Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Feb 9, 2010 06:34 AM

servers and children


I thought i would start a thread on the needs of families dining out with little children in the hope that people in the restaurent industry would see what type of things parents feel their children need so everyone can have a good dining experience.

for me, speed of service is very important because kids have limited patience. Last week we took a nephew out to lunch (2 adults + one 3-year-old), asked if we could be served quickly, were told yes. Ordered immediately, told her to bring all the apps. and the mains at the same time. took about 20 minutes after food was served to get utensils: 2 knives, 2 forks, 1 spoon for 2 adults and 1 child. I stoped asking. We shared utensils. the main showed up long after all the apps were gone. I think the slow service added at least 45 minutes to our meal. By the end the child wanted to get up and run. Thankfully, the restaurent was empty by then. For all the complaining about how annoying children are in restos, you'd think they would serve us and let us leave.

Another thing i would like is having healthy children's menus. Enough with the fried mystry meat crap. could we get some healthy meat (fish, chicken breasts..) and some veggies and fruit for once?

and personally, i have a pet peeve. If you are a server, and the first thing you do when you get to the table is offer my son juice or coke or any other sugar filled drink without checking with me, know that you have made me really mad at you.

  1. With regards to your last two paragraphs and it's content......the onus is on you, not the restaurant or the server. You are making the decisions where to dine....and the server is addressing both you and your child....not just your child.

    2 Replies
    1. re: fourunder

      no actually, some servers will look my kid in the eye and say: would you like some juice/a coke? Usually, I say milk is fine, but sometimes, it will make my kid mad because he wants juice. typically, i will check the menu and if they have fresh squeezed juice, i will order that, but i won't order regular juice for him because it is too sweet.

      and the children's menu is a would like rather than an essential item. i usually just order from the regular menu for my son. If i have leftovers, i can take them home, so, it's not really a waste. But it would still be nice to have a reasonable children's menu. And it would be nice if servers stopped insisting that we order from the children's menu. Like a certain place i was at last month where we were asked 5 times if we were sure we did not want the children's menu (nuggets or burger) for him when we had already ordered him his own plate of salmon and he ate all his fish.

      1. re: hala

        Thanks for the polite reply....I was suggesting the server was addressing both of you as a table, not specifically just when for the children's menu, many restaurant owners I know will make half portions of regular menu items for kids....or even seniors...... I would suggest you ask if this is possible the next time you dine at your favorite places.

    2. Wow, clearly you've never been on the other side of this issue. I agree that the server in your experience failed to honor your requests to serve all the dishes at once & didn't provide you with the necessary utensils... that is just plain poor service. But I don't think restaurants, in general, want to rush you in and out simply because you have children.

      Children's menus are awful, generally speaking, there's no way around it. But restaurants do offer "normal, healthy fare" on their regular menu so it's available, you just have to ask. Typically you can get a side of vegetables or fresh fruit, grilled chicken, etc. You aren't limited to what's in print on the kids' menu.

      You would be amazed by the messes and chaos some children bring to a restaurant dining room. Dumping sugar caddies, salt & pepper shakers, their food, drinks, etc. and leaving the staff to clean it all up. Running around the dining room, screaming/crying (my pet peeve) destroying the restrooms, etc. As a former server and a mother of two I vowed never to be that family when we dined out.

      Getting angry with the server about the drink choices is misdirected. Let's face it, those choices are standard in any establishment no matter where you go. It's society, government and those pesky subsidies and big corporations that are to blame for our poor food & beverage choices. But that's an entirely different discussion, isn't it? But don't shoot the messenger, please.

      6 Replies
      1. re: lynnlato

        i guess i disagree that it was poor service to not serve all elements of the meal together (not giving the table proper silverware was poor service, however). in this case the customers trapped the server in a catch-22 by asking if they could be served promptly and then after being told yes, demanding all the food, soup to nuts, all at once. the apps menu is designed for faster service than the mains-- that's why quick-cooking or quick prep items like egg rolls and bruschetta are on the starters menu and items that take longer to cook are on the mains menu. the op asked to be served quickly-- so it's reasonable to expect the first course of the meal to be served quite promptly-- but it's unreasonable to expect that a main that takes 15 mins to cook will be ready at the same time as the egg rolls/bruschetta, in 5 minutes. the customer's completely unreasonable expectation that the mains would be ready as quickly as apps is at fault here, and the server is in the unenviable position of trying to figure out whether it's better to serve in courses (so the toddler with no attention span is entertained and so that the customers are served *some* food promptly, as per customers' request) or delaying the starters, so that the customers can be served all items at once (but you said we'd be served quickly!). go to a quick-serve, mcdonald's, buffet, etc. instead if this is the expectation.

