Going out to a restaurant with family can be a fun and memorable experience, but it can also pose some challenges. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to make your family’s next restaurant outing a success.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Choose a family-friendly restaurant, make reservations, review the menu ahead of time, plan activities to occupy the kids, and bring distractions in case they get restless during the wait.
Having a game plan will make the experience smooth and stress-free for the whole family.
In the following sections, we’ll cover how to choose the right restaurant, make reservations, tips for keeping kids occupied, managing special dietary needs, how to order, restaurant etiquette for families, and ideas for making it a memorable experience for everyone.
Choosing the Right Family-Friendly Restaurant
When it comes to eating out with your family, choosing the right restaurant can make all the difference. Here are some factors to consider when selecting a family-friendly restaurant:
Kid-friendly ambiance and decor
Look for a restaurant that has a welcoming and child-friendly atmosphere. Restaurants with colorful and playful decor can help create a fun and engaging environment for kids. Some restaurants even have dedicated play areas or game zones to keep children entertained while waiting for their food.
Menu with child-approved options
Make sure the restaurant offers a menu with a variety of child-approved options. Look for dishes that are not only tasty but also nutritious. Some restaurants go the extra mile by offering special kids’ menus with smaller portion sizes and familiar favorites like chicken tenders, mac and cheese, or pizza.
Ideal seating for families
Consider the seating arrangements at the restaurant. Look for spacious tables or booths that can accommodate the entire family comfortably. Some restaurants even provide high chairs or booster seats for younger children. Additionally, ask if they have a designated area for strollers or car seats.
Accommodating of children
Choose a restaurant that understands and caters to the needs of children. Friendly and patient staff members who are comfortable interacting with children can make the dining experience more enjoyable.
Restaurants that offer coloring books, crayons, or small toys can also help keep little ones entertained.
Consider the location of the restaurant and its proximity to your home or activities. Opting for a restaurant that is nearby can be convenient, especially if you have young children who may need to return home for naps or bedtime.
Additionally, check if the restaurant has ample parking or is easily accessible by public transportation.
By considering these factors, you can ensure that your family dining experience is enjoyable and stress-free. Remember to do your research and read reviews to find the best family-friendly restaurants in your area.
Making Reservations in Advance
When dining out at a restaurant with your family, making reservations in advance can help ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. Here are some tips for making reservations:
Call ahead earlier in the day
It’s always a good idea to call the restaurant earlier in the day to make your reservation. This way, you can avoid the rush and have a better chance of securing a table at your preferred time. Calling earlier also gives you the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the menu or the restaurant’s policies.
Request table location
If you have specific preferences for where you would like to sit in the restaurant, don’t hesitate to request a particular table location when making your reservation. Whether you prefer a booth, a table near a window, or a spot away from high-traffic areas, letting the restaurant know your preferences in advance can help ensure a more comfortable dining experience for your family.
Give highchair/booster seat count
If you have young children who require highchairs or booster seats, be sure to mention the number needed when making your reservation. This will allow the restaurant to prepare and have the necessary seating arrangements ready for your family when you arrive.
Mention food allergies/intolerances
If anyone in your family has food allergies or intolerances, it’s vital to inform the restaurant when making your reservation. This way, the restaurant can take the necessary precautions to accommodate your family’s dietary needs and ensure a safe dining experience for everyone.
Be sure to mention specific allergies or intolerances, so the restaurant can provide suitable menu options or make any necessary modifications.
Confirm reservation day before
Lastly, it’s always a good idea to confirm your reservation with the restaurant the day before your planned visit. This allows you to double-check the details, such as the date, time, and number of guests, and gives the restaurant an opportunity to make any necessary adjustments.
Confirming your reservation also shows your commitment and helps the restaurant manage their bookings effectively.
By following these tips and making reservations in advance, you can ensure a smooth and stress-free dining experience for your family at a restaurant.
Keeping Kids Occupied and Well-Behaved
Bring small toys/books/coloring supplies
One way to keep kids occupied and well-behaved at a restaurant is by bringing along small toys, books, or coloring supplies. These items can help keep children entertained while waiting for their food to arrive.
Having a few quiet activities on hand can help prevent boredom and minimize the chances of disruptive behavior.
Plan tablet/phone activities
If your child enjoys using electronic devices, consider planning tablet or phone activities for them to enjoy during the meal. There are many educational apps and games available that can keep children engaged and entertained.
