Restaurant mistake rendered our four year old child drunk

Seeing our daughter intoxicated was something Kate and I thought we had over a decade to prepare ourselves for. Apparently not – a mistake from a local restaurant meant that we witnessed our four year old child drunk. As if that wasn’t weird and disturbing enough, she had the inevitable hangover the next day. I appreciate this might sound funny to some but think about it – she’s four years old, and she was drunk. It’s wrong…

Restaurant mistake rendered my four year old child drunk

Wednesday 20 December was our designated evening for dropping off Christmas cards. You know the score, you drive round slowly, open the car door silently and creep up to their front door. You open the letterbox and hope it’s well oiled, then you slip the cards in and close it as though it’s an alarmed bank vault. The last thing you want is them opening the door and having that 12-month catch up chat neither of you want at 19:30 in the evening.

We took an hour doing this and bribed our four year old, Evelyn, with a burger and chips in return for her cooperation.

She cooperated, so we headed to Frankie and Benny’s for her treat. We had no idea it’d more closely resemble a hen do for her.


I nipped to the gents to wash the last hour off my face, and returned to a drinks order being delivered to our table. A diet Pepsi each for me and Kate, and a “Softail” from the kids’ menu for Evelyn. In fact the one pictured below:

Franky & benny's kids softails, four year old drunk
Fruity Sunrise – the drink we thought was delivered, same glass and same colours as the picture here

Note the shape of the glass – Frankie and Benny’s have since told me that only the kid’s drinks are served in these glasses, and they have their own style of straw (pictured). We had no reason to suspect anything, it was a completely passive handover of the drink to Evelyn for her to drink it. No one knew at this point that it was a real cocktail. Real cocktails have one of these glasses:

four year old child drunk
Adult cocktails, note the shape of the glasses and the style of the straws

Bear in mind that she’d been thirsty all the way to the restaurant, and when the drink came she grabbed the straw and gulped away in the way only thirsty kids do. She had a third of the glass, then after a fraction of a second recoiled and gave that “EURGH” she does when she’s being fussy. Annoyingly it’s the same sound she makes when she genuinely doesn’t like something – this confuses us a lot at mealtimes when narrowing down what she actually likes.

“Oh stop being fussy” we said “You love fruit juice!”.

She had a few more reluctant gulps before giving up.

The realisation

A few minutes passed and our food order was on its way. The waitress rushed over to us.

“I’m so sorry, I really am sorry, I’ve given your daughter a real cocktail”.

There was a few seconds of silence when we processed that. I slowly turned my head to Evelyn then looked back at the waitress, confused. The best we could manage was “Seriously? Oh, ok, well thank you for coming over before she drank any more.”. The waitress left to get the real drink for Evelyn while Kate and I quizzed her about how she felt.

Evelyn was completely normal. Nothing out the ordinary, but it had only been 5 or so minutes. The waitress was almost tears as she brought the proper drink over, apologising over and over.

“She seems ok” I said, “we’ll keep a close eye on her, but her garlic bread is on the way so it’s probably a good idea for her to eat that asap”.

Our food arrived seconds later, and Evelyn ate her garlic bread. Good. That’ll soak some of it up.

The reaction

Over the next 10 minutes or so, Evelyn started acting a bit strange. I’m not sure how to explain this fully as four year olds are strange by nature anyway, but when she literally stood on her part of the booth and started dancing I suspected we were seeing our four year old child drunk.

This isn’t a joke – I honestly realise it sounds ridiculous. It’s true.

Evelyn said she needed the toilet, so I took her. I used the opportunity to make her walk to the toilets with me. She couldn’t walk in a straight line, and she swayed into the other tables on the short walk there. I’ll admit, it was unsettling to see this in light of the fact she’d just downed some alcohol.

It was when we were stood in the bathroom and Evelyn was telling jokes to herself in the mirror and giggling that I knew for sure. Again, I know this sounds ridiculous. It IS ridiculous, but it’s also upsetting to think about. She’s actually drunk, I felt sick.

