Eating Out

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Categories Family, FeedingTags

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! :)

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7 thoughts on “Eating Out”

  1. Krissy, It’s sad but true – upon entering a restaurant with the children, I can almost hear the groaning of the staff. But, I have to admit that as a PATRON, I am usually annoyed with other people’s children in restaurants! Most moms are not as considerate as you just described and therefore, we are all pre-judged!

    Like you, I clean my table to the best of my ability before vacating. I also wipe down the chairs/booth/boosters seats, etc. I do not tolerate my daughter’s voice rising above a certain level (in proportion to the background noise of the restaurant) and I certainly do not let her wander alone amongst the other tables. But when I see other families, I often feel like we are the exception, not the rule. It is the rare server who seems to appreciate this or take two seconds and give a little smile to my children. SO, I try to stick to places where we’ve had good experiences before.

  2. We definitely get the same experience some places. We try to be polite to other customers but even with best intentions we have been THAT FAMILY before… the ones where both kids are yelling, throwing food, shouting NO! We make a quick exit but still… I have much more sympathy now for the parents of crazy kids in public.

  3. I used to work at a restaraunt in town who had kkds eat free Saturdays. Most all of the other wait staff dreaded it. Most people who come in with their children let them make a huge mess those people also are normally the ones who don’t tip. It’s hard to get that bitter taste out of your mouth from “those families”. Now as a parent myself I get this almost any time we go out with the girls. This weekend we’re really going to put some wait staff to the test. We’re going to visit my family and we will have three moms and seven children! I bet we’ll get a lot of dirty looks.

  4. We try and stick to the places we KNOW are kid-friendly. They have longer kids menus than just a handful of things; they offer tons for them to do and see, etc. Applebees is best for a chain and we have a couple favorites, locally.

    The worst for us was when we had to wait nearly an hour to get a seat because we needed two high chairs (we forgot our boosters) … I was very upset after that. (Red Lobster) Will never return there.

  5. It is not just walking in with kids in tow that gets the evil eye. While I was about 7 1/2 months prego with my duo, my hubby and I went out for what was to be our last date night without babies. We went to the Islands restaurant chain and they saw my big belly and kind of stared at us. They tried to sit us in a booth and I couldn’t fit (embarassing!) We then had to wait an extra 1/2 hour for a table with chairs (what about the handicapped people out there, they shouldn’t have to wait just to get a table they can fit into, nor should a very pregnant woman have to wait for food) Anyway the hostess wasn’t all that understanding, but in the end we got our table the manager apologized and we got a free appetizer of our choice (which of course I downed feeling starved by the growing babies inside) Is it so awful to be a family in public, or is it just the inexperience of the hostess/wait staff, after all most are just teens.

  6. We get that ALL the time. We even had one time a California Pizza Kitchen, where the girls were in a REALLY bad mood and everything i put in front of them they chunked it on the floor. I didn’t bother to pick the food up one by one..knowing i’d pick it up at the end of our meal. TWO…I REPEAT…TWO bussers or employees of the restaurant came around the corner to check out the floor and stare at us! I was LIVID! I mean seriously…if you see a family with three kidos under 4…do you seriously think they’re going to eat like an adult?? I was SOOO mad…i picked everything up and we left immediately! I should have yelled at the manager…but what’s the point. I guess it would have made ME feel better…but oh well! We still left a good tip…despite the bad looks and people staring. We have ONE kid friendly restaurant in TX…maybe just Houston…it’s called RoadHouse…and if you live in TX..or Houston and have more than one kido..check it out. It’s cool b/c they serve peanuts and SO…the floor is ALWAYS dirty and you can’t tell if the kidos make a mess or not! We’ve ALWAYS had great service there..and we seriously go there about every other week! We LOVE THAT PLACE!

    Sorry about your bad experience with the waitress!

  7. It’s not gourmet, but Chick-Fil-A is our all-time favorite place to take the kids (2.5, 1, and 1). The manager on duty at lunch bends over backwards for me (I’m usually there with another mom of 2 young kids, so we’re rather needy customers). Maybe it’s because we now have a track record with this one restaurant: we always clean up, our kids are well-behaved, and we get there before the lunch rush. Perhaps being will to cultivate a relationship with one particular restaurant is worth the effort. We nearly always get the same thing, too, so ordering is a no brainer. We have yet to venture into a sit-down and order restaurant with the gang because 3 high chairs is just a lot of effort for everyone involved!

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