Once you have kids, eating out at restaurants really loses its luster. It’s not longer a romantic or fun or booze-y event to pick a hot new restaurant, head there with friends or your significant other and linger for a long meal with apps, entrees, dessert and oh-so-much-wine.
With kids, it becomes something entirely different altogether. Usually it means picking a place because of the price or the kid’s menu or the kid friendliness–not necessarily for the quality of food. Then you have to prep everyone (make sure the sippy cups and iPads get packed!), load them in the car and PRAY that everyone’s in a good mood tonight (including your partner). You show up to the hostess stand already apologetic and making compromises about your meal (sure! we’ll sit by kitchen–whatever you’ve got!). Once you get to the table, it’s time to order as quickly as possible, make nice with the waitress so she doesn’t hate you, and make sure the kids get fed FAST. Even if you have entertainment like crayons and iPads, one kid (especially the little ones) wants to start roaming around the restaurant–which means an adult does, too. Once one kid is done taking a lap, the other is just ready to get started–it’s not wonder parents of small children barely get a bite in! After getting glares from other childless patrons, you pay the bill and get out of their FAST. So–did everyone have fun??
If you’re like me and want to get some of your sanity and the good-ole-days back, you absolutely HAVE to follow this one rule for dining out with children: go early. Like, extremely early bird special, early.
Why? Well, first of all–your kids are probably used to eating early and if you don’t want them to start getting hangry, you better drive to the restaurant and plan to be seated and served by the time they normally eat (5 or 5:30 for a lot of kids!).
Secondly, the restaurant staff prefers it, too. While a good hostess or server would NEVER say this to your face, kids really are a disruption for other diners, which causes the wait staff to resent you. (Trust me–you don’t want to piss off the people touching your food).
“When the kids are truly unruly and the parents are tuning them out, it disrupts the entire restaurant,” a server at an upscale Westchester restaurant told us. Going early means that you avoid most other diners–which is better for everyone. And that’s not to say that people without kids are allowed to shame you about your decision to have them–but it is the difference between you feeling totally comfortable versus a little insecure during your meal. Plus, if you go early, you’ll have all the attention of your server–which, let’s face it, parents and kids need.
Obviously, this won’t work every time–for the days when you can’t get out of work early or the kids have late practice, you’ll have no choice but to head to the restaurant at prime dinner time. If that’s the case, be polite to the staff and attentive of your children–and don’t make any special food requests or changes to the menu. This really gets their goat. “When people bring their young kids and expect us to make changes to the menu to accommodate their kids that’s really annoying,” our source explains.
So, there you have it–some tips for bringing young kids to restaurant, according to actual servers.