Engage with your kids or just stay home
A popular Sydney family restaurant has joined an international trend by banning iPads and iPhones, and gone a step further by barring colouring books, board games and building blocks.
Pazar Food Collective, a Turkish-Mexican fusion restaurant in Canterbury, wants parents to "engage with their children" and for families to be "involved with the food and experience".
Pazar's owner, Attila Yilmaz, took to social media after one family left a mess by drawing on napkins and the table.
"It's very upsetting to all of us, there was no, 'Oh sorry about that', the parents just laughed and said they're just kids," he told the Herald. "It's an expectation that we are there to clean up that mess, and we are to an extent, but there's also a thing called human decency and respect."
It’s not the first time a Sydney restaurant has banned phones at the table: Bistecca in the CBD requires guests to surrender their phones upon entry, in an attempt to allow diners to "connect".
Overseas, restaurant chain Frankie and Benny's became the first family restaurant in the UK to implement a ban on phones in November last year, asking diners to deposit them into a "no phone zone" box at the table.
Woolloomooloo restaurant Contact Bar and Kitchen will give a free glass of wine to any customer who will go without their phone for the entirety of the meal.
The Pazar ban will apply to adults as well as noisy children.
"Reasonable use of your camera to capture memories will be accepted and not discouraged as long as it doesn't interfere with the dining experience of others," he said. "Sure take a couple of snaps, but you wouldn't go to the movies on your phone and sit there texting away, you would be asked to put it away."
In an effort to continue to make families feel welcome, the restaurant is planning to offer a free dinner to children five and under for bookings between 5.30pm and 6pm.
"There's a time and a place for everything, and when it's date night for me, the last thing I want to do sit next to kids with their iPads going," Mr Yilmaz said. "People often get upset when we are firm on having children seated, we do want kids at the restaurant, and we do love your kids; just not as much as you do."
Parents are divided on the ban.
Founder of community group Inner West Mums and a mother of two, Anita Vitanova, said she does not expect the new ban to go down well with the local community.
"I think if the owner wants children to engage with the food, they should be allowed to interact with the cooking process not just expect kids to sit and do nothing while they wait," she said. "I can't see how it would attract parents if they're not willing to cater for them."
Woolloomooloo mother Jade Laing dines out at least once a week with her two-year-old child, and while she likes the idea of an iPad and iPhone ban, banning colouring in is a step too far.
"It's going to depend on the age," she said. "Banning colouring books for young kids is a bit extreme, as their attention span isn't the greatest at that age."
Bankstown mother Georgina Sierra says she is what others may call "old school" and loves the idea of less screen time.
"I’m trying to limit my child’s exposure to iPhones and iPads as much as possible before hitting school," she said. "It will be noisy but everyone will enjoy the experience; like before mobile phones existed."
Mr Yilmaz, who has two children himself, hopes the ban does not deter families from dining at Pazar, but will simply prevent people from treating the restaurant like "the dining room at home".
"My children always say no to colouring books when the waiter comes and asks, and we never use IOS devices when we go out," he said. "They don't want the colouring book, they would rather sit there and talk about the food."