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What Your Server Wants You to Know About Dining Out with Kids

dining with kidsI was a server and bartender throughout my college life and saw my fair share of things. Break ups, engagements, people fighting over the check, and everything in between.  I truly loved the restaurant work, although it was stressful. I got to meet so many people from all walks of life and co-workers were no different. Some were trying to make a career out of being in the restaurant business, while others were just making a living while working towards something else. Either way, I served some really awesome people, and some very difficult people, but serving children could quickly turn a great night into one of the worst.

From a server’s perspective, I am going to give you the tips and tricks to making your server and others around you happy while you’re dining out with your little one.

Clean up after your kid.  

Yes, I know you are at a restaurant, and sometimes the point of going to a restaurant is so you don’t have to clean up after your kid. Yet, as a server, it is preferable that we serve food and not be a maid to your child. Before my life with kids, I knew once I saw kids at my table it meant three times the amount of work to any adult, and, many times, no extra tip – Remember, tips are based on the total bill, not on the amount of work they do for you.

Most of that extra work includes picking up loads of food the kids dropped on the floor and the pile of mess that splashed off their plates as they attempted to get it in their mouth. It also meant getting things to entertain them, accommodating special seating, bringing special cups they can drink out of, etc. So, help your server out and make the dining experience even better for the people after you. Do a quick table wipe and get the majority of the food off the floor.

Take your child out of the building if they are crying or making a ruckus. 

Seriously! If you remember only one of these, this is it.  Often, when babies or children are crying, another guest will complain to their server about how disturbing it is. I have even been asked a number of times if I could tell the parents to take their child out of the restaurant until they stop crying. It is a very awkward situation and not in the job description to babysit.

As a guest, I was once dining with my family for my grandma’s birthday. My then eight-month-old started crying, and I couldn’t get him to settle down. I immediately took him outside until he was calm. When I returned, the couple sitting next to us thanked me for taking him out. I assumed this wasn’t customary practice. The lesson here is just be respectful to those around you. No one wants to dine with a crying or loud child.

Do not let your child run around.  

You most likely wouldn’t let them do it in a stranger’s house, so why would you in a restaurant?  In some of the restaurants I worked in I was balancing ten or more plates of hot food. Ten plates or not, hot food and drinks are coming out and that makes it potentially dangerous for kids that are running around.  

Now there are some restaurants that have a vibe which allows kids to move around freely, and if you know your kid won’t be able to sit still, dine at these.

Plan ahead. 

Besides bringing something to entertain them, I have seen parents give their kids a little snack while they are waiting for the food to come. I have tried this with my son and it works like a charm!  Although not all restaurants will agree to this, I say, if it keeps your child quiet for a little bit while the food comes then, what’s the harm?  I also try to bring quiet toys that my son loves while we dine, and I have even thought about keeping them strictly for when we dine out. For instance, there is this one book that he will look at for a good twenty minutes before getting bored. Most places will have something to entertain your child like Wiki sticks or something to color, but in my opinion, they rarely keep the child busy long enough. Bring something along to entertain your child, or be prepared to engage with them.

 

Include your baby in the total number of people on the reservation and specify whether you’ll need a high chair or booster seat. 

Even if you have a baby who will be in a car seat, you still need a place to put them, which means your baby counts as a person. It helps to tell the host how many adults and kids you have in your party, too.  For example, “2 adults and 1 baby. We will need a highchair.”  This is important so that they can make notes to get a high chair or booster chair set up beforehand. That way you are not standing by the table with a baby in your arms doing musical chairs with guests and serving staff.  

Age appropriate dining time.  

Know your child’s limits and try to honor that – not just for your child, but also for others dining around you. You can make your dining experience more enjoyable by looking at the menu beforehand.  This way when you get there, you can tell your server you are ready when they come to take the drink order.  Also, asking for the check when ordering dessert can save some time and allows you to leave quickly once you are done eating, without having to wait for the check.

I hope this helps in navigating the road of dining with your little one. Remember the most important dining tip is to show respect to others dining around you or after you.  Do you have any tips or tricks when dining with your children?  Tell us below!

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