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Waiters’ Guide to Getting Big Tips Serving Families with Kids and Babies

October 8th, 2007

Dear waiters and waitresses of the world, you must hear my plea. When we, the families with young kids who come into your establishments, looking for a little break, a bit of recreation, a glimpse at our former lives when we could go out after dark, when we go out to restaurants, you must know: there is a very thin line between having a wonderful night out, and having and excruciating embarrassing catastrophe. We know you are just trying to help, but often well-meaning but inexperienced waiters and waitresses make little errors that tip the delicate balance.

Honestly, though we can be a pain, it can be pretty easy to get a good tip from families. We come and go as quickly as possible, we feel bad because our kids make a mess, and you can totally play us by saying nice things about our kids. Or you can really screw things up by offering bad service that results in whining screaming tantrums. And the kids may get upset too.

So here is a little list that should be mandatory reading for all wait-staff. It will help you get big tips, maybe not just from the family with kids, but also from their dining neighbors.

  1. Make it FAST. Don’t try to be polite and offer a relaxed dining experience. Kids and especially babies are time-bombs waiting to go off. Feel free to take dinner orders right away with the drinks, keep it coming and by all means, get that bill out there fast. You’ll be able to fill your table again quickly and it will score you big points with the family and everyone else in the restaurant.
  2. Bring lots of napkins.
  3. When you are setting up the table, don’t sit all the babies or toddlers together at one end of the table. They must be mixed in with adults!
  4. Make sure babies have clean highchairs with functional seat belts. Or we will make you take them back and get us new ones and maybe even have to leave because there is no way our active curious kids are going to sit still and not try to climb out of the highchairs and we don’t want them falling on their heads or sucking some other kids dinner off of the arm rests.
  5. Don’t set glasses full of water or bowls of soup or hot things or anything else in front of babies or toddlers. They will pick them up and dump them out or throw them on the floor. Duh.
  6. Don’t bring the kids’ food early! So many waiters screw this one up. Sure, if it looks like the kids are starving you might want to check with the parents. But when the kids eat before the parents it means that, when the adults get their food, the kids will be done, whining, screaming and possibly running around the restaurant. Please, feed everyone at the same time.
  7. If there is an utter and complete melt-down, yes, we would like that to go! Bring doggy bags and the check and help us leave with a small shred of dignity.
  8. Tell the parents that the kids are good looking, smart and well-behaved. Unless they are acting like brats because then we’ll know your just sucking up.
  9. Offering to wash off a bottle, sippy-cup or pacifier will score you big points.
  10. Also, for bonus points, provide something for the kids to do. Even and especially if your restaurant does not normally offer crayons and a coloring book, you may want to have them handy. Some places even offer toys to play with. (Yea, parents should always bring these themselves, but sometimes we forget or assume something will be offered.)
  11. Ok, this isn’t the waiter’s fault, but I wish you would offer something green on the kids menu. Kids don’t only eat fries and fried, cheese covered crap. (Though those are favorites). What better time to bribe encourage kids to eat their veggies, than when a fancy restaurant dessert is coming.
  12. Please don’t offer dessert in front of the kids! Ask the parents first! Quietly. Discretely.
  13. You don’t have to seat us off in the back corner or in an empty room. Kids like to be where the action is and if there is a lot of noise and a lot to look at the kids will be happier.

Ok, that is what I have. Any parents or waiters have other pet peeves or helpful restaurant suggestions?

Entry Filed under: Fun, Kids, Life


  • 1. Lara Fordis  |  January 15th, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    I can see you posted this a long time ago, but as the mom of a 4-year-old, your suggestions are timeless! Thanks so much.

  • 2. Kristine Eric  |  June 11th, 2011 at 6:53 am

    Howdy! Someone in my Myspace group shared this site with us so I came to look it over. I’m definitely loving the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Great blog and amazing design and style.

