True, it does initially sound a bit racy. After all, “adults only” has long been associated with films or websites with content not suitable for young people – as well as related establishments. In the meantime, however, the term has caught on to describe a different type of place. After all, restaurants and hotels that have anything but a disreputable image are increasingly referring to themselves as adults-only locations.
A few years ago, the gastronomy industry discovered a need among many adults: The desire to be kid-free – at least for a while. Sometimes you just want a little peace and quiet. No whining, no fussing, no fidgeting. You don’t want to deal with video games or videos playing on a phone, either at your table or the table next to you. Simply put, you don’t want to have any kids around you for a while.
“Children haters” as pioneers
A growing number of restaurants are meeting this demand, or at least doing so after a specific time. In the meantime, there is also a great deal of understanding for such concepts. This was not always the case. When the current trend began, the opposite was true. Owners were publicly branded as “child haters” and mass calls for a boycott were the order of the day. In 2018, for example, a ban on children in a restaurant on Germany’s largest holiday island caused quite a stir. Many articles were written about Oma’s Küche (Grandma’s Kitchen) when owner Rudolf Markl decided to open the “first child-free restaurant in Binz and on the whole of Rügen”. According to the restaurateur, he wanted to offer his guests an “oasis of peace” and be “adult-friendly”. The outrage on social media was huge, with lots of haters weighing in on Facebook & co. And this despite the fact that the ban only applied from five pm onward and only to children under the age of 14. At the time, Rudolf Markl also explicitly stated that it was actually the parents who were the problem, not the children. How parents are raising their kids leaves a lot to be desired. Adults intervene far too little and let their offspring get away with too much.
He’s not alone in this opinion. Around the same time, a survey by the internationally active British opinion research institute YouGov collected data showing that more than half of Germans without children under the age of 18 thought it was their parents who were to blame for the annoying behavior of minors. As many as 36 percent of adults with children shared this sentiment. 16 percent of parents therefore wanted child-free times in restaurants, compared to 37 percent of people without (younger) children.
Not surprising: The higher the quality of a restaurant, the greater the likelihood ofadults only, or at least an age restriction. According to an UK survey, around 40 percent of fine dining restaurants in the UK have a time and/or age limit for dining with children. One of these is The Whippet Inn in York, which owner Martin Bridge declared a child-free zone when it opened in 2014. The reactions back then were similar to those of Bridge’s colleague Markl. In addition to scathing reviews on social media, the staff were even personally insulted in the restaurant. The worst thing, according to the owner, was the reaction of young parents.
Adults only: A growing offer
The kid ban in The Whippet Inn, as well Oma’s Küche on Rügen, was nonetheless enforced. It’s still in place today, and has proved successful. Many others followed suit. Particularly in popular vacation destinations, an increasing number of restaurants are explicitly advertising their child-free status in addition to theadult-onlyhotels, which have been around much longer. From a 5-star resort on Tenerife to an all-inclusive club in Cancún, from the English Riviera to Tokyo: There is hardly a destination where you can’t find a restaurant and/or a place where children are not allowed.
Outside the world of high-end cuisine, however, the situation (still) looks different. The overwhelming majority of restaurants do not have such restrictions, as confirmed by the German Hotel and Restaurant Association. According to the German Federal Associationadult-only companies are still the exception, not the rule. However, the options are constantly growing. A dinner and especially a vacation without children – or one without children in the immediate vicinity – is not only possible, it’s being explicitly advertised as a selling point.
Even the Disney Dream cruise ship operated by Disney Cruise Line, which no one is likely to accuse of being child-unfriendly, offers two adults-only pools on board where parents (or adults traveling alone) can relax. Cruises on ships operated by Virgin Voyages, owned by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, are generally child-free. “Let’s face it, even parents could use a holiday from their little ones sometimes,” is the official word from the cruise line. “And those who are child-free might prefer a vacation without other people’s kids around. Because of that you must be at least 18 to sail with us.”
TUI, the largest European tour operator, is also taking this trend into account. Adults-onlyhotels are also offered by the tourist company as a separate category. “Particularly popular: adult hotels on Mallorca, Crete and the Canary Islands,” they say, for example. Thailand and Turkey are also promoted under the motto “Experience a relaxing break away from everyday stress!”. British Airways has a similar approach. With the slogan “every second’s your own to do as much or as little as you want,” the airline proactively offersadult-onlytrips to Greece or the Indian Ocean.
The age limit varies from hotel to hotel. Generally, anyone up to the age of 16 is considered a child, in some accommodations until 18. In adult restaurants, the “forbidden age” also varies – and the time of day is usually also a factor. Apart from fine dining, which children and young people often don’t have access to at all, many restaurants have time restrictions. For example, in some places children are allowed until five pm, like in Oma’s Küche, and in other places until seven thirty pm. The main evening, however, is then exclusively reserved for adults.
Parents as trend supporters
This usually takes the wind out of the sails of criticism of such concepts: It is precisely those people with children themselves who are happy to make frequent use of the opportunity after a child-free period. This has also been confirmed by an expert. According to German psychologist and travel therapist Christina Miro, parents long for peace and relaxation in a fast-paced and sensory overloaded world. People who have consciously decided not to have children of their own naturally also prefer to relax as much as possible on vacation. Miro therefore assumes that the trend will not only continue, it will actually accelerate.
One thing is for sure: The uproar of the previous years has died down. These days, adult-only spots no longer make the headlines – unless you’re deliberately trying to cause a stir for marketing reasons. An example of this is the Turkish-Dutch low-cost airline Corendon. In summer 2023, the airline announced that it wanted to create child-free areas on board. Rather than offering Business Class like other airlines, the first twelve rows of their aircraft would only be available to adults, according to the airline’s managers.
For restaurants like The Whippet Inn, adults only is definitely not just a PR gag. “We offer an escape from the stresses of daily life, and kids tend to be one of those stresses (especially other people’s!) So 14 years and above only, please,” the owner officially states. There is one exception: “Unless they have four legs and a tail, in which case they’re welcome regardless of age.” Well then.