I was reading Get Along Home’s post “Would You People Stop Ruining My Dinner” when I got the idea to write this post on how to eat out with kids. My son Judah hasn’t learned a great deal of dinner etiquette in his 2 1/2 years and sometimes feels the need to wander from the booth we may be sitting at and explore. My husband tends to just get up with him and walk around a bit before bringing him back, but since dinner takes awhile to come out in most restaurants, by the time the food was there Judah was ready to be on his way home. Until recently we hadn’t gotten through a single dinner out with him and it seriously hindered my desire for good food. So on Father’s Day last year when I really wanted to take my husband to a nice French Bistro, I decided to take great measures to ensure a nice meal.
- First – I narrowed down a list of restaurants that I wanted to go to. I weeded out my choices by looking at the set up of each restaurant via their websites and/or pictures online. I read customer reviews on family friendliness and when it came down to it, I emailed the management. I also let them know how my son is (ie: walks around and likes to clap at things) so they were prepared for my little tot.
- Second – Go during NON BUSY HOURS. I know you are thinking, “Well I can go anytime I want to!” Well that is just fine if your child will be a little angel. I know how completely stressed and awful of a time I have at a busy restaurant with my son. Why not go when it’s quiet? When the other customers are pretty much gone for the day? This way I also get special service because it’s pretty much just my family. I set our meal up 1 hour before lunch shift closed.
- Third – After choosing the restaurant and requiring a booth (this way my child could sit between my husband and I, ensuring he wouldn’t throw food at other guests, etc.) I asked if I could order our meal ahead of time. I wrote down (you could print) the menu and called 20 min ahead, while we were on the road, and ordered our food to be there when we arrived.
- Fourth – I tipped well. When you are asking a restaurant to go out of their way, the nice thing to do to show appreciation. Don’t be rude. Even if you don’t especially ask them to make your meal early, they’re still cleaning up your child’s mashed up food on the floor, split milk and general mess that wouldn’t be there if it were just adults. You could argue that “It’s their job”, which it is, but it’s also our job to be considerate of people.
The restaurant we went to is called Franco, in downtown St. Louis. This was my first time looking specially for a nice family friendly restaurant. To say they are amazing is to downplay them. They were beyond outstanding, from the very first email. The owner had told me in our original correspondence that his nephews often came to the restaurant and they were like Judah, having wanderlust, and let us know there was an aisle outside the first doors that they liked to walk along if Judah wanted somewhere to run. They had our wonderful meal set out early and as it was during non-busy hours between lunch and dinner, we had the whole place to ourselves! Judah was as happy as he could be, so was Daddy for his Father’s Day out and Mommy too with her delicious Mussels.
So I do agree with Cindy’s post about making sure to watch your children and to be decent parents. We don’t want to loose having family friendly restaurants or be segregated to the back of the store just to eat out. But when you have a little cutie like we do that just doesn’t quite understand just yet, but isn’t the fit throwing screaming tot as some kids are; take it upon yourself to make sure everyone is going to have a nice time. You, the restaurant workers that will be serving your family and ultimately your child. When you leave a restaurant no one should be saying, “Thank god they’re gone!”, but “I hope you come back!” or “See you next time!” Being considerate goes a long way and if you live near St. Louis and you want a nice place to take your family, you cannot beat Francos. They even specially made Judah a plate with a hamburger that isn’t even on the menu.
Note: This How To is not intended for places like Applebees, Chili’s, etc. It is driven more towards local restaurants and non-chains. Chains are trained in dealing with our little angels. 🙂