Why some restaurants shouldn’t let us in the door

There’s a good reason some restaurants don’t go out of their way to cater to families.

We might be that reason.

Our family of 4 — including an almost-2-year-old and a 3-and-a-half-year-old — doesn’t eat out a lot, unless we’re on the road visiting family. Our most recent trip reminds me why eating out is usually limited to adults-only date night.

We’d been in the car for about 7 hours and made our usual stop in Toledo, Ohio, near the airport, where the restaurant choices are more varied than what is available on the turnpike. We’ve done Chipotle (not terribly kid-friendly despite a new kids menu) and Panera (ditto) and we’d eaten fast food (Wendy’s and Chick-Fil-A) the day before.

Even though sit-down is a risk, that’s what my husband and I thought might work. Healthier options. More room for the kids. That kind of thing. So, we chose Chili’s.

The host wisely seated us in a corner booth, near the door. We put the kids on the inside and started looking at the menu. I was impressed with the kids menu. Not only did it have a lot of options but it had pictures of the food. Isabelle, the 3-year-old, pointed to a chicken sandwich and corn on the cob. How grown-up, I thought. She had passed on the mac and cheese and the corn dog.

OK, I thought. We can do this.

Then she had to go to the bathroom. She skipped the entire way. This scene would repeat itself 4 more times while we were in the restaurant.

Meanwhile, back at the booth, my husband was in charge of the Corbanator. He destroys everything in his path, food included. The poor ladies sitting adjacent to our booth were subject to his non-stop greetings — hi, hi, hiΒ — and pokes. If that weren’t enough, he was trying to climb into the window and eat the end of the blinds cord. Once, while my husband was extracting Corban from the window, Corban flung himself backward and cracked his head on the table. The entire restaurant seemed to go silent.

I wanted to say, “Carry on, folks. This is normal for us.”

Fortunately, we ordered chips and salsa. Throwing food at the children — hungry animals — seems to help. Corban, however, mostly just crushed the chips all over the table and the seat. I’d like to tell you things improved after their food came.

Not so. Now that Corban had more “supplies,” he decided to use the ketchup all over his hands to “paint” the window separating us from the entryway. And when he wasn’t redecorating, he was pulling sugar and Sweet ‘N’ Low packets from the table and dropping them between the booth and the wall.

On one such occasion, when Phil was with Isabelle in the bathroom, our waitress came by to ask if I needed more water. I wanted to tell her to bring a straitjacket instead. For me, not the kids. When my husband returned, we were both pretty much hysterical with laughter. Our kids were wild but they weren’t hurting anyone or themselves. We knew that, for the most part, their behavior was due to the long car trip.

Next time, I think we’ll just have to settle for a McDonald’s with a playland. At least there we’re understood. And accommodated.

So, fellow parents, tell me, am I destined to eat only at kid-friendly places for the forseeable future or is there a way to make eating out anywhere more family friendly? Your experiences are invaluable!


6 thoughts on “Why some restaurants shouldn’t let us in the door

  1. Lisa-I really enjoy your blogs and your writing!! I must tell you after reading this one, please don’t be discouraged! I can tell you from a lot of experience with little ones and eating out, that you are not destined to McD’s the rest of your life πŸ™‚ We have taken our children out to eat since they were little on purpose. Our thoughts behind this were because a) we travel often and want our children to know what is expected of them when out to eat at a non-McD’s scenario b) that we want to be able to go out and enjoy a meal without pulling our hair out (not to mention an actual conversation between them and us or the two of us) and c) if we do it now when they are little, it won’t be as hard when they are older. Now, of course, that doesn’t mean we haven’t had our share of packets of Splenda thrown over the table to the booth behind us, or smashed food on the floor or trips to the bathroom (again, and again, and again) or many apologies to our on-lookers. We have experienced all of it! However, we have always kept doing it again and again and again so that the children would get used to being in an adult setting, knowing the rules and enjoying a meal that didn’t include a toy πŸ™‚ I give you kudos for attempting Chilli’s after a long car trip πŸ™‚ Being in a car for numerous hours can be draining in itself. I smile when you describe Corban. I have lived (and am living) that life with two boys, both of whom were 1000x more active than their sisters and still are pushing limits than their sisters. I found that if I included a bag of tricks (small toy car, action figure, etc), it would distract them easier and also by entertaining them by pointing out things in the restaurant that could appeal to learning (colors, shapes, etc) it kept them quieter. I have forgotten these things and used the sugar packets to make a train and straws to build a house…I look foolish but it keeps them quiet! πŸ™‚ Of course, when children are tired, have sat a long time, overly hungry (like on most car trips), it is much harder. So again, CONGRATULATE yourself for attempting a sit-down after many hours in the car! Pat yourself on the back! Of course, this is only my two cents, but I can appreciate what you are saying and can tell you that we take our children to many non-family friendly restaurants now after many years of experience. Keep at it..it won’t always go smoothly, but it will get easier!! Bon Appetit! πŸ™‚

