To Serve Mankind

{July 27, 2008}   Teaching Our Children To Be Restaurant Savvy

This post has truly  become a labor of love for me.  Heck, how can I claim any knowledge in this department when I’m still refining the skills of my own rambunctious, but loveable, 6 year old?  Well, I’m learning, I’m trying, and here I’m sharing.  Please add your own “tips” as necessary.  And remember, this one will be a work in progress, so come back often!

   I know I’ve been all talk…up until today.  AP and I took little Miss Molly to the Olive Garden this afternoon for an education in dining.  And I must say it went well.  I suggest anybody who wants their little one to learn to behave appropriately in any restaurant setting need only practice!  I told Molly as we were walking in that we were going to learn the right way to order, sit, and eat in a restaurant.  She was a very willing pupil.

     We sat down and started to look over the kid menu on the coloring paper they gave us.  Any restaurant that wants to be kid-friendly will have paper and crayons or some little craft to keep your young one vaguely occupied.  The kids menu is often on this freebie.  I strongly suggest use of this handy tool to get them focused on their choices before their attention span for this new “toy” runs out.  (Think about it…how many times have you seen your little one color that paper hard-core for, like, 4 minutes only to put it aside and decide the sugar packets on the table are more fun to play with?)  I went over her choices with her and let her know how to say exactly what she wanted.  By the time the waitress came to take the order, Molly was ready to say her lines!

     Possibly the most helpful tip to teaching restaurant savvy is to keep it simple.  Molly is 6 years old – so she requires a lot of compromise.  We tell her she can order her favorite (this time it was the Cheese Pizza), and that way she is not overwhelmed by too many choices.  As for drinks, we narrowed the selection down for her to 3 choices; lemonade, milk, or juice.  Most servers would automatically go thru the whole list of beverages for your little one, and this creates chaos.  Kid wants coke, mom says milk, whining ensues, not cool.  Little kids do not need and do not do well with too many choices.

     And the cardinal rule for taking your children ANYWHERE…do not take them out when they’re tired or pissy.  Do I really have to say this to any parent?  Yes, I do.  I mean, really.  If you want to enjoy yourself, you know that is so much more difficult to do when your little one is miserable.  And you know that the last thing you want to deal with during your dining experience is someone else’s kids’ crying interruptions.  Although I do consider all front-of-house sales staff to be entertainers, we can only do so much to distract a grumpy little one! 

       Something to keep in mind; if your child is painfully shy, or if they can’t speak clearly, please don’t torcher your server (and your shy youngster) by making them decode your little one’s special language.  It is beautiful that you encourage your young ones to speak for themselves, but we are professionals too and you wouldn’t have your young ones giving orders to the doctor..or a dentist..or your bank teller!

     So that’s it…I’ve racked my brain, and the brain of a few friends, and I think I’m satisfied.  The real proof will be when we take Molly out again.  And in case anybody was wondering why on earth we took her to the Garden instead of Red Robin…well there is just too much excitement there for her to focus on learning etiquette.  She knows most of my co-workers, and they know her, so all she wants to do with them is talk and talk!

     And a very special thank you to Diane, co-owner and our kitchen manager at Sips Bistro.  She sparked my brain with some excellent points and enabled me to round out this post.  I wasn’t kidding when I referred to this post as a labor of love!  Thank you so much, Diane!  You’re awesome!

     Next post should be a lot of fun…bar and restaurant lingo.





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