Man Eats His Niece’s Kids’ Meal and Gets in Trouble. But Was He Really in the Wrong?

updated Jan 28, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

It’s a rare day when someone is declared “Not the asshole” on Reddit’s “Am I The Asshole” forum — a goldmine of people trying to get others to validate their poor decision-making. When it comes to how we cook and eat, the threads often provide insight into the way our food culture works, and a recent question was posted from a guy who wanted to know if he was a jerk for eating his niece’s kids meal.

But don’t worry: this isn’t about stealing food from a five-year-old. Rather, this guy was at an indoor playspace with his family, where they had purchased food for the children in the group, while the parents abstained. When the kids finished lunch, he ran clean-up on the left-behind chicken nuggets.

Finishing the kids’ leftovers, as any parent of a picky eater can tell you, is simply part of eating with small children. Whether at a restaurant, playspace, or at home, it’s how you keep food waste down, it’s how you can stretch your own meals into a second meal.

This playspace, like many places, had rules against adults ordering kids’ meals. But apparently beyond that, in this case, the playspace manager came out and yelled at the man for eating a children’s meal without ordering an adult meal.

Kids’ meals are usually much smaller and much cheaper than adult meals, particularly at a bigger restaurants, where having to pay full-price for a child unlikely to eat an entire adult meal might cause them to lose business. At other places, they can function as a loss leader — if the kids’ meal brings in the families, they can make up the difference in a cheaper meal by selling the more profitable adult meals. In those cases, it makes sense on the surface to not allow adults to order them. But at a playspace, where the business model is different than a restaurant, and children’s meals are likely the focus of the table, presumably they’d want to create a menu that was profitable on those meals. 

But either way, you simply can’t police what people eat at their table. At some point the restaurant has to trust customers are following the rules and not go wagging fingers over their meals like Mrs. Trunchbull in Matilda monitoring the cafeteria.

Of course, the wider question comes up around the idea of making rules around who can order a kids’ meal from the menu. Unlike something like a senior discount, where the same goods or services are provided for a discount price, most of the children’s meals are something entirely different — a smaller portion, a different food — and something not available elsewhere on the menu. So, if an adult wants that, whether because of preference, stomach capacity, or whatever other reason, should restaurants risk the ire of diners by forbidding it?

Whatever your answer, this guy clearly isn’t the jerk here.