Search icon


18th Sep 2018

8 ways to win at eating out with the kids

Dining out over the festive break?

Sharyn Hayden

Being a waiter is a tough job.

There are the crappy uniforms, the long hours on your feet, the irate chefs, depressing pay and the crazy customer demands.

I worked for ten years in the hospitality industry, in Ireland and abroad, and I have had to deal with some bonkers stuff in my time.

Remember Planet Hollywood on St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin? That short-lived themed restaurant helped me pay my way through college by taking me on as a waitress.


The Sunday day shift was always the one day we really dreaded, because that was when parents and their kids would literally take the place over for the afternoon.

I distinctly remember carrying trays of scalding hot fajitas on a tray over my head through a maze of kids who were let run loose on the restaurant floor. The parents were oblivious, chatting away and chucking down over-expensive burgers and fries. I literally have no idea how there weren’t any casualties.

Coming from that background, I am fairly conscientious about the dangers posed to kids in restaurants and also, how being an oblivious parent can make the staff’s job that much harder.

Here are my 8 tips on how to behave when you’re out dining with kids:

1. Call ahead with your requirements

If you need a highchair and a bit of extra space, have a kid with dietary requirements or need to ask about where to leave the buggy, just call ahead. Otherwise, you can get stressed out when you arrive at reception to be told there is a wait or they don’t have the space you need. A good start is a calm start.


2. Bring your own 

There is no point being annoyed that your favourite eatery doesn’t in fact have a plastic beaker in Little Sarah’s favourite shade of yellow. If there are particular things that your kids like to eat from, bring them. That’s beakers, plastic cutlery, even plates if you think it will make a difference. The waitstaff will be more than happy to use them for the kid’s meals and drinks.

3. Kids go first

Get the kid’s meals ordered first and ask them to be brought to the table as soon as they’re ready. Once your children are happily scoffing their meal, it’ll hopefully keep them entertained for long enough that you can enjoy your own when it arrives.

4. Have an entertainment plan

I know that there are those sanctimonious posts you read about how parents are ‘ignoring’ their kids in restaurants by letting them play games on the tablet or smartphones. I say ‘F*ck that’. Have a few things in the back pocket to keep the kids happy when they’re not eating – their favourite book or toy, something to draw and yes, the gadgets if needs be. Do whatever is necessary to make it an enjoyable experience for everyone.

5. You’re the only one in charge

There are no in-house babysitters available – at least not in the restaurants I go to – so why would you let your kids wander around unaccompanied? Take turns bringing them for little walks to break up the monotony for them, thus reducing the risk of them sliding to the floor or drawing on the walls in boredom.


6. Teach your kid the basics

How you behave in a restaurant will forever determine how your kid treats waitstaff as they grow up. Remind them to thank the waiter for bring their meal and to say please if they need something. You are building little chivalrous babes here, and your waiter will probably be more than happy to see you back next time if you have nice kids with good manners.

7. You are not at your aunties

Just because you are out and paying for food does not mean that you get to regress into lazy teenagers who are waiting for mum to pick up after you. If something gets dropped on the floor, you know, pick it up. I always do a quick scan at the end of our meal and ‘de-kid’ the table and floor. I’d be morto if I thought that I just walked away and expected someone else to pick up my kid’s half-eaten chips from under the table.


8. Tip your waiter

If your waiter brought your kids something to colour in, if they got the food to the table for the kids first, if they smiled, if you survived a meal out with your family and got to enjoy your own food, even for five minutes, tip your waiter. It’s the sound thing to do.

Have you got any more to add? Let us know in the comments on Facebook.