Just make sure to set screen time limits and choose age-appropriate content.
Teach restaurant manners beforehand
Before heading to a restaurant, it’s a good idea to teach your children about proper restaurant manners. Explain the importance of using a quiet voice, sitting still in their chair, and not disturbing other diners.
By setting clear expectations and explaining the rules in advance, you can help your kids understand what is expected of them.
Engage them in conversation
Engaging your children in conversation during the meal can keep them focused and prevent boredom. Ask them about their day, their favorite foods, or any topics that interest them. This not only helps keep them occupied but also promotes family bonding and communication.
Play simple games like I Spy
Playing simple games like “I Spy” or “20 Questions” can be a fun way to keep kids entertained and well-behaved at a restaurant. These games can help pass the time and engage their minds. Plus, they can be enjoyed by the whole family!
Praise good behavior
When your children exhibit good behavior at the restaurant, be sure to praise and acknowledge them. Positive reinforcement can go a long way in encouraging children to continue behaving well. A simple “Great job sitting quietly” or “I’m proud of how well you’re behaving” can make a big difference.
Take breaks for movement if needed
If your child is getting restless, it’s okay to take breaks for movement. Take a short walk around the restaurant or find a quiet corner where they can stretch their legs. Giving them a chance to release some energy can help them remain calm and well-behaved throughout the meal.
Handling Dietary Restrictions and Allergies
When eating out at a restaurant with family, it is important to be mindful of any dietary restrictions or allergies that you or your loved ones may have. Here are some tips on how to handle these situations:
Inform staff ahead of time
Before visiting a restaurant, consider calling ahead or making a reservation online to inform the staff about any dietary restrictions or allergies. This will give the restaurant time to prepare and make accommodations for your needs.
They may even be able to suggest specific menu items that would be suitable for you.
Review menu and ingredients
When you arrive at the restaurant, take a few moments to carefully review the menu and the ingredients used in each dish. Many restaurants now provide detailed descriptions of their dishes, including any potential allergens. This will help you make informed choices about what you can and cannot eat.
Ask about preparation
If you have specific concerns about cross-contamination or the way a dish is prepared, don’t hesitate to ask the server or the chef for more information. They will be able to provide you with details on how they handle allergens in the kitchen and whether they can make adjustments to accommodate your needs.
Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications to a dish. Most restaurants are happy to customize meals to suit dietary needs. Whether it’s requesting a substitution for an ingredient or asking for a sauce to be served on the side, speak up and let the staff know what you need.
Bring safe snacks/foods
If you are concerned about finding suitable options at the restaurant, consider bringing along some safe snacks or foods for yourself or your family members. This can help alleviate any stress or worry about not finding something suitable to eat, especially if you have children with dietary restrictions.
Teach kids to speak up politely
It’s important to teach children how to communicate their dietary needs politely. Encourage them to ask questions about ingredients, request modifications if needed, and thank the staff for their assistance. This will empower them to advocate for themselves and feel comfortable dining out.
Ordering Tips for a Smoother Meal
When dining out at a restaurant with family, ordering can sometimes be a bit challenging. To ensure a smoother meal experience, here are some helpful tips:
Allow kids to help order
Getting the kids involved in the ordering process can not only make them feel included, but it can also help prevent any potential picky eating issues. Letting them choose a dish from the kids’ menu or giving them a few options to choose from can make them more excited about the meal.
Additionally, some restaurants offer interactive menus or tablets for kids to explore and choose their own meals.
Get appetizers/sides for sharing
Ordering appetizers or sides that can be shared among the family is a great way to try a variety of dishes without feeling overwhelmed. It allows everyone to taste different flavors and can be a fun way to bond over food.
Some popular options for sharing include nachos, sliders, or a platter with a variety of small bites.
Order mains for variety
When it comes to ordering main courses, encourage each family member to choose something different. This way, everyone can sample a range of flavors and enjoy a variety of dishes. It can also make the dining experience more exciting and adventurous.
If there are any dietary restrictions or preferences, don’t hesitate to ask the waiter for suggestions or modifications.
Request food be brought spaced
To ensure that everyone can enjoy their meal at a comfortable pace, it’s a good idea to request that the food be brought out in stages. This way, dishes won’t get cold while waiting for others to finish. It can also help prevent any rush to finish eating before the next course arrives.
Simply let the server know your preference when placing the order.
