If you are like me, you probably read the title of this article and thought ‘nightmare waiting to happen’. I have seen both sides of this coin. I have 4 kids and I wait tables. I have seen children that are perfect angels and some that they and their parents should be put in time out. Here are some easy ways to make your dinner out run a little smoother and hopefully save you a little money.
Kids get antsy. A five minute wait for us is an eternity for them. When we go to eat I always have my kids pick three small toys to take with them to keep them entertained while waiting for our table and our food. You can always ask the host if you can have some crackers or get a drink for the smaller babies. Also, get a kids menu to look at while you wait. This will let you get every child’s order before you get to the table. If the restaurant you are going to offers call ahead seating take advantage of it. This cuts your wait time at least in half. If you have a large family like I do call the restaurant you are headed to and let them know. Sometimes even if they do not take reservations they will appreciate that you are giving them a heads up on big table.
Once you are seated ask for an extra kids menu if you did not already get one. This will prevent the kids from getting mad that they have to hand one of theirs over to you. Just because there is a kids menu does not mean you have to order from it. Half of the time my kids say they want a certain thing from the kids menu then they don’t eat it. With my kids we have a rule that if they order from the kids menu and don’t eat it then they have to take it home and that becomes their night time snack. If they have not decided by the time it is their turn to order then I order for them. If there are combo plates on the adult menu it might come out a better deal for your pocket. For example, the restaurant I work at has a combo plate with three meats and two sides for $13.99, the kids meals are $4.99 each. The portions are bigger for those kids that eat more than what a kids meal provides. All four of my kids can eat from this and it saves me more than $6. A good server will tell you honestly which route to take; kids meals or splitting an adult meal.
Once you finally get to sit down and order, your kids will wait until you get about two bites in before they have reached their limit. When you are placing your order, if possible go ahead and ask your server to bring a couple of to-go containers and the check. This way you can make a quick exit if you feel a melt down about to occur. You can also ask your server for things that are finger foods that entertain your little ones while you are waiting like crackers, croutons, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc. Also, place their food order immediately so it will come out first ( just so you know, chicken fingers take the longest of all kids foods).
Kids drinks are a pet peeve of mine. Some restaurants do not charge for them period, some are free with a kids meal, and some are full price. If you know ahead of time that the restaurant charges full price I suggest getting water and bring single serve drink mixes from home. That saves me $8 off my bill. Dessert is a similar situation. Some restaurants offer a free desert with the kids meal, but otherwise it is full price for kids too. Unless it is a special occasion we do not get dessert at the restaurant instead I go to the grocery store and they get to pick one type of ice cream and one kind of topping. It lasts a lot longer and they get to make all the ‘decisions’.
Dining out with kids especially younger children can be an experience. It is better to be proactive rather than reactive. Going out to dinner is my break from cooking for a big family everyday so I want it to be as pleasant as possible. I have been waiting tables for over 14 years and think I have seen it all or close to it. As a server I can tell you how to make your dining experience better with children and as a parent I can appreciate a server who knows how to wait on a family.