  • 3. hardworking server  |  August 13th, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I think this is the most ridiculous “advice”; it is not the server’s job to cater to your kids. If your kids cant behave properly for an hour, then stay at home and eat. Your lost ‘party era’ is not our fault; it is also not our responsibility to entertain your kids. Trust us, we are equally annoyed that you and your monsters are here, not just the neighboring tables. If we wanted to be babysitters, we would not be in this industry. Lastly, a “thank you” is not a tip, it doesnt pay the bills

  • 4. Another Hard Working Server  |  August 20th, 2011 at 8:14 am

    Hey “Hardworking Server”,
    Kids are part of your job. Families are part of your job. Your job is to cater to them. That is what you get paid to do. When it comes to kids, if you had any of your own (because it certainly doesn’t sound like it), it’s a good idea to have crayons and coloring sheets readily available. Kids come out to eat, it’s a fact. And no, not all of us are annoyed by someones rowdy kids. That’s what kids are- rowdy. You’re a pretty shitty server. But yes, a “thank you” is certainly not a tip. I do have bills to pay, and we get taxed on all of our tips- so everyone, please tip your servers.

  • 5. also a server  |  August 30th, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    I work at a UPSCALE restaurant and we don’t have coloring books and last time I checked it most certainly wasn’t in my job description to provide such a thing. Parents should know before walking into a restaurant whether they have available resources to keep THEIR children entertained. The only responsibility on the server pertaining to children is not sitting hot, sharp, liquids, etc in front of them. Additionally parents know from past experiences how their kids will most likely act so they shouldn’t come to a public setting and ruin other peoples nights. They chose to have the kids therefore they must deal with the consequences. Don’t put the responsibility of your children on other people. With that I do want to say I have waited on families with very well behaved children. Punishment is the key people. Spanking is not bad.

  • 6. alex  |  September 1st, 2011 at 9:12 am

    hey! I also am a waiter and i have kids and sometimes i am tired of cooking and cleaning everything my self while having to change the little rascals but if you give a mother and father bad service they will tip you bad. if you sack at your job and cant pay the bills then there are two options. get a more mature job or do your job well and take this advice. stop trying to tell a potential customer how to make your job their job.

  • 7. alex  |  September 1st, 2011 at 9:13 am

    hey! I also am a waiter and i have kids and sometimes i am tired of cooking and cleaning everything my self while having to change the little rascals but if you give a mother and father bad service they will tip you bad. if you suck at your job and cant pay the bills then there are two options. get a more mature job or do your job well and take this advice. stop trying to tell a potential customer how to make your job their job.

  • 8. Ken, a 1-year exp. server  |  September 1st, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    Oh hi,
    A friend of mine linked this on her FB page, which in turn came up in my feed. I liked what I read, both post and comments. I’ve been in the customer service industry since I was 15 (22 now). Here’s my input:

    -Firstly, to the persons with the names “hardworking server” “also a server”, I really hope that you change your perspectives in the customer service industry. Saying “It’s not your job to cater to kids” is where you lose automatically. You do cater to kids, whether you like it or not. Admittedly, I don’t like to cater to intolerable kids, but I have no power or right to tell them to get out and eat in your house. That’s not how the industry works. Imagine working in McDonald’s yo (which I did for 2 years [Crew Trainer]), and kids were a PRIORITY. I don’t have to go into detail about that but it should be common sense: you make the kids happy, the parents will thank you, tip wise, in return.

    People miss out on integrity too much these days.. There is not a lot of it in the world anymore and I guess I am a one of the few who get irritated by that. Call me weird. I don’t care. It really does pay off in the end.

    There are times, however, after these guidelines presented here aren’t effective enough for temper tantrum toddlers. I’m pretty sure parents know to step into that. I have seen parents ignore that though, and that’s where the line, in my opinion is crossed. After I know for a fact I have done my job, asked the parents if they needed anything, etc etc. And the kids are just being annoying, I think the right thing to do is to close out and head on out. Parents, please do that in respect of other guest.

    My only suggestion to parents are to just be informed. Call the restaurant if it really is kid-friendly. Look it up on Yelp; there is a part in the details where it lets you know. We’ll do our best to be courteous to you and the kids, but you must at least be courteous back. Forgetting is one thing, but assuming causes ignorance. Knowledge is power. ;]

    All in all, everyone has to do their part. Servers, key to success is having integrity, going above and beyond, and catering to your guest, young and old alike so you can make the monies. Parents, get informed, teach each your able ones table manners and etiquette. For the little babes, have your necessities. Forgetting these is bad parenting hahaha!

    The only thing I (and other servers, of course) can never tolerate though are bad tippers AFTER great service. But that is another post to be made another time.

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