Order dessert/drinks at the end
Save room for dessert by ordering it after the main course. This not only allows everyone to fully enjoy their meal without feeling too full, but it also gives everyone something to look forward to at the end.
Similarly, ordering drinks at the end can help avoid interruptions during the meal and keep the focus on enjoying the food and company.
By following these ordering tips, dining out at a restaurant with family can be a delightful and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
Minding Restaurant Etiquette with Family
Keep volume at moderate level
When dining out with family, it’s important to be mindful of the noise level. While it’s natural for children to be excited and talkative, it’s necessary to remind them to keep their voices at a moderate volume. This ensures that other diners can enjoy their meals without being disturbed.
Encourage your children to engage in conversation without shouting or screaming, and set a good example by speaking softly yourself.
Remain seated when possible
To maintain a peaceful and orderly dining experience, it’s best to encourage your family members, especially children, to remain seated as much as possible. Constantly getting up and wandering around can be disruptive to both your own dining experience and that of others.
Remind your family members to stay seated unless they need to use the restroom or have a legitimate reason to move around.
Use inside voices
Using inside voices is an essential part of restaurant etiquette. Speaking softly and using a conversational tone shows respect for other diners who may be enjoying a quiet meal. Teach your children the difference between appropriate indoor and outdoor voices, and remind them to use their inside voices while dining out.
Say please and thank you
A simple “please” and “thank you” can go a long way in creating a positive dining experience for everyone involved. Encourage your family members, especially children, to use polite language when interacting with the waitstaff and other restaurant employees.
This not only shows good manners but also helps to foster a friendly and respectful atmosphere.
Keep devices/toys contained
In today’s digital age, it’s common for both children and adults to be glued to their smartphones or tablets. However, when dining out with family, it’s best to keep these devices and toys contained. Encourage your family members to engage in conversation and enjoy the dining experience rather than being distracted by screens.
This allows for quality family time and ensures that everyone is present and engaged.
Clean up messes
Accidents happen, especially when dining out with young children. If a spill or mess occurs, it’s important to take responsibility and clean it up as quickly as possible. Use napkins or ask for assistance from the waitstaff if needed.
By doing so, you show respect for the restaurant’s cleanliness and the dining experience of other patrons.
Remember, practicing good restaurant etiquette with your family not only creates a pleasant dining experience for everyone but also sets a positive example for your children. By being mindful of noise levels, using polite language, and respecting the environment, you can enjoy a memorable meal together.
Making it a Memorable Family Experience
When dining out with your family, you want to create lasting memories that will be cherished for years to come. Here are some tips to ensure a memorable experience:
Capture moments with photos
Don’t forget to bring your camera or smartphone to capture the special moments during your family meal. Whether it’s a group photo at the table or candid shots of everyone enjoying their food, these photos will serve as a wonderful reminder of the bond and love shared during this time together.
Chat about positive parts of the day
While enjoying your meal, take the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation with your family. Share the positive parts of your day, ask each other questions, and listen attentively. This not only strengthens your family bond but also creates a positive and uplifting atmosphere at the table.
Let kids explore kids menu offerings
Many restaurants offer special menus for kids, with a variety of options tailored to their preferences. Allow your children to explore these offerings and make their own choices. This not only empowers them but also adds an element of excitement to their dining experience.
Indulge in dessert creations
No family meal is complete without a little indulgence. Take the opportunity to try out the restaurant’s dessert creations. From decadent chocolate cakes to refreshing fruit sorbets, these sweet treats are sure to delight everyone at the table.
Surprise with a small gift or activity
Make the dining experience extra special by surprising your family with a small gift or activity. It could be as simple as bringing along a small toy or puzzle to keep the kids entertained, or even organizing a fun family game to play during the meal.
These surprises add an element of excitement and make the experience even more memorable.
Create a tradition for special meals
Consider creating a tradition for special meals when dining out with your family. It could be something as simple as everyone sharing a favorite memory from the past week or taking turns choosing the restaurant for each special occasion.
These traditions create a sense of belonging and anticipation, making each family meal a truly special event.
Dining out with family can be an enjoyable bonding time with the right preparation and mindset. By choosing a welcoming restaurant, keeping kids engaged, accommodating dietary needs, strategizing orders, maintaining etiquette, and incorporating memorable moments, you can make it a smooth, stress-free, and fun occasion for all.
With this comprehensive guide, you now have the key tips for making your next family restaurant outing a big success. Bring this plan along and you’ll be ready for a great dining experience together.