        to the op's 2nd and 3rd points:
        agree that the kids' menu is not written by the server--don't blame the server for a societal issue, s/he can't change it. folks need to face the fact that when many parents look at a "kid's menu," what they want to see is a significantly cheaper price point than the regular menu. hence the cheaper, less healthy, so-called kid-friendly grilled cheeze & fries, fried chx fingers etc. if you want healthier food for your kid, order off of the real menu, or better yet go to a place that doesn't have a "kids' menu," --but restaurants are not obligated to sell you a farm-raised chicken breast over seasonal organic vegetables for $3.50 just because a kid happens to be the one ordering it.

        servers ask each customer what s/he would like. part of the job. that includes children. if the server were to ignore the kid and instead ask the parent what the child would like for a beverage, people would be screaming that servers don't think kids are human beings capable of making their own choices.

        servers are not pseudo-parents, nor are they babysitters or maids (babysitters and maids get a better hourly wage). don't expect the server to enforce parenting rules about diet or soft drinks or magically know your kid prefers salmon to cheeseburgers.

        to parents: whatever happened to talking with the kid *prior* to getting to the restaurant, prepping them for how it works, that we are on our best behavior/no temper tantrums, or we're leaving; that the nice server brings our food to us when it's ready so we need to be pleasant, patient and social, and if this is an issue for a toddler, here's some cheerios in the meantime. that no, we absolutely won't be ordering a 20 oz bottomless mountain dew at 8 pm, we can choose milk or water. proper socialization for kids and adults involves not thinking that the world revolves entirely around ourselves/our child.

        1. re: soupkitten

          My understanding is that at the time OP placed her order they ordered the apps and mains together and asked that it all be brought out together. This is not an impossible feat - the back of the house (and the servers) are skilled at timing (or should be). Its a common request that can be easily accomodated by the restaurant.

          "restaurants are not obligated to sell you a farm-raised chicken breast over seasonal organic vegetables for $3.50 just because a kid happens to be the one ordering it." - completely agree and well said, IMHO! :-)

          1. re: soupkitten

            Nicely stated SK.

            One other point on your timing input.

            When people order the two course together, in their minds it means the faster one is the correct time frame. When an app and a main are requested together it is the longer "to cook" item that is the key driver. so a 5 minute eggroll ordered with a 15 minute pizza is NOT coming out in 5 minutes. Add to that the notion that other orders are already ahead on the "special request" and that 15 minute eggroll-pizza combo could take 25. Then we'd see the thread "do you believe i waited 25 minutes for an eggroll and pizza at ABC, I'm never going back." Gets jfood back to the old Gen-E (That the new Entitled Genration) comment that he posts often.

            And to your chicken breast comment. Why do you think restaurants needed to place the words "(For customers under 12 years old)" on the menu? Probably because adults were ordering from the children's menu the same item on the adult menu, but at a lower price point. Just more entitled-scamming.

            1. re: jfood

              In the example you gave, the eggroll and pizza shouldn't take longer than 15 minutes if the restaurant has a good system in place.

              The last restaurant I worked at handled timing in this way: Guest #1 orders a pizza and guest #2 orders a pasta main. I would order the pizza first and the ticket would print out in the pizza oven area only. I'd wait a few minutes and then place the line order for the pasta - I was responsible for timing it so that both dishes came up at the same time. Not that difficult to manage and timing is what good service is all about.

            2. re: soupkitten

              Why is that half the time my wife and I get our mains on top of our apps, even we specify otherwise? And when it was requested to be done the restaurant couldn't "deliver" as it were. Just another one of those unexplainable paradoxes of the world I guess... ;-D>

              1. re: Servorg

                Likely because the server (or the Back of The House if the responsibility lies there) failed to manage the timing well. Typically, a server would ring in the app and then wait until it was served and started by the guests. Then they would place the order for the entrees - this is generally speaking, different restaurants utilize different software programs and different approaches.

