Thursday, March 15, 2012

A "Nice" Restaurant Guide

In high school and college, I worked as a waitress (or a "server" in the higher-end restaurant in college). It's a sweet job because you can make a lot of money in a short period of time, which is essential for students, but the job itself sucked ass. I HATED waiting on people. People are such assholes, especially when they are hungry and forced to sit in a small, confined space with their families, without a television in sight. I truly hated the work of being a server, although I absolutely loved some of the people who also worked at the restaurants. They rocked. In fact, I am still in touch with some of them to this day, despite well over a decade having passed since I've left either of the jobs, and moved a state away. Thanks, Facebook!

Anyway, restaurant work can teach you a shitload about people, and yourself. I could probably write a book on what I learned just by waiting tables. But, most importantly, it was through those jobs that I gained the insight into the pure hell that having children can be. I clearly recall (one of the few remaining memories I possess after three pregnancies and now, small children) being at work and watching in utter horror the spectacles that would play out at my tables of families with small children. I would stand there, watching the whining, the crying, the threats, the silverware banging and throwing, the parents hissing because they are trying not to yell, the negotiations, the tantrums, and the punishments, all over whether or not the child could have a soda.

I would stand there, twitching from the horror of it all, and think to myself, why the fuck does anyone have children? I mean, all that, and it's just the beginning! We haven't even gotten to whether or not they can have fries instead of rice!

I can honestly say that working in a restaurant truly turned me off to having children. Then, I met and married my husband and damn it if he didn't unexpectedly knock me up and now I am that poor bastard that the college-aged servers are watching in horror and vowing to never have children because of. You're welcome, servers. Glad to perform the public service of birth control promotion. Always a pleasure.

Except, that I actually don't get to perform that service very often because we rarely, very rarely, take our children into a restaurant. Unless you count McDonald's as a restaurant. Which the boys do. We're keeping their standards really high.

I have read posts here and there about what servers can do to keep the author's kids happy, ensure a big tip etc. For the most part, some of it makes sense, like, the more crackers and napkins you place on the table, the bigger your tip is going to be. But some of it is utter nonsense and projects the very unrealistic expectations that parents have of other people's responsibility to their children. Which basically, is none. You are the parents, and therefore, you are responsible for not only your child, but your child's happiness. Not the server. It also shows the thorough lack of understanding of the job of a server and all that entails.

I'm going to do my best to not get all worked up here, but I make no promises. 

1. It's perfectly acceptable to request that your child's food comes out as soon as it's ready. Do not, however, then get all pissy because the food is smoking hot. I mean, really? I have seen people complain about this, as if servers have some kind of magical sixth sense as to exactly when the food is the perfect temperature for your specific child. AND, can drop everything else they are doing for everyone else in the restaurant, and present the food at the precise moment it reaches the magic temperature. And who are we kidding anyway? It takes kids about 47 minutes to eat something that should take 10 minutes, tops, to eat. The food is about the temperature of a cadaver by the time they are finishing the last third of it, anyway. Lastly, when you are at home and serve your child food, what do you do when it's done cooking? You cut it, blow on it, then let them eat it. Do the same thing at the table in the restaurant. Not the server's job to determine the right temp for you. 

2. If you allow your child out of the booth to run around the restaurant, and a server holding a tray or plates of food that obscures their vision steps on or otherwise knocks down or crashes into your child: YOUR FAULT. Let me say that again: YOUR FAULT. It's a restaurant, not a playground. Children have no place running around there. If you cannot make your child sit for the length of time it takes to eat in a restaurant, then do not take them there. Order takeout. Go to McDonald's. Take the child outside while the other parent waits at the table. Whatever. But do not allow your child to run around the restaurant. It's not safe, and never ends well. 

3. The other patrons that are in the next booth? They actually do not think it's cute when your child leans over the back of the booth seat, into their space, and talks to them incessantly, pulls their hair, stares at them like a creepy stalker while picking their nose, drops toys into their seats, plays peek-a-boo for 29 minutes, or otherwise annoys the holy hell out of them. I promise. Turn your kids around and engage them yourself. Not anyone else's job to entertain them. Believe it or not, you **GASP** just might be the only person in the entire restaurant who thinks your kid is cute!

4. When you arrive at a restaurant and your child is starving half to death, do your best to remember that it is not the server's fault that your kid is hungry. It's yours. Servers are more than happy to bring out some crackers or bread, and bring the child's food early as explained in #1, but you should not expect that the meal is going to be instantly ready. Once again, you're in a restaurant. You order food, you wait for it to be made. Plan for that. Oh, and ask nicely for the bread or crackers. Please do not demand them, as if 1, you are entitled to free food, and 2, the server should know that your kid can even have them in the first place. Some kids have allergies or intolerances, some parents don't want their kids snacking just prior to eating. So while it may be obvious to you, it's not always a safe assumption on the server's part. Just ask nicely. 

5. You go into a restaurant, there's a menu. Slight menu changes are usually accommodated, but please do not expect magic if your kid is the pickiest eater in the world. The restaurant I worked at in college was a seafood restaurant. Of course, for the kids, there was a regular menu of the more popular, non-seafood choices for kids, but people expected miracles. No, we can't make Chinese food for your kid, you're in a seafood restaurant. If your kid can't or won't eat something that vaguely resembles the choices on the menu, then maybe you shouldn't have gone there in the first place.

