Enjoyable eating experiences can seem a thing of the past when you’re dining out with kids. Long gone are the days of selecting your restaurant by Michelin star rating, or Time Out reviews. The criteria for dining out is now dictated by how quickly they can get the dishes out, and whether they do fries.
If you’re planning to brave a restaurant with the kids, here are some useful tips to ensure that you can you have happy meals without resorting to, well, Happy Meals.
A lovely view and welcoming atmosphere would be wonderful. Child friendly is the winner though. Do they have high chairs? What is their kids’ menu like? Have they got an activity sheet that your little one can be studiously colouring in while you take a load off and refuel? This is what matters now.
Forget what the Carte du Vin looks like. Find out if they do Spaghetti Bolognese. The kids’ menu is what counts now. Say goodbye to the amuse bouche, and hello to chicken tenders. Make sure they have some tried and tested favourites you can fall back on. Just in case the little ones are being picky you can get them a trusted winner.
Get used to having dinner at 6pm and lunch at 10.30. Unless you want to brave the rush hour crowd, eating outside normal dining hours will be your saviour. That way if little Johnny decides to scream about the quality of his Mac’n’Cheese, you only have to apologise to one lone couple in the corner.
Sometimes the kid’s meal can fall by the wayside in an order. Make sure you get their food, their colouring sheet and any other fun things they are entitled to first. Even if their food is out early, it will be hot and need to cool down. They may eat before you, but at least they won’t be grumpy.
There are times when you’ll have to join the evening or lunchtime dining crowd. Plan for boredom, grumpiness and tantrums. Everyone understands that kids can be unpredictable, but you can be as prepared as possible. Bring along a book, a fun game or something they can get on with. Set rules for behaviour before you go out so they know their limits.
Any parent knows that kids can create quite the mess. Whether a meatball has escaped under the table. Or they’ve decided to leave a half-chewed bread stick on the table. Don’t leave it all for the restaurant staff. A little tidy up of any unexpected surprises makes all the difference. It also means you can come back, head held high.