We went back to the table and I explained to Kate that she wasn’t right. Back at the table Evelyn put her coat on herself, put her hood up and announced she was going to sleep on the bench. She’s definitely pissed.

The concerns

The waitress came over to check on Evelyn and we voiced our concern that that drink had made our four year old child drunk. She panicked, and while we felt sorry for her, we had to take precautions here. We asked for some ice cream that Evelyn liked – alcohol is absorbed quickly by a child, and it can lower blood sugar very quickly. We’d give her the ice cream then decide what to do. I gave Evelyn my Pepsi and her juice (just juice), she drank it all.

We paid up and left. In hindsight, I should have queried the payment, but I didn’t. The card machine was handed to me with that “Add a gratuity” screen that’s supposed to be discreet, only they know your choice when the receipt is printed, don’t they! I rounded the £53 up to £55 on autopilot and we went to the car.

Evelyn was talking about seeing a plane on the moon on the building opposite. No love, that’s the “F&B On The Beach” cocktail talking.

The outcome

We went home, got her changed and put her in bed, lying on her side. Kate rang 111, the NHS helpline. The call lasted about 40 minutes, Kate explained everything and lots of questions were asked. We woke Evelyn up to do the brief checks that they asked.

The nurse on the phone advised that a GP would call us back within the hour. We kept Evelyn with us and awaited the call, which came 10 minutes later.

The doctor advised that we go to A&E and have them check Evelyn over.

Now, have you ever tried to get a sleeping four year old into a car seat? Hard, isn’t it? Now imagine that four year old was drunk, confused and uncomfortable. It wasn’t easy.

We drove to the hospital and had her checked. They asked her to walk in a straight line and she couldn’t – she was awake at this point and it wasn’t tiredness. A few more checks later and the doctor advised that we put her in our bed and let her “sleep it off” as she was in fact drunk.

We drove home – driving through the thickest fog I’ve ever seen in my life.

The hangover

The doctor advised us that she would be hung over. Take that in for just a second – our four year old child would be hung over in the morning. That’s shit!

Kate phoned in work the next morning and we let Evelyn sleep in until 10am. She woke up groggy, croaky and complaining of a sore head. Textbook hangover. I’d left for work by this point but Kate gave her breakfast and kept a close eye on her for an hour before ringing the school to explain, then taking her in before lunch.

We heard she was quiet in school, but she’s fine now.

The response

I tweeted Frankie & Benny’s about it as Kate was on the phone to 111 and they sent a stock tweet back asking me to fill in their complaints form. I stressed that I didn’t want to make a complaint; we didn’t know the full story yet. The last thing we wanted was the waitress to get sacked for this. She was genuinely lovely and it wasn’t worth her job at that point. It’s a training issue at worst.

I had around a hundred responses from people from that tweet, and Twitter Analytics told me that over 6000 people had seen it overnight. Frankie & Benny’s messaged me asking how Evelyn was, and asking for details.

I asked how they differentiate between the kids’ softails and the adult cocktails and I was told that the softails have their own glass and straw. This information changed things.

The mistake

It was a hard mistake to make – for this to have happened, someone had to have made an adult cocktail and put it in a child’s glass with a child’s straw. This wasn’t ok, I was angry at this point. I wonder at what point it was noticed – did an adult get a kid’s softail across the restaurant and complain? What if they’d not complained. Even worse, what if Evelyn was still on the antibiotics she was on last week?

I voiced some of this to them over Twitter Direct Message. They were apologetic – of course they were.

They offered us a free meal; that pissed me off. You’d expect an establishment to offer someone a free meal if they got the order wrong, or if the food was cold. You do not offer a free meal after getting a four year old child drunk and causing an A&E visit until 1am.

