I have always loved to eat out. At the ripe old age of six, my favorite restaurant was Long John Silver’s (for the hush puppies.) When I got to middle school, my brother, sister and I would read stacks of books to earn our “Book It” pin and a free personal pan pizza at Pizza Hut. In high school, my brother and I would hang out at Taco Bell, literally paying for our meals with quarters, as we were cheap, and their food was cheaper!
When Jay and I began dating, we ate out all the time. I was a poor college student, he was an attorney who rarely cooked (we are 5 years apart), and since we lived an hour apart, eating out became a natural way for us to see each other. We ate all kinds of wonderful food, and some basic comfort foods. We ate at swanky places requiring a coat and tie, and we ate at Mom and Pop dives. It was a fun (but fattening) time.
Now that I am a mom, I have noticed something about restraunts. A lot of restaurants, even ones that cater to families, are really not happy to see you tromping into their place, children in tow. Before going to college, I waitressed. It was HARD work. And while some families with small children would stiff me on the tip, others were quite kind and generous. And I tried my best not to get annoyed at all of the food on the floor, as I was going to sweep the floor anyways.
This morning, the kids and I drove Jay into work and dropped him off at his building downtown. The traffic has been crummy due to construction, so we hopped in the carpool lane and made good time. The only way we were able to get out of the house so early, was to skip breakfast. So I decided to take the kids to Eat ‘N Park (similar to Bob Evans, and is a 24/7 diner) for breakfast!
The hostess was sweet, seating us and showing me where I could store my stroller. I got the kids in the highchairs, coats off, bibs on, sippy cups out and place mats pushed out of the way. I sit down, cut up the strawberries I had brought, and let the kids start munching away. I decide to go with the breakfast buffet, knowing that my kids are NOT great at waiting for food. I knew that one child could eat with me for free, and that I could pay extra for the other. But this way, the food is immediately available, and at the rate Faith was inhaling her strawberries, I had better find food STAT.
I place my order and ask for a cup of decaf coffee. I grab some food off of the bar, and start feeding the kids. It was then that I started to notice that our waitress kinda disappeared. I really needed more napkins, and a glass of water, but no biggie. I begin inhaling the scraps of food that the children left me, as they are voracious eaters in restaurants. I can feel lots of eyeballs watching us, trying to figure it out…finally, an older lady wanders over and says “I just have to ask…they’re not twins are they?!”
I reply that yes, they are, and she walks away with a big smile on her face. I listen to the senior set talk politics, and an obnoxious crew of 4 whine about their construction jobs. And I see their waitress visiting them over and over to refill coffee cups, wipe up spills and shuffle away the dirty dishes. When my waitress makes her appearance, she is abrupt, though not unkind. She wasn’t a bad waitress, she just didn’t seem to want to wait on us. And that is the feeling I get EVERY time I take my kids out somewhere…like we are an inconvenience.
Granted, the kids make a huge mess. However, I am armed with baby wipes and a small bottle of Clorox Anywhere spray, and I ALWAYS clean up the tables, highchairs and floors before we leave. I also have increased my tip percentile, to 20-25%, knowing that we are harder to serve than a family with older children. Why then, do I feel like an undesirable? When don’t people want to wait on us?
Has anyone else had this experience? What am I missing? Does bad food service come with the territory of having children?
Share your thoughts in the comments section!