A recent article in the Chicago Red Eye gave the results to a poll whether children should be allowed to eat at high end places. The results were that the guys disapproved because a little cutie threw orange juice on him; The ladies approved because the cuties are sometimes sweeter than some patrons at these places.
I think children and their parents have the right to eat out and enjoy at a restaurant no matter what kind it is. Although it can be stressful, there is definitely a way families can deal with their little ones without getting the evil eye just because -gasp- they have kids. There has been a debate all over about how to address children in restaurants, from a local Chicago restaurant advising parents and children to keep their voices down to a very sad and disappointed Mom who once came into the restaurant I work at saying she had been rejected and mistreated at a restaurant for having too many kids, (The lady and her friend, together, had a total of six kids). I do not think abusing and rejecting families is a good thing. Restaurants are usually held in neighborhoods and establishment based on their willingness to accommodate and be friendly to families. It is families who keep restaurants in business and we owe them respect because well, we have families too, we have children and I for one would never visit or recommend an establishment that is rude to families, children and minorities.
So in my line of work, children are an everyday occurrence and one that I must say, fills me personally with great joy, unlike a lot of servers who consider children a necessary evil.
That said, children are a fountain of both great happiness and absolute headaches, the little ones are so freaking beautiful but so loud and crazy and well... KIDS!!
When parents go to restaurants, they pray to all the heavens that everything will turn out well when they go dining out without upsetting the entire restaurant and wearing their dinner as a reward.
Here are some simple steps to help you enjoy your kids and your dinner, Good Luck!
- When you go out with kids, even in high end restaurants, always make sure to have a little pep talk with your little ones; remind them to try to behave their best and always bring some coloring books, crayons or toys, although many restaurants include both kids' meals and crayons as part of their service, a lot of them do not; so keep this in mind when you go out.
- I have seen many parents bring their own disposable plastic place settings for their little ones, this is a great idea, not necessary but always helpful. A lot of babies eat with their hands and even though most restaurants keep their tables as clean as possible, it is good that they eat from these plastic place settings because you can use them once and discard. A customer just bought in a disposable, eco-friendly place mat for their little ones, she said she got them at Whole Foods and they were inexpensive and quite useful, because the babies not only eat on them, you can wipe their little faces off with them and use them one more time before disposing. I will find out about this brand as soon as possible.
- When you visit a restaurant, always sit in a booth or a table close to the wall, not because you can't sit anywhere else; but because booths and walls are good places to snug your baby carrier between a wall and a chair or booth in order to have your baby safely and in reach. NEVER put your baby out in the flow of restaurant traffic and NEVER let your toddler or children crawl, run, or jump outside of their tables because this can cause horrible accidents, there is very hot food and even heavier plates and many times servers cannot look down because they are either holding various plates on each hand and cannot see below, or they are carrying trays above their shoulders and can't see a little one in their path. AS A PARENT, YOUR RESPONSIBILITY IS TO CARE FOR YOUR CHILD; A RESTAURANT IS A DANGEROUS PLACE AND YOU HAVE TO KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR CHILDREN AT ALL TIMES. Many restaurants are accomodating but; we are NOT baby sitters and it is not our responsibility to look after your child. Be careful and alert at all times, specially with toddlers and pre-schoolers, they want to play but, unless the restaurant is geared toward children, always be careful with young kids, ALWAYS.
- Children allergies are at an all time high. Many little ones are carrying plastic bracelets that say whether they are diabetic or are allergic to say; peanuts. But you must tell your server immediately if your child has an allergy, specially gluten, eggs, peanuts, lactose intolerance, and soy. Many restaurants will help you out and try to make a special dish for your child in case they may need it. Try to research the place online before you visit or ask other parents about the restaurants they visit and how the staff handles their children s' needs. We have a young boy who is mortally allergic to egg products, so our cook makes his bacon and hash-browns in a different pan in order to avoid contamination. I have two little customers; one is allergic to peanuts and he wears a bracelet, the other one is allergic to gluten and his Mom always tells us before hand and we try to work around the menu in order to accommodate to their needs. A good restaurant will accommodate to your needs and if they can't they will let you know in a kind and courteous manners. If a restaurant is insensitive and does not help you out, never visit that place again, they only care about the bottom line, not about the customers.
- Always ask the server to make your kids' food FIRST, this is going to save you a lot of headaches; trust me. When I see families come into my station, I immediately take their children order first and ring it in because, while their food is being done the parents browse the menu and take their coffee or what not; then I take the parents order, then deliver the kids' food. This way the kiddies eat and stay in their seats while their parents enjoy some peace for five minutes. By the time their food comes out the kids are usually still at their plates and this way the parents can eat comfortably and the kiddies will not be grumpy because their tummies are full and happy. Trust me, it works.
- Many kids menus come with free drinks and usually parents don't ask for them. This will save you money so always ask if their food includes their drink. Also many parents, in order to accustom their children to different tastes and foods, order an adult meal and share it with their little ones. This is not only good for your wallet, it is good for your kid because the portions are so big, you can share and not be hungry later, many dishes come with a side and soup as well. Many parents order an omelet, which is so huge it looks like a football, and share it with their pumpkins, or they order burgers and cut them in half, sharing the side and letting the little ones eat the complimentary soup, or order pasta and share that as well, you get the drift, save money, eat well, share with kid a precious moment of lunch. Priceless.
- When going to the bathroom, be sure that the baby diaper station is holding well, sometimes restaurants forget to upkeep these and although they are usually safe, always open them and make sure they are screwed tight and that they are clean. If they don't have one; like the restaurant I work at, always ask if you can change your baby in an unused area or closed station. Same goes for breastfeeding although I personally think it is okay to change your baby and breast feed at your table. But that is just me, some restaurants; or rather, some people are not very tolerant of either so ask your restaurant staff first.
- Never let your baby wander to the neighbor's table or throw food or drinks at the table or to the neighbor. This is not only rude, it is unsafe as somebody may slip and hurt themselves. Crumbs and food UNDER the table are perfectly normal and they are part of having children. Even though it is sweet when our customers apologize for the messes, it is our job to clean up so don't feel too bad, and yes, we are grateful to parents who clean after themselves.
- Try to teach your children to ask themselves for their food and to have good manners. I have come face to face with terribly rude, insolent children but they are actually few and far between. Ask them to order their own food and drink, to say please and thank you and cheer them up and encourage them when they do so, it is great for their self-worth, and it makes them all smiles from this accomplishment. And yes we are also grateful for sweet kids who say "Yes miss, thank you!" AWWWw!!
- Try to order foods that are finger friendly and also healthy. Always ask if you can substitute, say fruit instead of fries, wheat instead of white toast, fresh eggs instead of egg beaters, lean meats and deli, fresh veggies in their pizza, wheat pasta, organic sides if available, but of course, always with the intention of not letting your kid know you are feeding them something good for them!
Well these are a few tips I hope you can use, save them, share them and add more tips if you have any, I will be very grateful for more feedback.