No Children Allowed: A Recipe for Publicity

A few weeks ago, the owner of a little restaurant attached to a golf driving range in Pennsylvania, decided to introduce a new policy that it will no longer serve any person under the age of six.

As principal of a PR firm with restaurant clients, I followed this story right from the beginning. From what I observed, the story was initially reported by a local TV news outlet in Pittsburgh on July 8th. The Associated Press picked it up and reported it the following day. From there, the media frenzy took off.

If this were a legal blog, I’d pontificate about the obvious discrimination against children under six years old. From my understanding, children are not a protected class unlike senior citizens.  Unfortunately or fortunately (depending on your point of view), I do not hold a law degree so I can’t say whether there are legal implications to this restaurant’s policy.

Since this is the PR Breakfast Club, which serves everyone in PR (including the ones who at times act like children—you know who you are!), just let me say that from a PR standpoint, this new restaurant policy was a win. Here are my three reasons why:

1) PR breeds conversation – From the news coverage and subsequent comments from individuals, there’s no doubt this new policy was talked about.

2) PR generates media coverage – Mike Vuick, owner of McDain’s restaurant, on CNN said he’s done more than 110 interviews including two in Australia and one in New Zealand—as much as I despise equating media coverage with advertising dollar equivalency—the amount of publicity is definitely in the millions.

3) PR brings long-term recall – You may forget the nitty-gritty details about this story in the future, but people who’ve seen or read anything about this will remember it for a long time. A similar example would be the airline that was going to charge two coach seats for overweight passengers, you remember that, right?

I’m sure you fine PR folks have other reasons why this is or isn’t a PR win so please feel free to share and let me know what you think @PRFlipside. However, I do predict that a restaurant that issues a policy not to serve anyone over his/her body mass index will secure publicity too and start a different conversation.

P.S. Personally, as a dad and golfer, I think this new restaurant policy is baseless. Caring and responsible parents are aware and don’t want their child to have a meltdown at any restaurant. My wife and I who are blessed with two adorable boys in the autism spectrum have cut short restaurant visits or taken our child outside when having a meltdown—trust me the food isn’t as delish in the minivan with a wailing child in the backseat. What make this policy quite absurd is this is a restaurant attached to a driving range. The next Tiger Woods could be turned away.