After a Texas Applebee’s asked a family to leave because of its allegedly rowdy children this week, the incident prompted a fast moving chain of events: calls to the police, outcry from the family, explanation from the eatery chain, and an online debate about what constitutes inappropriate restaurant behavior.
"I feel disrespected," Lillian Maliti, mother of 3-year-old Ryan and 1-year-old Ethan, told KHOU News in Houston on Wednesday. "This has never happened in my life."
Maliti’s husband Eli Gau told the news station that his young kids are “active,” and that they “act like children." He added, “I feel heartbroken. I feel very sad.”
According to a spokesperson for the Harris County Sheriff, the station first received a call at 10 p.m. from an Applebee’s employee who reported “arguing” among the family in question. Six minutes later, Gau called the police to report that he and his family had been kicked out of the restaurant and that they felt “threatened.” An officer met the family out in the parking lot, but did not file any charges, citations, or warnings.
Applebee’s issued a statement about the situation in Katy, Texas, to Yahoo Shine. "Our franchise owner-operator has apologized to the guest and invited the party back into their restaurant to demonstrate the standard of service each of our guests deserve to receive during every visit,” it read.
But it went on: “As a brand, our focus is and must always be providing the best possible experience for all of our guests at all times. When a disruption in our restaurants affects any of our guests, it is the manager's responsibility to step in to resolve the situation. It is exceedingly rare that a situation requires the assistance of law enforcement, and our franchisee is using this instance as a teaching moment to better manage future disruptions in their restaurants.”
Local Applebee’s patrons, at least one of whom claimed to have been present that night, defended the restaurant through comments posted to KHOU’s online story.
“This child was not wandering around.... he was running around the restaurant screaming at guests as they tried to enjoy their meals. The whole time they were in the building,” wrote Randal Smith. “Then the parents raised hell in front of the whole restaurant. This is funny to me since I witnessed the whole thing. Haha crazy people will do anything for attention/money.”
Another local resident, Shahira Mandy, wrote, “I go to this establishment all the time and for these people to say they're racist is far from the truth. Their children were out of hand, the mom was probably embarrassed, and why do you have your kids out that late at night? I have only seen Applebee's call the police [in] extreme situations. I believe management did the right thing [in] asking that woman and her ill-mannered children to leave. Race has nothing to do with bad parenting.”
The debate on what is and is not acceptable restaurant behavior among children raged on through KHOU’s Facebook page, with a great many of the nearly 400 commenters siding with Applebee’s. One mom wrote, “I have 3 kids and I cannot stand it when people let their kids act like heathens! My kids know to eat, not be loud, and keep that butt in the seat!”
Another echoed her sentiment. “I have no sympathy here,” she wrote. “I have raised 3 boys and I tell ya, I never hesitated to take care of business if either one of them acted up in ANY public place!!! I CANNOT STAND parents who allow their kids to act like animals!!”