A baby at your restaurant table? That’ll be a £3 surcharge

He’s brought his own food and doesn’t need a seat. Is it fair to charge his mother extra? Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

It may look like bad PR, but a restaurant in Croydon could find itself inundated with bookings from those who like to eat without being surrounded by kids, after a story in last night’s Evening Standard.

According to the piece, Cosmo restaurant has been asking parents with young babies to fork out £3 to take them in for a meal – even though both of the babies cited in the piece were still being breastfed and were not even using highchairs.

One mother told the paper that she’d been asked to pay for her six-month-old. She said: “I was astonished as we explained she was exclusively breastfed and would be sitting on our laps, therefore not consuming any food or occupying an extra seat. They said it was their new policy. That was all.”

The restaurant, previously famous for being Britain’s largest eaterie, refused to comment to the Evening Standard and has yet to return my call, so it’s not clear if this really is a company policy, or just some over-zealous staff members in action.

But other restaurants have tried something similar – and given up in the face of negative publicity. In May, a cafe in Bath owned by rugby players Lee Mears and Matt Stevens dropped a £1.40 fee for families who brought their own babyfood after an outcry from local parents.

As a parent, I know that once babies start weaning they can make a mess, and I can see why restaurants might want to charge for having to clean up after someone who is probably eating something their parents brought from home. (I always get the wet wipes out and try to tidy up after my son, but the table probably does need an extra wipe down once he’s been in action.)

But before children are eating solids, I can’t see any justification for charging them to come in. Even if they are asleep in a pushchair it’s likely to be at a table with their parents – a space that no another diner would be using anyway.

The subject of children in restaurants is one that divides people – and not just along parent/non-parent lines – but is there anyone who thinks this is fair? Have you encountered anything similar?

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