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.
- 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.
- Bring lots of napkins.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Offering to wash off a bottle, sippy-cup or pacifier will score you big points.
- 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.)
- 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
bribeencourage kids to eat their veggies, than when a fancy restaurant dessert is coming.
- Please don’t offer dessert in front of the kids! Ask the parents first! Quietly. Discretely.
- 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?