6. Bring toys to entertain your children. Because the sugar caddies and salt and pepper shakers are not toys. People let their kids play with the sugar packets, chew on them, and then strew them all the hell over the place, then dump the salt and pepper out everywhere. Such a waste, such a mess. Most restaurants even help out and give out crayons and paper. And as a side note, the crayons are for the paper. Not the table, walls, menu, etc. I know. Shocking.

7. If you stand up from the table when you're getting ready to leave and it looks like a damn tornado hit it, leave a large tip. When servers have to bust out a cleaning crew and spend 10 extra minutes cleaning up after you, it affects how quickly tables can get turned, which affects their income. It also, when the lobby is full of people waiting for tables, extends their wait (and they probably have hungry kids, too) while the massive clean-up takes place. I know that many people firmly believe that having to clean up after them is the server's job and therefore, they can do whatever they want and make as big of a mess as they can. Those people are assholes. Yes, a server cleans up after you; it is their job. But it's also basic courtesy to not make a giant fucking mess. Think about it. You invite people over to your house for a dinner party, then watch them uncaringly strew food everywhere, watch their kid throw food, and then get up and leave at the end without any attempt to have contained the mess in the first place, controlled their child, or maybe even picked up some of the junk, you probably would not want those people back in your house. Little kids make messes, everyone gets that. Leave a bigger tip for it. 

8. Lastly, I'm not entirely convinced that small children even have a place in a sit-down restaurant. Better: Leave them with Grandma, Uncle, cousin, friend, neighbor, babysitter, whoever, and enjoy some adult time. 

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  1. We never take our kids into restaurants! Too much hassle for sure. Would much rather go by ourselves and enjoy the adult time. And hope that we don't have to listen to a bunch of other kids yelling and screaming- we're trying to escape it for a couple of hours!

  2. Ha, Anonymous, yep, it sucks to finally get away from kids and then have to listen to others! But I always just think to myself, well, at least I'm not having to deal with it!

  3. BRILLIANT!!! Loved every word!!!

  4. Thank you, Carlton! Total server angst (from over 10 years ago) coming out! I really wish we would have met way back then instead of just a couple of years ago and could have worked together; I suspect we would have had a lot of fun!

  5. I love your nice restaurant guide. I had to laugh at the kids in the other booth comment, because this has always driven me nuts pre-kid & post-kid. I don't mind the initial smile & wave but turn your kid around & let me enjoy my dinner. I also agree with the whole sugar packet/caddy etc, gross I don't want to use those packets after your kid has slimed it or sucked on it & put it back, (I've seen kids do this). I do have an 11 month old baby & my husband & I love to eat out. So we have taken him to all kinds of restaurants, so I don't agree that you shouldn't take them out to nice restaurants. So far my philosophy is if they act up be prepared you might have to leave. We don't want to ruin other people's night out. We've been really lucky so far & he's really good at restaurants but I know that might change once he's older. I'll cross that bridge if it comes. Love the blog.

  6. Thank you, Anonymous! You're right, some kids can absolutely handle being out in restaurants and it sounds like you are really courteous and respectful about it! Your baby will probably become a pro at good restaurant behavior! Back when we just had the one boy, it was more feasible for us, but since we have the three young boys, it's just become waaay too much for us personally! Someday, when they're older.... :)

  7. (I had to delete my earlier comment. Did not proof. Couldn't handle)

    I was a server not so long ago (laid off twice in one year, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do). I was appalled at some of the crap people allow their kids to do in restaurants.

    Having said that - we do take the baby with us to eat out. He sleeps. When he walks and talks - we'll re-evaluate. No way do I want to ruin someone else's night out! It might be as rare for them as it is for us!

    (And please don't get me started on "kids" menus. I can understand why some kids only eat nuggets, pizza, spaghetti, hotdogs and grilled cheese - that is all that is ever on a kids menu! I wish restaurants would man up and just make mini portions of the "adult" menu

    1. HA, Kylee, you CRACK me up! I totally get having to delete a comment over errors! I have to do the same thing!

      Taking a baby who doesn't do much to a restaurant makes perfect sense. That's the time we braved it with our kids, too.

      I won't get you started on the kid's menus! But I agree with the mini portions thing. What I often did was just offer to make the entree a la carte, complete with a take-home container. Not that that always solves the problem... :)

  8. Lol, funnny shit!

    we took our son as a new born while he napped, always ready to make a quick getaway. And a month ago we tried a family Diner (very early). he ate while we ordered and waited for our food. then we took out a couple of quiet toys so he could play ( we thought it was obvious common sense). we left a good tip, but also we cleaned up before we left.

    Later that same week I got an email from baby center with tips for how to enjoy a meal out worth kids. one tip was to let them play with jelly packs. you should have written tips. Lol

    1. Thanks, Vanessa! Yeah, maybe I will do a "tips" follow-up one for this! I actually am going to post one this week that consists of a couple of funny stories from my time in the restaurant biz, but the tips thing is a good idea, thanks!

      Yes, jelly packs are the best... even though we take toys, the boys LOVE stacking the jelly tubs and knocking them down, over and over and over again. I figure, as long as they're not chewing on them... And I restack them in their proper place before we leave!
      P.S. You're awesome for doing a little clean-up before you left the diner! Always appreciated. :-)


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