venues where you sign your child in, and you have to sign your child out when you leave.

But the Dros incident leaves us wondering the perpetrator of the crime didn’t even leave the restaurant.

It can happen in the restaurant and I think more is going to have to be done to safeguard against that if you want to be certified “family friendly”.

Perhaps by placing trained, friendly, professional staff - permanently - in each of the bathrooms.

Perhaps by having someone, who just sits and monitors security cameras and is proactive instead of reactive. Proactively searching out risks.

I’m sorry to say, but we do actually have the technology for facial recognition systems.

We should use that. And if anyone is flagged as being on a predator list or has a history of paedophilia/abuse they are identified and denied entry. I know our Constitution demands free movement for all citizens, but if you can’t play well with others then you automatically give up the right to go to a family restaurant.

Labelling yourself a “family restaurant” is no longer a question of whether you have an environment where kids are stimulated.

There now has to be a level of security and checks, and proactive management going on.

In fact, until it’s safer, you should apply for a licence that states you are a bona fide safe family restaurant.

Family restaurants should mean safe restaurants. Let’s focus more on safe stations and not play-stations.

Let’s forget child-minders and rather consider child guardians. Is it asking too much? It’s getting harder and harder to feel brave enough to leave the house.

Will I get burgled if I leave? Will I get hijacked en route? Will my car still be there when I’m done?

Surely, once you’re safely inside the restaurant, you should be allowed to relax? Can I please have a little peace of mind while I partake of my Panettone?

Maule is a stand-up comedian, actor, and entertainer. He also heads up the East Coast Breakfast team.

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