          2. The original comment has been removed
            1. The burden is on the parents, not the servers. I believe the burden is on the parents to take their children to only those restaurants whose atmosphere, serving speed, and menus will suit their children. If your children are too impatient to sit through the normal serving times of a restaurant, please do not take them to that restaurant. If you want your children to have healthy food and you consider the children's menu not healthy enough, order off the regular menu and split plates to make child-size portions. And please don't expect the server to take the trouble of getting prior approval from you before offering foods to your children; it's their job to offer food to restaurant guests, your children included. If none of this suits, just take the children to McDonald's or, better yet, train the children at the table at home until they can sit through a proper meal at a restaurant.

              2 Replies
              1. re: browniebaker

                With all due respect, I think your criticism is a bit harsh. It would seem to me that a restaurant has a self interest in providing a pleasing dining experience for its patrons. I do not feel like the OP was making unreasonable demands. Restaurants, today, seem to be willing to make accommodations for vegetarians, people with allergies, etc.. There are attitudinal shifts taking place on food today. The OP represents a constituency for somewhat healthier, though not extreme, fare for children. Though this constituency may not be a majority, the OP asks that it be recognized and that automatic assumptions not be made that kids (and their parents) will choose fat & sugar laden choices.

                Yes, parents can stay home & avoid worrying about their kid's behavior or the menu choices, but I don't see how that benefits the restaurateur. If the restaurant cannot accommodate quick service of the entree, than it would make sense to notify their customer, who may choose a few appetizers to make up a meal of small plates, or come up with another suitable solution. Not such a big deal.

                1. re: Rmis32

                  "Yes, parents can stay home & avoid worrying about their kid's behavior or the menu choices, but I don't see how that benefits the restaurateur. If the restaurant cannot accommodate quick service of the entree, than it would make sense to notify their customer, who may choose a few appetizers to make up a meal of small plates, or come up with another suitable solution. Not such a big deal."

                  To me, this just sounds like the family is in the wrong restaurant. If an entree takes a bit to prepare, it automatically doesn't strike me as kid-friendly.

              2. My question is not about the inappropriate behavor some kids exhibit due to their parents lack of manners but rather what can SERVERS do to make the visit of small children tolerable for everyone.
                @ brownie, i did not say i wasn't ordering food for my child, i just order off thr regular menu for him, but offering him a sugar filled drink then blaming me if he gets too excited, or too full to eat and therefor wants to run around is not fair.

                Also, if you think kids should not eat out most of the time, pls don't answer here. Lots of people don't have money for sitters or are on vaccation and don't want to trust yellow pages with their kids.

                14 Replies
                1. re: hala

                  I am a parent who takes her two children to restaurants because they are able to sit patiently through an entire meal without my having to speed up the server, are able to order off a regular menu, and know better than to fill themselves up with sugary drinks.

                  Ask not what servers can do "to make the visit of small children tolerable for everyone;" ask what YOU as the parent can do. Servers are just doing their jobs, and they should not have to do the job of parenting.

                  For the record, I have hired a babysitter only two times in the 13 years I have been a mother. My children were taught to sit at table, and they have, from an early age, been able to eat politely in a variety of restaurants without my making extra demands on servers and without inconveniencing other patrons. No, my children are not super-human; it's all in the training.

                  1. re: hala

                    I have to be completely honest and say: I think you are looking for servers to make the visit of small children tolerable for YOU.

                    I am not at all against people bringing children to a restaurant, and most people are not against children in restaurants, if they behave. It is up to YOU to be sure they behave. It is, actually, your job as a parent. If they do not, you are not somehow entitled to go out anyway, and expect others to suck it up and cut you the slack necessary so that you can have a good time.

                    1. re: hala

                      "what can SERVERS do to make the visit of small children tolerable for everyone."

                      If the patrons with the children are not present and everyone is having a good time and all is tolerable and then the patron shows up with the children that make everything intolerable. You expect the server to handle this versus the parents of the children? Wow, but that is absolutely not the role of the server. Way over the line, sorry.

                      And to your last paragraph, kids should eat out when they are capable of eating out under the social contract entered into between patrons and restaurants. Jfood as well as every parent he knows have made the phone call to friends, "sorry little jfood is not having a good day. Taking her to a restaurant tonight is not a good idea." It's part of being a parent, oh and by the way it is also being a good friend.

                      1. re: hala

                        "Lots of people don't have money for sitters"

                        So because someone's pushing their budget by eating out, but can't justify the expense of a sitter, it's okay? It's okay on one condition: that their kids behave. The problem is, there are a lot of people who haven't money for sitters whose children haven't a clue with regard to how to act in public.

                        So I, who work very hard so that I can afford to go out and relax, must suffer these people's children along *with* them, because they can't afford a sitter?