You'd expect an establishment to offer someone a free meal if they got the order wrong, or if the food was cold. You do not offer a free meal after getting a four year old child drunk and causing an A&E visit until 1am. Click To Tweet

I understand that they’re following protocol, and I despise this blame/claim culture we have – the word “compensation” is one I usually frown at. But a free meal – come on.

What do I want?

I want to know how this happened. How does someone put alcohol in a kid’s glass and hand it to them? Is it as simple as someone doing just that, or is there a fault in the procedure that would give rise to the chance of this happening?

I want Evelyn to get a break from either being ill or feeling like she’s ill. She’s just got over tonsillitis and come off the antibiotics!

If it’s the former, then we’ve all made mistakes at work. I have – plenty, but fortunately that just costs someone money. If you’re in a position to give children something they’ll consume then you need to make damn sure that it’s safe and won’t, for example, get them pissed. The restaurant failed here.

If you're in a position to give children something they'll consume then you need to make damn sure that it's safe and won't, for example, get them pissed. The restaurant failed here. Click To Tweet

I’ll liaise with Frankie and Benny’s and see what can be done about this. I haven’t decided how far I’ll take it, but I’m not happy with the cavalier attitude thus far. The latest email I received was signed off “Yours sincerely, Guest Services”. Effort.

I feel sorry for the waitress, and I will be unhappy if she’s disciplined. This is a training issue as I see it.

I’m not sure we’ll be heading back there though. I might be a bit soft, but the memory of Evelyn swaying and being drunk isn’t much of an appetite builder. There was nothing merry about the situation in the slightest.


51 thoughts on “Restaurant mistake rendered our four year old child drunk

  1. Working in the NHS, safety incidents I would be expecting them to do a full review. When people are given wrong medications, they look at labelling and packaging. If it’s too similar they would change that to avoid it happening again. Some things are down to human factors, others are down to process errors. This is clearly a problem with the process but an indepth investigation, root cause analysis would be the minimum I’d be asking for. I doubt very much F&B would know what this is though…

    1. Thanks mate. They’ve since told me that the waitress brought the wrong tray over! It’s as simple as that. It’s not her fault, two diet cokes and a cocktail, on both trays – freak accident but there needs to be a way to stop that again, no matter how slim the chances!

  2. Wow, what a scary ordeal to go through as a parent! I cannot even think what was going through your mind. I am glad to hear that you all have made a recovery, but I would not be happy with a complimentary meal due to the error. This could have ended in a number of horrible ways.
    Hope you get some answers.

  3. I think there are a lot of questions they need to answer before you can decide on what actions to take. Primarily for me would be who exactly made the drink and put it in the glass. Next as you pointed out how did they find out you had the wrong drink. I would hate to think it was a deliberate act on anyones part, but I guess even that cant be ruled out until you get all the answers.
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  4. Nearly happened to me as a child. We were on a cruise and my dad ordered me a non alcoholic cocktail (it was blue, called a Garfield, it was lovely). Guy must have got confused with the order, gave the drink to my dad, who promptly handed it to me. Guy yelled out ‘s**t i got the order wrong’ and grabbed it off me and promptly made another. My dad laughed it off at the time but articles like this make you realise what the consequences could have been.
    Cocktails are bloody strong, let alone for a small child! Shocking! X

    1. God I’m glad he realised when he did! Yeah for a small child the alcohol can do some real damage, mostly short term for a one off incident but it’s scary!

  5. This is really shocking. There should be no way at all that this could happen. There should be policies in place that mean it can’t happen. I’m sorry it happened to you. I wouldn’t be as reasonable as you.

    1. Thanks mate. The waitress took a tray that had an identical order as ours, except with a real cocktail. Freak accident, but there should be some procedure in place to prevent this. Like more obvious kid glasses!

