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Let’s eat out today! Sounds so appealing (you naively think to yourself). You won’t have to worry about the dishes, the mess or the cooking. But wait, you’ve got one or more small children and the last time you attempted the courageous feat of taking them out to a sit-down restaurant things went south very quickly. Maybe you ended up digging up some classic empty threats to “start behaving or we’ll go home right this minute”. Did you wave the white flag and whip out the trusty iPad so you can finally get to consume your now cold and stale food? I totally feel your pain.

While funny, I felt that video stressed me out even more about dining out with younger kids. But hold the phone! Don’t call your baby sitter just yet. Here are 7 practical tips to make your next dining experience actually feel like a treat and not a chore.

1- Set the expectation

I’m no parenting expert, but it goes without saying that kids’ behavior drastically improves when you prepare them by setting proper expectations for what is about to happen and how you expect them to behave. This doesn’t have to be an hour long lecture. Something as simple as a reminder about using their indoor voice and using proper manners goes a long way. It also doesn’t hurt to set some specific rewards hint hint, dessert for good behavior.

2- Choose an appropriate venue

While you don’t want to just end up going to McDonald’s every time, you also need to be practical about your choice of restaurant. If you’re going out there with a couple of toddlers, it’s safe to say that fine dining is not exactly appropriate. Be respectful to the staff and the other diners who came to enjoy a quiet night out and stick to larger sit down chains or mid-scale independent restaurants.

3- Order the kids meal early

A big part of the problem for most parents comes from kids getting impatient while waiting for their food. You can easily eliminate more than 60% of all incidents if you cut down the waiting time in half. You already know if your kid prefers the burger or the chicken fingers (chicken fingers by a landslide) and you know if there’s even a remote chance they will eat their vegetables. There’s also not a whole lot of variety when it comes to kids’ menus. Ordering their meal early also gives you the chance to help them with their food before yours arrives. Can you call ahead and have them start the kids’ food so it will be there when you arrive? If not, I would order their meal as soon as you are seated or at the latest, do it when your waiter comes to get drink orders.

4- Have an engaging conversation

As we mentioned in a previous post on food photography etiquette, dining out is a rare chance for your family to actually spend time with one another.  So engage your kids in a fun conversation or even play a little game while waiting for their food.  You’ll be surprised how much better your kids will behave when they feel included in the conversation and not feel left out while the adults have their own conversation or stare at their phones.

5- Props, books and other distractions

If all else fails, and their food is taking longer than their attention span will allow for, come prepared with books, crayons and yes, even a phone or tablet.  It’s much easier to manage the situation before a full meltdown happens.

6- Tip Generously

No matter how good you get at the above steps, show appreciation to the wait staff who undoubtedly had to go out of their way to accommodate your family.  They will likely also have to clean up the mess you leave behind.  So just do it, leave a generous tip of 15% or more when you dine out with kids.

7- Own it

Although you may feel like everyone from the wait staff to the other guests can’t wait until you leave,  if you’ve done everything you can to be respectful to others, you shouldn’t be ashamed to be going out and having a great time with your family.  You are creating lifelong memories for your family and if people are too uptight to appreciate that, its on them and not you.

About HelpMeOrder

HelpMeOrder is a dish ratings app that helps you order a great meal every time in one minute or less based on the votes of other foodies who’ve been there before you.  Download it free for iPhone and Android today.



Peter Francis

Peter Francis

Co-founder at HelpMeOrder
Peter is an entrepreneur, engineer, husband, father, blogger, and wannabe food critic.
Peter Francis

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