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Happy Meals

Children can be unruly at mealtimes and can make eating out less than relaxing for everyone in the dining room. So prepare them by trying these helpful techniques for a stress-free outing.

Maria Weller
January 1, 2017

Everyone has had mixed experiences 
when dining out with children, whether 
it’s with their own or someone else’s. We have all undoubtedly been astonished by both stellar, as well as less than exemplary, behavior from these tiny humans. A dining experience can quickly go from good to bad with just one or two isolated incidents.

So, to help keep your sweet angels from coming off like little monsters when dining out, here is some advice from parents and servers alike on how to happily dine out in public with your littlest family members.

Proper Preparation
Tired and or hungry children can make for the most volatile situations. If you know that you are going to be eating out later 
in the evening, it is a good idea to make sure they’ve napped in preparation for a later evening. Feeding them even a little something beforehand is also a smart move in case the food happens to take a while 
or if they don’t care for their food when it does make it to the table. On the same note, back-up snacks aren’t a bad idea either.

Make a Reservation
Most children are not known for their patience. When planning to dine out, call and make reservations whenever possible. This way, the wee ones are not waiting for a table, then waiting for a server and then waiting for their food.

No Unaccompanied Walkabouts
Restaurant staff members move at a fast pace and are constantly multitasking. This means there are always heavy trays with multiple
 drinks and hot 
food quickly
 making their
 way through 
the restaurant.
 Though they 
are encouraged 
to always have 
their heads “on a
swivel,” their line of
 sight is not trained to aim 
down. Small, unaccompanied 
and typically quick-moving children are therefore immediately in a danger zone. If your little ones wish to explore, take their hand and show them around while also emphasizing the importance of saying, “excuse me,” and giving a little lesson about the right of way.

Crying Children
Children cry; everyone knows this.
 However, it is important to remember
 that the other restaurant guests 
around you will only have so much 
patience for this audible intrusion on
 their dining experience. It also hinders the server’s ability to communicate with your party, potentially taking away from your own experience. If your child does begin to cry or act out, gently relocate them to a more private area while they calm down.

Entertainment and Attention
Children innately crave attention, and from a young age they are constantly trying to find ways to get it. If you are not able to engage your children in conversation or to give them the level of attention that they crave, come prepared with a bag of “distractions” including books and quiet toys. As a parent, you know about how long your children can stay occupied by one thing, so it is wise to plan accordingly.

It is much appreciated by servers when much smaller humans treat them respectfully, which will in turn help your overall experience.

Manners matter. A well-behaved child 
at home is more likely to have that same behavior transfer over into a public setting. Yes, there are always other variables that can come into play. But practice makes semi-permanent, and if a child is 
given guidelines for appropriate
 manners and behavior at home, it won’t be as much of
 a struggle when in public. It
 seems that in recent years, 
teaching manners such as “please, thank you, yes ma’am, no sir,” has declined. It is much appreciated by servers when much smaller humans treat them respectfully, which will in turn help your overall experience.

Preparing Children to Order for Themselves
From a server’s position, one of the
 more frustrating occurrences can be the seemingly simple act of taking a table's order. When a table says that they are ready to order then proceeds to debate various choices out loud, it can be frustrating. When it comes to children ordering for themselves, it can be even more stressful for everyone involved. If your little one wishes to tell the server their own order, have them practice what they will say
 to you first. Trying to decide on the spot
 if your child wants a burger or chicken fingers can be taxing. If there are dietary restrictions or preferences, make sure that you or your child makes these known from the beginning. It is also likely that, should your child need their food quickly, your server can happily accommodate.

Maintaining Messes
Few things can bring down a server’s spirits more than having to pick up copious amounts of crushed crackers or sugar packets that have been thrown all over their section in the middle of the dinner rush. Yes, there is always going to be some level of mess from every table. But helping to contain this out of respect for the
 staff is so much more helpful than most people understand.

April 2020 Cover