  6. Sorry to hear you all went through that, you’re right it’s rubbish. I was chatting about it to my husband and we both said we’d try the girls’ drinks in future, it had never even crossed our minds before. Hope she’s ok and recovered now.
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  7. This is awful to read, poor Evelyn! I feel sorry for the waitress as she’s obviously reliant on the bar person making the drinks correctly but regardless this shouldn’t be able to happen. I’d have been pretty peeved to get stock responses too, it should have been a phone call imo. Hope she’s all better now.

  8. I am absolutely gob smacked. When we spoke a few days ago I thought this was an honest mistake in the sense that the glasses are all the same. But no. This was either done through sheer idiocy or, dare I say it, as a joke.


    Mate, make them pay. This is wrong on so many levels.

    I really hope little lady is ok. Will the hospital be checking her out for any damage???

    1. Thanks Kate! I’ve heard from them since and there was an identical drinks order on the bar next to ours, but with a real cocktail. The waitress picked up the wrong one 🙁

      The hospital said there won’t be any effects other than the hangover so we don’t have any follow up appointments etc. I’m a bit pissed off she has “drunk” on her medical record though 🙁

    1. Anonymous you sir/madam are a troll who should keep quiet. Yes, you got a reaction out of someone. There you go. Validation.
      Now. Move along.
      Unless, of course, you were there. In which case, please, enlighten us.

    2. Who ever you are, you are obviously gutless, demonstrated by addressing yourself as Anonymous, in Andy’s post he called you a Troll, let’s face it your not even that, even Trolls have a point to make. Now it’s obvious you have done this for some form of self gratification, or to get a reaction, in a frail attempt to break the loneliness, i hope you managed to bring yourself off .. i can imagine you sat in front of your computer, which is still running Windows Vista, alone in your bedsitter, with a forty watt light, bulb. and hating the world because it doesn’t give you the attention, only you believes you deserve,, you know that Christmas is coming and it scares you, once again the phone won’t ring and the door won’t be knocked, and you resent the fact that, people will looking forward to gathering together and loving each other, and all you can do is look through the windows, and feel the separation, and this is all because you are socially inept. You are clueless when it comes to any kind of relationships, but Oh ANONYMOUS ONE it an be so much easier, throw away your incontinence pants and learn that “does anyone else know you here” is not the only chat up line… So Merry Christmas Anonymous, try not to commit suicide, nobody will miss you, you will just become an inconvenience

  9. This is awful, I can’t imagine what you all went through, just reading I had that sick dread feeling.
    The other issue here- and feel free to point this out to Frankie and Bennys- if they can make what could have been a catastrophic mistake with a kids drink despite having the different straws and glasses as marking what drink was what, what are they like when they serve a guest with food allergies?
    My Eddie has a range of allergies which, if he eats any from this list, could potentially kill him if he doesn’t receive medical attention as soon as it happens. The frightening thing here is we usually use “family friendly” restaurants like this chain as it tends to be easier to pick something Eddie can eat. We always tell our server and ask if he is OK to eat there. In that respect, we would have to trust that his food won’t be cooked next to stuff he’s allergic to.
    If this chain can’t even control something as simple as not mixing kids glasses with an adult drink, I would be very sceptical on their allergen safeguarding practices.
    I’m glad Evelyn is none the wiser, and I think you are right to peruse this fully. Next time they mess up, the situation could be even worse.

    1. This is a very good point and it’s part of the reason I’m so shocked at it. Evelyn suffered short term effects from this, but if the wrong drinks order can be delivered to our table then the wrong food order can be delivered to a table. Or the right stipulations on requirements might not be conveyed correctly – which could have massive consequences.

