Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Enjoy your food, just make sure your kids don't run riot

Tasty grub isn't the only thing on the menu of a popular restaurant.

A lesson in good behaviour is also being dished up to pint-sized diners at Prego Restaurant on trendy Ponsonby Rd.

Below the spaghetti, pizza and grilled-meat dishes on the children's menu is a list of "reminders" for kids. Among the bad behaviour considered "not appropriate" is running, rolling around on the ground, jumping on furniture and playing in bathrooms.

Screaming, hitting and throwing are also on the no-no list.

Prego general manager and part-owner Brandon Lela'ulu told the Herald on Sunday the list of "guidelines" were added to the kids' menu about a year ago and were based on incidents that had occurred. "We asked regulars with kids their views. There was only one who said she would be offended, and she has well-behaved kids."

He was aware of only one complaint since.

They took action after incidents that followed the restaurant becoming more popular with families about eight years ago. Some business parties told the restaurant they wouldn't return because of disruption caused by misbehaviour from some youngsters, Lela'ulu said.

"It's off-putting in a business meeting if you've got kids throwing things and running around, and that was happening."

A restaurant review that noted "children rolling around on the floor" was also a turning point. "I thought 'wow, that's crisis point for me'."

However, the biggest factor was safety, Lela'ulu said. "We've got hot food, hot knives and the restaurant floor on a busy night has 15 staff working on it. Staff were concerned."

The restaurant prided itself on welcoming all customers, including children, but it was just as important everyone had a good experience.

"We want to make it a place where everyone feels welcome. It might come across as harsh, but it's for everyone's benefit."

Prego restaurant at Ponsonby. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Prego restaurant at Ponsonby. Photo / Steven McNicholl

The restaurant should be a place where parents can educate their children on how to dine, and they wanted to support that, he said.

"When we created a kids' menu eight to 10 years ago, we wanted families to have a place that wasn't the equivalent of Cobb & Co. We want to nurture future Prego diners and that means sitting in your chair and ordering your own food. It's a treat to go out to dinner and it needs to be seen as that.

"Families should know that here they will get the best service. They will never be treated badly and have us thinking 'oh God, here comes a family'."

Restaurant Association of New Zealand chief executive Marisa Bidois applauded the move, because it ensured a safer restaurant and because it helped kids learn how to be good diners.

She had seen wait staff, and the food they were carrying, toppled by collisions with children.

"The outcomes are never pleasant. It's much better to manage the risk beforehand."

- Herald on Sunday

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