  2. Now from a server’s perspective! We understand that kids are going to be a little rowdy so that’s why we try to do whatever we can to make the dining experience more enjoyable for everyone. In most sit down places you can ask the server to put the kids’ meals in first so that way they get out right away and the kids are occupied and the parents can help them without their food getting cold. Ideally when the parents’ food comes out the kids are then in a food coma! I know with a lot of places the kids’ menus are designed to entertain the kids, usually with puzzles and things to color, etc… Of course bringing their own toys along will also help distract them from poking at random people! Most people know what they’re getting themselves into when they head out to a family restaurant so I wouldn’t be too worried about the kids acting like kids. The only thing I would warn against is having them run around the restaurant because it’s not safe for them or the workers. I would think that’s common sense but you would be amazed at some of the stuff I see in the restaurant! I agree that you should try to take them out often so that they know how to behave in that setting. My niece is 16 months and we take her out all the time! My only suggestion would be to remember the workers who are helping you out. If the kids were a bit more rambunctious than usual, or made a bigger mess than anticipated, maybe leave an extra dollar or two to compensate! I’ve actually seen families come in with drop cloths to help clean up after their kids! It sounds like you’re on the right track! Hope it continues to turn out well for you!

  3. Hmm. Well, I’ll tell you what I do, but I am such an over thinker! I’m not sure my strategies actually apply to anybody else. lol!

    I make a quick assessment of everybody’s mood and needs. For example, if we were on a long car ride: Lucy would probably be feeling bored (ugh, she suffers from this a lot) or angry from fighting with Milo. We don’t have a van, so all our kids sight right next to each other in the back seat. They don’t get a lot of personal space in the car, so I would take that into account. Ruby would probably be sleeping or reading a book, or fighting with Milo. Milo would be talking everybody’s heads off and bothering the girls by being so loud and bouncy. Whenever Milo is bored he tends to annoy everybody. Not on purpose (I don’t think).

    Anyway, my quick assessment would be that the girls would be fine at a sit down place because they think it is such a treat to eat out. We almost never eat out, so they would think it’s exciting. I can tell, however that Milo is in no mood for it. He would be bouncing off the walls and yelling, because he really needs to stretch his legs and work off some energy.

    So now it’s time to assess my mood and needs. I might REALLY want to eat at Chili’s. If I am in an easy going and creative mood, it might be worth it to try it, even though Milo really needs to stretch his legs. I have a few restaurant games that I play with the kids at the table, so if I am really on top of things I might be able to keep him occupied until the food comes. (You can google restaurant games for kids and probably come up with a few good ones.) When Lucy was little, I used to take her outside and we would run around the whole restaurant while we were waiting for the food and Shawn would call me when it was time to eat. =)

    If I am feeling creative but not easy going, I might come up with a compromise: Order carryout and bring it to a park or something.

    If I am not feeling creative or easy going, but I really want Chili’s, I might just have to settle for what the kids need that time. At that point, giving in to their needs might just make the rest of the trip easier.

    Love ya,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s