I practically had PTSD when the article Earls Restaurants Doesn’t Want Kids & Doesn’t Care If You Know It slithered through my Facebook feed.
My trauma: one sunny Father’s Day, I encouraged 3 generations of our family to give Joey (Earls’ sister chain) a try—I like the food and the stylish decor. Bonus: the teenage wait staff show up to 4% less skin than Earls’ skeezy youngsters do. It being a special day & lots of family members (including a young guy in their target market who hadn’t eaten their before), the bill would’ve been decent.
The teenagers delighted in telling me they wouldn’t provide a high chair to accomodate my then 2-year-old. Believe me, an easier time would’ve been had by all if they did supply a slightly higher chair. No one wants a liberated 2-year-old in a restaurant.
(Obviously, we had a crappy Father’s Day outing for our dad. And obviously I’m not exercising my economic power or social influence there again.)
I wasn’t up in arms about “my rights”. I was hurt and embarrassed. I’d been told to my face that I wasn’t wanted somewhere I wanted to be. Somewhere I was happily going to pay to be.
The comments on my friend’s Facebook all circle around the carcass of “lazy parents incapable of stopping their kids from shrieking during the meal.”
Comments from men, who are far more likely to have the liberty, economically & responsibility-wise, to “leave the kids at home”. And who, as a group, are very unlikely to relate to the experience of being told you don’t belong somewhere.
But I digress. The real issue here is one of branding. Earls and Joeys ostensibly don’t want kids because it isn’t the image or environment they want to offer their (manly) customer.
But is “no children” a red herring?
Red-faced, with tears in my eyes, it didn’t strike me that Joeys didn’t want to provide seating for all the members of my party because one of them was going to act badly. “Shrieking kids” didn’t occur to me.
It made me feel that the person they didn’t want in their restaurant was me.
And why would they want me—a 38 year old mom—there?
From a branding perspective Actual Women detract from the sleazy fantasy presented by the wait staff at these kind of restaurants. Actual Women resemble too closely the (apparently undesirable) fulfillment phase of sexual attraction—long term relationships and ultimately children.
And it puts a cramp in the *prostitution-lite leering/paying for attention transaction if Actual Women are around to glare at it.
I’m not sure if making women feel unwelcome is the Fuller family’s marketing strategy, but it sure feels like it. As a man walked into the washroom, I caught sight of some faintly racy wall art highlighting exactly what value women have at Joey.
* C.O.A.: I’m sure no actual prostitution happens at Earls or Joey. I’m using mean, exaggerated words because they made me feel like a reject and that’s not a very nice brand experience.