                        This reminds me of two losers who used to come to our bar once in a while. Their children were horrendous. They'd run around the restaurant. The little one exploded Cheerios and pretzels. The middle girl had a scream that would pierce you to your very core. Our staff would endure this without saying a word. Well, one night the parents told me the story of how they got the grandparents to stay with their kids so they could have a "getaway weekend." It turns out that there were a few very, very annoying children at the fairly expensive resort they were staying at that made their mealtimes and pool-times miserable. (I guess karma's a b*tch). When they finished telling me this story all I could say to them is "what was with these parents that they couldn't rein in their kids?" The response: "the parents were having a drink with us. The resort staff couldn't be bothered with taking care of the kids. They're never going there again... nobody took care of their kids!" Astonishing.

                        1. re: shaogo

                          Some people do not manage their children well when they go out. That topic has been amply covered on CH.

                          This thread is about servers and children. The points, about timing the food and using common sense when asking for an order give people a chance to discuss what they are looking for in a restaurant.

                          My child is far better behaved than most adults I see in better restaurants and certainly better company. I would like servers and restaurants to think about their children's menus and the protocol they use when soliciting orders from children. I don't think that is unreasonable and the suggestion that my interests and issues are inherently absurd because you knew someone once who didn't watch her kids seems illogical.

                          1. re: Kater

                            "My child is far better behaved than most adults I see in better restaurants and certainly better company"

                            I'm sure you feel this way but I wouldn't count on others to feel the same way.

                            "I would like servers and restaurants to think about their children's menus and the protocol they use when soliciting orders from children."

                            I really don't understand why servers should spend any time thinking about a children's menu. That isn't remotely close to any servers job description. As far as children's menus, you should vote with your wallet and support establishments that have menus you can order off of but to be honest I can't recall any restaurant in my neighborhood with a children's section and there are kids in them all the time.

                            1. re: KTinNYC

                              I am quite confident in my assessment of my child's behavior and charm, the compliments from servers, managers, owners, etc... confirm my suspicion that he is, in fact, the perfect child. The next time you find yourself seated beside a table of drunken braying fifty year old women hollering You Go Girl to each other, think of my and my perfect kid. You would be FAR better off if we were seated beside you!

                              The sentence you quote is poorly constructed. Servers should concern themselves with protocol while the 'restaurant' should think about the children's menu.

                              I am very willing to pay an appropriate price for a child sized portion of a real entree. I do not like that children are conditioned to believe that they must have chicken fingers, pasta with butter or a hamburger each time that they dine out.l In the absence of a real children's menu I always have my child order from the normal menu but this can get a little awkward when you're dining out with friends. I've noticed more and more better restaurants offering a junior entree to kids and I'm very happy to see it happen.

                        2. re: hala

                          sorry to be harsh and/or flippant but, if you do not have money for a sitter, you do not have money to eat at a restaurant. Period.

                          1. re: nkeane

                            I agree. It's like saying you can't afford to tip.

                            1. re: Leonardo

                              Add me to the agreement. And I hate lousy tippers as well, but that's another thread.

                              1. re: Leonardo

                                Now on this I've got to disagree. I don't have any kids but I have lots of friends that do. Babysitters these days can charge upwards of $5-10 an HOUR. Your average kids meal (or even half portion from the adult menu) is usually no more than $10. It is often more cost effective for young parents to take a small child out then to leave him home.
                                As for the whole kid's menu /sugared soft drink thing...I'm a server and have been one all of my adult life in all manner of restaurants . Very few places actually have decent kid's menus but most will happily help you by doing half portions or small plates for your wee one. If you don't want your kid to have a sugar rush then when the server comes over for drinks just say "I'll have blah-blah. And Junior would like milk/will stick to water, etc."
                                That being said I am seeing more and more kids just asking for water with their meals.

                              2. re: nkeane

                                << if you do not have money for a sitter, you do not have money to eat at a restaurant. Period. >>

                                That statement is as ridiculous as saying "if you can't afford 5 star, then you can't afford to eat out. Period."

                                1. re: just_M

                                  What's a sitter run these days(I am blissfully unaware)? $10/hr? so a sitter for a few hours is probably $25-30? now the difference in price between a casual dinner for two and a table for two at Urasawa is $60 vs. $750. It's one thing to be able to eat out at the former but not be able to afford the latter. It's an entirely different situation if that $25 sitter is keeping you from eating at the casual spot.

                                  Surely you see the difference there, right?