MINNESOTA (NBC News/TODAY) — When Christine Hemsworth brought her children to a local Arby’s for dinner, she was shocked to discover that some of her little ones might not always be welcome at the family-friendly chain.
On Oct. 6, Hemsworth stopped by the meaty sandwich chain for a bite to eat with three of her kids, one of whom is a toddler, she told TODAY Food. Hemsworth, who is from Princeton, Minnesota, visited an Arby’s in the neighboring town of Elk River, which is about 20 minutes away. As she was entering, she saw a surprising notice posted to the door.
“Only well behaved Children who can keep their food on their trays and their bottoms on their seats are welcome. If you can’t do this you will be asked to leave,” the sign read.
Despite feeling nervous that her 2-year-old toddler could very well violate this location’s slightly unusual set of rules, Hemsworth had a coupon for a family meal and decided to eat there as planned. In addition to feeling wary that her little one could toss a curly fry off his tray, Hemsworth told TODAY a male employee cursed in front her family (which the 11-year-old noticed, Hemsworth said). She decided not to inquire about the sign during their visit but called the Arby’s hotline listed on her receipt afterwards. It was an automated survey, however, so she hung up.
“I’m not a complainer — I’m really not,” she told TODAY. “But this just didn’t sit well with me. The manager could have addressed the message to people individually, not assigned it to the general public.”
That night, Hemsworth posted the story to her Facebook page and by 9 a.m. the next morning it had garnered about 330 shares and a number of comments she felt were inappropriate. She then deleted it.
However, she decided to reach out to KARE 11 to share her story and the station reposted it on Facebook, drumming up more debate.
“I wish more places did this. Maybe parents will get the hint and discipline their kids,” one person wrote on the post shared by KARE 11.
“No they need not be punished, good for them, people go out to enjoy a nice meal in peace , be respectful of others around you, doesn’t matter if its fast food or up scale restaurant, respect is what you need to be,” another wrote.
Others, however, poked fun of the fact that it was an Arby’s, not a five star restaurant, that posted the sign.
“Yep. When I want to have a pleasant and quiet sit down meal with my family, I immediately consider Arby’s,” one person wrote.
As a mother of five children who range in age from 2 to 24, Hemsworth has had plenty of experience choosing appropriate dining options for a large family, as well as teaching her children how to behave at the dinner table or in public settings. But, as many parents know, practice makes perfect and not all 2-year-old tots have had enough practice when it comes to keeping “their bottoms on their seats.”
“During that time when they’re, ya’ know, 1 to 3, they’re training — learning, exploring and sometimes they might dump some fries out to see what happens,” Hemsworth told TODAY. All these people saying, ‘Control your kids!’ It’s not a matter of controlling, it’s a matter of redirecting and telling them it’s wrong.”
After learning of the franchise’s actions, Arby’s issued a statement apologizing, though Hemsworth told TODAY that no one from the company has contacted her directly.
“We recognize the language on this sign was insensitive. We removed it quickly, and have disciplined the manager and team working at the restaurant. It does not reflect our company values and the family-friendly environment we aim to provide in all of our restaurants,” a spokesperson told TODAY.
Maybe next time, Arby’s will take a page from Chick-fil-A’s book and start up a Mom’s Valet instead.