A decision by KFC and McDonald's to ban under 18s from eating in some branches in the UK has been slammed as a "reckless" one that targets "working class young people".
The fast food chains implemented the controversial policy after a brawl broke out between around 20 teenagers near Meir Park, Stoke-on-Trent, a few weeks ago. Eight people were arrested.
Teenagers will be allowed to enter the establishments to buy food to take away, but will not be allowed to eat in unless they are accompanied by an adult.
But Georgia Rigg, from the Manchester youth charity the RECLAIM Project, told The Huffington Post UK the decision left some young people with few places to go.
"These restaurants are accessible spaces for them, they're warm, cheap and have free WiFi. They're often a place our young people go after school to grab a snack, catch up with friends or do homework.
"The fact that all under 18s are being tarred with the same brush is a reckless decision. And to add further insult to injury, young people are still allowed to enter these venues to buy food, but then have to leave immediately to eat it. The audacity in that."
Rigg raised concerns over the lack of youth centres, cuts to libraries and reduction in funding for youth services, adding: "Where are we expecting young people to go?
"Is there any public space that is safe for them any more, without them being written off as 'nuisances'?"
Others vented their frustration on Twitter, with some even assuming the ban was for health reasons.
@sherrifflucy If teens are fighting ban them as individuals, don't punish an entire generation :/
— Catherine Arthur (@KyasarinAsa) March 2, 2016
Owen Winter, a 17-year-old who is an active member of the UK's Youth Parliament, described the decision as "discrimination".
"[The policy will] only exacerbate the problem of young people having nowhere to go," he said. "Young people are already forced to stay at home or hang around on the streets, banning [them] won't help.
"I also think it is discrimination, the vast majority of young people cause no problems at all. If the same rules were applied based on race, gender, sexuality or for older people, there would be public outrage.
"Fast food chains can already throw out anyone causing trouble, there's no reason for them to abandon a massive section of their customers, most of who are entirely innocent."
McDonald's denied having a policy to ban under 18s, but told HuffPost UK: "It is with regret that some restaurants have experienced anti-social behaviour on an ongoing basis, which has resulted in measures being implemented."
The restaurant described the policy as a "temporary measure which asks unaccompanied under 18s take their food out to eat", and said it had worked with local police forces to make the decision.
KFC said it was "the only solution left open to us".
"Only about 3% of our 890 restaurants have taken this step," a spokesperson told HuffPost UK. "This is not a blanket policy and has only been put in place when our restaurant managers feel they're left with no other option to protect our employees, many of who are teenagers and youths themselves, from threatening or violent behaviour.
"As a compromise in these difficult situations, customers who are affected are still welcome to purchase a take-away meal."
Simon Webley of the Institute of Business Ethics applauded the companies for taking the action against unacceptable behaviour.
"When you consider that being a good neighbour is one of McDonald’s ambitions, I think that on this occasion, they are acting consistently," he told HuffPost UK.
"It is a short term solution to a local problem which was made with the interests of their wider customer base in mind.
"In any case, where behaviours are deemed to be unacceptable, action needs to be taken. A common reason for unethical behaviour in business is that the consequences of an action are not always considered. Or, put another way, individuals may think that they can 'get away with it'."