Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Restaurant: no crying kids allowed!

No fussy children here...yet. The night is young.

At some point in your life, you’ve sat near a child pitching a fit in a restaurant. Whether you’re the hapless bystander or the parent desperate to calm your child (and possibly actually eat something), you know that it doesn’t make your dining experience a pleasure.

One pizza restaurant in Atlanta is trying to eliminate the more extreme cases of juvenile misbehavior with a note in the menu.

After a patron was apparently hit in the head by a toy flung by another person’s child, Grant Central Pizza management wrote the note, which reads: "GCP is proud of its reputation as a family restaurant, a title that we will work to keep. Unfortunately a number of our diners have posted unpleasant experiences because of crying and unsupervised children. To ensure that all diners have an enjoyable lunch or dinner with us we respectfully ask that parents tend to their crying tots outside."

Are you a fan of such a policy? Do you think it goes too far? What if you’re a parent – would a note like this make you feel more or less welcome at the restaurant?

We don’t expect parents of young children to give up restaurants. Sometimes it’s impossible to get a babysitter. Sometimes, mom and dad want to — gasp — eat as a family out in a restaurant. Children can be unpredictable, of course, so here are our tips to ensure an enjoyable dinner out with the family.

Go earlier than later. Children, like many adults, get cranky when tired. If you want a more pleasant mealtime (and easier bedtime later), eat at the early side of dinnertime.

Pick an appropriate place. “Appropriate” depends on your family’s taste, budget, and lifestyle — it doesn’t necessarily mean a fast food restaurant (although it certainly can). Mostly, it means a place that has a menu you like and a family-welcoming atmosphere.

Be prepared. If your child has a large appetite, offer a small meal before you go to the restaurant. If you aren’t sure the restaurant serves food your child will eat, bring a small, unobtrusive snack, like peanut butter crackers or dry cereal. We do not recommend bringing in outside food to an establishment except in the case of very small children. We don’t think any server will mind a toddler eating Cheerios, especially if it keeps the child occupied and happy. Similarly, pack a small treat bag to keep small hands busy — we recommend picture books or a few small toys that are easy to keep track of throughout the meal.

Don’t push it. Children have a knack for keeping us on our toes, and often their most dramatic tantrums occur suddenly at the end of an otherwise perfect evening. Are things going well? Great! It’s time to make your exit. Get that dessert to-go and eat it at home to celebrate.

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