Family planning – we’re hungry, outnumbered and we’re coming to a restaurant near you.
Families. They’re everywhere aren’t they?
“They will destroy your beautiful restaurant and we’re really sorry about that…”
Motley crews of squawking children dragging their semi-depressed human carers along behind them. Even I’ve got one – a seven year old and a three year old.
When you take them anywhere, they have a list of demands longer than your average Die Hard villain and on top of all that, they insist on being fed at regular intervals during your attempted day out in the city centre.
And because I’m still quite selfish, I try and take them to restaurants/eateries that I like, rather than somewhere they want to go. This normally means casual dining, rather than high end, although I did once take Daisy to San Carlo for moules frite and a glass of Sancerre (me, not her), which went pretty well.
Some places get it right and others get it horribly wrong. So here, for the benefit of people in the food and drink trade, is a guide to what we, the foodie parent set, need from you when we turn up with our clan of pint-sized terrorists.
We don’t want to be there all day: time is of the essence. When I’m on my own, or with another adult, I may take 15 minutes to look at the menu. I may relax into my chair and order another glass of Albarino. I may pick nonchalantly at my dessert course while scanning the papers.
When I am there with children, I want you to seat me, take my order, and bring the food within about seven minutes (I don;t care what I eat and they’ll have something with chips followed by ice cream), so I can get the hell out of there and force my misery of some other poor souls at a museum/gallery/zoo/sewage plant/etc. Children have as short attention span and I don’t have the capacity to keep them entertained beyond three minutes.
Have the bill ready: This is the worst part of any eating out experience with children. The meal is finished. Coats are on. The associated parenting shit we’ve brought with us has been put away but the kids are trying to get it out of the bag again. We need the bill straight away. We want to pay and we want to leave. Don’t take it personally.
We don’t care about eating together: When the childrens’ food is ready, you need to bring it to the table immediately. If they have food in their mouths they can’t complain about being hungry or ask when the food will come out. I will happily sit plateless for 15 minutes then hoover my food up in 90 seconds.
We’re not there to have fun: Sadly, visiting restaurants with children is, on the whole, functional rather than enjoyable. Older children are easier to placate and engage in conversation. Toddlers want to smash things up and put ice cream up their nostrils.
They will destroy your beautiful restaurant and we’re really sorry about that: I don’t want my child to climb on the table. They just don’t really listen to me.
Please don’t fill their drinks up all the way to the top: when a glass (a glass!) arrives full to the brim and overflowing with ice cubes (a weapon), part of me just wants to throw it all over the table to save time.
Tell your staff we are not the enemy: In our day to day lives, we come into your restaurants regularly, without the kids, often on business, and drop a load of cash into your businesses. So just because I am in here with a buggy on a weekend and we’ve dropped loads of chips on the floor, don’t develop an attitude problem. It will come back to haunt you.
It works both ways of course. Parents need to be realistic about where they can and can’t take their kids. Pizza Express yes, The French at The Midland, probably not.
And most places cope with families really well, making a fuss of them, being quick with the food/service/bill, and recognising the inherent sadness in our eyes.
I want to take my children to good restaurants, because I want them to understand what’s out there in terms of food and drink experiences and to expose them to new types of food. I want them to become restaurant users. I want them to appreciate the importance of good service and good manners, and city centre eateries are a great lesson in that respect.
But mostly, I want them to eat, be quiet and leave as quickly as possible. Just like you.
Please add any of your own rules/experiences below…