      I’m sorry you have to think about all this when going to a family meal! 🙁

  10. Mark this is horrific, i tip my hat to your calmness. i have never been a lover of F&B, and tend to avoid it like the plague, my question is this, (and it may be have already been answered somewhere else) But who mixes the drinks at the restaurant, is it the waiting staff, or do they have dedicated bar staff, if Bar staff make them then at first the girl could not have known it was a alcoholic drink, but this was only to a point, Because then at some point, someone must have told her what had happened, therefore she then knew who had done it. But if the waitress was the one who made it then she needs to be crucified. Mistake or not, the consequence could have been far worse than a hangover for your little one. if it is let go, what then? Where is the line drawn, do we have to accept that giving a peanut allergist, a chopped nut sundae is just a silly mistake.. Mate i would sue them, like you I also believe this compensation culture is terrible, but this is on another level, if you can hurt them enough it might be to make them sit up, listen and change things so that it can never happen again

    1. Thanks David, once again you articulate some really good points! Apparently someone ordered an identical drinks order to ours, but with a real cocktail. I can see how, given this fact, it was an easy mistake to make for the waitress. But what if this was two identical food orders, and as you say one had a very strict instruction to be nut-free. There has to be layered safeguards in place!

  11. Oh nooo! It’s such a terrible thing to happen. Sounds funny at first with 4yo drunk giggling and dancing, but the severity of what could have happened (antibiotics and all) is no joke. A free meal just doesn’t cut it. It’s not the waitress fault definitely. But why do I think that perhaps someone in the kitchen might think it could be funny a funny prank! I really hope that it’s a genuine mistake!

    Hope Evelyn is ok now. Of course, you and Kate too!

    1. Thanks Ann! Yeah it does sound funny, and we will probably laugh at this in time. But you’re right, it could have been much worse!

      Evelyn is fine now, she thinks she was poorly, bless her!

  12. This is absolutely awful, what you need is F&Bs to explain to you how this happened and how by way of changing procedure this could never happen again, but I fear that even if they do make changes they wont tell you about it because then they will be openly admitting there was a horrific flaw in the procedure

  13. This is absolutely awful, what you need is F&Bs to explain to you how this happened and how by way of changing procedure this could never happen again, but I fear that even if they do make changes they wont tell you about it because then they will be openly admitting there was a horrific flaw in the procedure

  14. This is horrendous. Im so sorry your daughter had to go through this. I can’t believe F&B haven’t acknowleded the seriousness of the incident. At the very least there should be a full investigation. You need answers. Glad shes feeling better now and I hope you get to the bottom of it xxx

    1. Thanks Emma! We have got somewhere – we know that it was the result of the wrong tray being delivered to us. Someone ordered the same drinks as us, but with the proper cocktail, so the wrong tray has been delivered to our table. There should have been safeguards against this!

  15. Genuinely when I saw your tweet I thought, that’s pretty shite but I’m sure you’ll all laugh about it. But now I’ve read it in detail and imagined it properly and pictured it being my child I can totally imagine the worry it must’ve caused. Poor little girly to have had to experience a hangover! I’m the same as you. I don’t know what I’d expect except to know this isn’t going to happen again and for the poor waitress to not be punished.

    I know I’ll be taste testing my kids drinks now before I give them to him when we are out. It’s just not something that’s on a parents radar really is it. We put our trust in these establishments.

  16. Ok I understand that the two drinks orders were the same but why were a cocktail and a ‘mocktail’ served in the same style glass? Surely they have different glasses for a reason so why wasn’t the correct glass used? That’s not a valid explanation in my eyes.
    I’m really glad to hear E is ok & it didn’t ruin your Christmas xx

  17. Not surprised with F&B really. We’ve been to a couple before where we’ve had the saltiest pizza in the world and having to wait 40 mins for it too. I am truly sorry you had to go through your ordeal however, it seems that there’s been a communication breakdown between the bar and the waitress. Yes, accidents happen but this could have been easily avoidable especially when the alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions come in a different glass.

  18. This is absolutely awful, I can’t imagine what you all went through, just reading I had that sick dread feeling.
    The other issue here- and feel free to point this out to Frankie and Bennys- if they can make what could have been a catastrophic mistake with kids drink despite having the different straws and glasses as marking what drink was what, what are they like when they serve a guest with food allergies?
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