You’ve probably seen your share of restaurant disasters where babies, toddlers and older children are too noisy, too messy and unsupervised. You may even have wondered why those people were allowed to remain on the premises to ruin other people’s nice, quiet meals. Now, fast-forward to the next time you have the grandchildren in tow and want to have a meal out with them. Certainly a well-meaning person like you won’t fall prey to the Annoying Others syndrome. Here are some common-sense tips to make sure you can enjoy your eating experience and that others around you can enjoy a peaceful meal as well.
Choose a family-friendly venue. It takes a little practice for children to learn the skills necessary for behaving well in a restaurant. Speaking quietly, ordering appropriately, waiting for the arrival of the food and then eating with very few slurps and spills doesn’t happen in one outing. Don’t go to Chez Snooty with your grandchildren and once you arrive at your casual dining place, ask for seating that allows for as much privacy as possible.
Choose a restaurant that is just a short drive from wherever you are staying. Go early enough that children aren’t tired out before they enter the restaurant. And find a place that can get you in and out of in no more than an hour. Dining for children is all about choosing, eating and then getting on to the next activity. If you want leisurely dining, this isn’t the time for it.
Pack a little emergency bag to take along. It should have a few light snacks such as crackers or cereal to stave off hunger while waiting, a few tiny toys to play with and perhaps wipes for spills, quick face clean-ups and the like.
Allow the children to have some say in their order. If you order something they hate to eat, the experience will go south in a hurry. You might even rehearse ordering something yummy on the way to the restaurant. Don’t allow children to be served before the adult food comes as they will be finished and ready to hit the road before you have even begun to eat.
Maintain control of the children throughout the meal. Reminders of soft “indoor” voices may be necessary, a short walk out into the lobby, or outside may be helpful, and please don’t allow children to roam freely around a restaurant. Accompany children to restrooms for both safety and for control.
Remember that spills happen when children eat. They are inevitable, but leaving the mess for the servers is not only impolite, it leaves a poor example for your grandchildren. As much as possible, clean up after yourselves and remember to tip your servers generously when they are helpful to you during the meal.
Finally, keep a sense of humor about the whole event. Eating out with children is a different experience than eating with adults. You may not be able to have deep conversation or enjoy the food in the leisurely way you would like. Count it a privilege to be spending time with your precious grandchildren and make that date with your spouse to have a relaxed and luxurious dinner for two at Chez Snooty very soon.