TORONTO - Most Canadians expect casual dining restaurants to be welcoming towards children, but disruptive youngsters in those settings can be unappetizing for adults without kids at home, according to a new study.

Research from Harris-Decima found that three-quarters of respondents to a telephone poll say they've rarely or never avoided a particular restaurant known as "family-friendly."

Yet, childless respondents were twice as likely as those with kids to leave a casual dining restaurant because someone else's offspring were acting up.

"As much as the expectation is that that restaurant would be family-friendly, there have been a fair number of individuals without kids who have left because of someone else's child," said Susan Sanei-Stamp of Harris-Decima's retail and food services practice, which observes industry trends.

Sanei-Stamp says they've noticed a bit of gap in understanding expectations of "family-friendly" — a void which they sought to fill for restaurants.

"When we put out the term `family-friendly,' we really just defined it as an environment where kids can be present, and the availability of amenities," she says, citing examples such as high chairs and change tables in washrooms.

Sanei-Stamp says about 70 per cent of Canadians polled expected that casual dining would be family-friendly.

One-third of those polled say they typically take children out to a casual dining restaurant. Individuals surveyed between the ages of 25-34 and 35-44 were more likely than older counterparts to expect a family-friendly environment in these establishments.

So restaurants face a double-edged sword: trying to cater and appeal to parents wanting a night out with their kids while also being cognizant of the desires of those dining out without children.

Sanei-Stamp says she believes for restaurant owners, it comes down to ensuring staff are trained to handle the needs of a range of customers.

"When you arm your staff with the skill that they need to address the different situations that can come up, the better the experience for the staff, as well as potentially for that guest," she said.

Harris-Decima interviews more than 1,000 Canadians each week through the company's national telephone omnibus survey.

Data for this poll was gathered from Jan. 24-28, with a margin of error of 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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