'Welcome to Poopy Diapers!': When Theme Restaurants Go Wrong

Dec 7, 2006 (Updated Nov 13, 2007)

The Bottom Line Surely this is a sign of the Apocalypse?

I don’t know about you, but some “theme restaurants” have been getting a tad carried away with their concepts. I enjoy the basic idea: have a meal in a fantasy world with theme-appropriate music, architecture and décor served by waiters dressed in the fitting style: pirates, celebrities, Victorian ladies and gentlemen, and what have you. Whether I’m in one of the Hard Rock Cafés, or Medieval Times, Planet Hollywoods or Hooters, just the pleasure of dining in a space of “creativity” and “excitement” compensates for the frankly substandard cuisine.

But then there is the newly launched family chain, Poopy Diapers… Last weekend I took my nephew, Jack (aged 2) and niece, Loreen (4) to a Poopy Diapers that just opened in Times Square. There was quite a crowd of Moms and Dads and their little tots waiting on line to get in, and the place was abuzz in the festive atmosphere of a Grand Opening (actually, they opened a week earlier, but the mood remains). The theme, if it weren’t obvious, is soiled diapers, and everywhere you look, there are giant plastic statues of babies in different poses: crawling, sitting with a finger in the mouth, giggling, even crying. They’re all wearing diapers (and nothing else), and beneath them reads the logo: Time for a change!

As you walk in, the hostess (in this case, a pretty college girl named Samantha) hands you a box of wet wipes, and greets you with, “Welcome to Poopy Diapers! Did someone go potty?” I wasn’t sure what to say, but she led us to a table of prefab construction resembling a changing table. On the placemat, between an oversized spoon and a decorative pacifier, I read the Poopy Diapers mission statement:

Our goal is to pamper you! Whether you’re 2 or 92, have dropped a load, or just want to take a load off, we’re here to welcome you and make you feel at home in a space of non-judgment and fun. Food is life, at either end, so enjoy a big meal and let us pamper you in Poopy Diapers.

When the waitress came by, I couldn’t believe my eyes: outside her generic 50s diner outfit (why 50s diner, I wondered), she wore a large necklace of empty baby bottles, rattles and toys, and on her head, she wore a white diaper turned on its side so that it doubled as a nurse’s hat. Her nametag read Dawn. Dawn smiled and said, “Welcome to Poopy Diapers, can I interest you in some of our Poopy Specials?” I tried to keep as straight face as she ran through the list: “OK, for starters we’ve got some of our delicious Poopy Wings, and the Poopy Soup of the Day is alphabet wee-wee tomato. For main courses, we have a Poopy barbeque chicken which comes with a side of doody wice and weggies” (yes, she said ‘rice’ and ‘veggies’ in baby-talk), “or our Poopy pasta special, which comes with meatball kaka sauce and cheese. All our main courses come with a Poopy salad. Do you need some time?”

Honestly, I was about ready to take Jack and Loreen by the hand and high-tail it out of there. But I looked around and saw all these babies (the real ones, not the statues), seemingly enjoying themselves at their high chairs, as parents and caretakers did choo-choo trains with the food into their laughing mouths. Who was I to judge for my little charges, and they were looking hungry anyway. I took some more time with the menu: everything is very cutesy. If it isn’t Poopy-this or Poopy-that, it is Fudgie-Wudgie Ice Kweam, Kaka-Doody Macawoni, Eensy-Weensy Chicken Tenders, and so on.

Finally, we ordered. I had the BBQ chicken, and the kids had macaroni and plain spaghetti with butter (Jack’s special request), stuff anyone could make at home, better, and for about a tenth of the price. Not terribly inspiring. On the other hand, babies dine here for free (under age 3), and a staff of young Poopy Diaper Girls stand by a special changing station where they will change your baby into a clean diaper, which the restaurant provides free of charge. I think the success of Poopy Diapers will depend upon how far they can appeal to the busy Mom and Dad set, many of whom I saw conducting business in the restaurant’s Working Zone on cell phones and laptops. I asked one of the young women whether they ever change adult diapers. She seemed to have just memorized the chain’s mission when she responded: “Personally, not me, but we definitely do that as this is a space of non-judgment and fun.”

All in all, I think the owners did a pretty good job with the layout, and the staff was very friendly, if even a bit obsequious (how many times do I need to be asked how my chicken is doing, and whether I’m finished “working” on it?). Will Poopy Diapers become the smash hit of theme dining? In a world where O.J. can (almost) sell his confessional If I Did It, Here’s How It Happened, and Britney and Paris one-up each other in nightly trashy escapades, maybe the time is ripe for Poopy Diapers. Or perhaps we could all use a little change, and a wet wipe.

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