Eating Out: Top Tips When Eating Out With The Family

Eating out with the whole family is probably a different experience than when it was just the two of you out for a romantic dinner. Some parents would not even consider taking the whole family out to dine somewhere other than the local fast food restaurant. With a bit of planning it can be a great trip especially if it is treated as a reward for your children or a celebration of a special event. We have pulled together a few tips to which might help make the next time you and your family eat out a great success.
  1. Before you go play ‘restaurants’ at home, and take turns at being the waitress, chef and customer. Older siblings will love the game. Make some rules up e.g. must stay in their seats, have to keep their voices to talking level, absolutely no shouting.
  2. Choose your restaurant carefully. If you have a recommendation, that’s a good place to start. If you need high chairs or nappy changing facilities, check that these are available. If you would like somewhere private to nurse your baby, check if they have somewhere available - but remember you are at liberty to do so in public wherever you choose!
  3. Always book, so you do not have to cope with disappointed children when there is no availability. Book an off-peak time, e.g. very early evening meal, or mid afternoon lunch as you are less likely to have to wait long times for your meal.
  4. Make it a special trip. Get everyone dressed in their fineries and their behaviour may match their look!
  5. Remember to take any special cutlery for smaller ones and if they still use a beaker take this with you. I always have a few straws in my bag for when they are not available - less likely to have an accident dropping a heavy glass.
  6. Take entertainment. Unless you know what will be offered to keep them occupied, take some small toys, and pens and paper. Avoid markers as they can be messy. Print out a placemat activity sheet available on our web site Do not take anything noisy which may disturb your fellow diners.
  7. When ordering your meal stick to just a main course and desert. A starter as well may make the experience drag out too long.
  8. You will probably have had a drink while waiting for your meal. So, before your meal arrives, have a trip to the loo. This will avoid unnecessary interruptions once eating starts.
  9. If eating out is a new experience it may be best to stick to familiar foods that you know your child will enjoy. Although as part of the whole eating out experience, trying new foods is a big part, it would be best to wait until you are sure that they are comfortable with the new environments.
  10. Ask for your bill at the earliest convenience. This way you can leave when it suits you and you are not waiting

First published 4kids Summer 2008