Get widget

Monday, February 28, 2011

Serve Families First

This is going to sound privileged and whiny, but hear me out. Parents with children should be served first.  I know it looks like I'm out for special treatment and think the world owes me because I chose to drag my brood into the restaurant, post office, wherever, but it's not just for my sake.  It's for your sake.  It's for the sake of the other patrons.

Please, don't read me wrong. I don't wish that you ignore your other customers. And if you choose to see to them first, I would never complain, as that's really the way things should be.  But, I'm telling you from experience, if you bend the rules just slightly, your shift will run a lot more smoothly. Three minutes of waiting to the couple to our right is a much shorter time than three minutes to the toddlers I have with me. And that couple will most likely enjoy their meal much more if they don't have toddlers accidentally spilling their milk across the room, or wailing loudly, or singing silly songs at the top of their lungs.  All of these things happen when toddlers are forced to sit in one spot and bored.

So, when we've just been seated, and you're done rolling your eyes at having to serve the family table, (it's okay, I'd roll my eyes, too, but we'll leave you a good tip) and we put our drinks in, really, go and get our drinks.  It will help us distract the babies while you tend to your other, less offensive, patrons. When you come back with those drinks, if you ask to take our order, it will take you mere seconds and save precious and annoying minutes off the other end.

If we're not yet ready to order (and, trust me, we will try very hard to be ready as soon as possible), and you say you'll be back in a minute, try to be back in a minute. Normally, when diners aren't yet ready to order, it gives the waitstaff a reprieve to check on other tables, take a break, find out what's going on in the kitchen, etc. Now, you have every right to do that, should we need another minute, but, again, if you come back quickly, it may save everyone around us a huge headache. There are only so many times we can point out letters on the sugar packets before one of those packets gets torn open, know what I mean?

Now, parents should be able to control their kids, it's true, and you have no responsibility toward them if they can't or don't. We do absolutely suck sometimes. (Sometimes, we're awesome, the kids behave, they're cute, they don't ruin anything or make a mess, and we leave a big tip for your hassle. This is what every parent strives for, I assume.)

The most important time to be quick, though, for everyone, is after the meal is over.  Usually there is a nice, slow, three-step process here, in which a server drops off the check and leaves, the patron puts the money or the card in and waits, the server after taking care of hungry customers on whose tip he or she is still depending, comes back and takes the money.

A slight adjustment here would help parents, servers, and other customers.  When the check is delivered, wait for two seconds longer than normal.  The parent will most likely pull out a card right away because at this point we are dying to leave the restaurant.  There is nothing left with which to distract the kids, no promise of forthcoming goods or fun, and nothing new to show them.  We need to leave, and we need to leaev now. When the parent whips out the card in a flash and gives it to a server, the server would do well to run it right away and give it back.  The sooner the family gets out of the restaurant, the better, for all involved.

I'm not saying parents deserve special treatment. We certainly do not.  However, should you choose to give it to us of your own voilition, things might be better for everyone.  Don't do it for us; we're the jerks who showed up and  ruined your shift.  Do it for you.  You have the power to salvage that shift, yet.

If you like this blog, please vote for it at Tales of an Unlikely Mother on  We're number 15, just scroll down and click on the thumbs up!  It's quick and easy to do!


  1. As someone who has waited tables and many of those tables having children, I can't say I ever really remember the feeling of dread at having to wait on a family. and usually if I am annoyed after they leave, it is the parents who made me feel this way. I think things would go much further if people would remember that kids are kids and cut them some slack. I mean yeah, there are some children that are terrors, but in the grand scheme of things, they aren't really as bothersome as people seem to think they are. Or maybe I am just a little more tolerant.
    I do agree that places like post offices would be so much easier if they had a family line, like at the airport! :P

    (or maybe if you are a single person not in a hurry and you see a family with small children, offer to let them go ahead of you! I have had this happen before and it is such a welcome change, and usually the trip is a lot smoother because we get out of wherever much faster)

  2. I am so, so with you here. Do I feel like families deserve special treatment? No. But for the love of God, just use your brain, folks. Do not make things harder on *everyone* just for the sake of following the standard order of things!


    -Karinya @ Unlikely Origins

  3. Gotta disagree. As a mom and both a former retail manager and server I can say the only person whose life is made easier by this is yours. The public is not going to see me bending the rules as a positive for them, they're going to be mad and the person they're going to be mad at is me. If your kids are acting up because you have to wait three minutes they're going to be mad at you and likely nicer to me because I'm in the same boat with them.

    Same thing with serving. If you have to wait while I check other tables the only tip I'm putting in jeopardy is yours. The other tables are going to tip me the same or better because I have to put up with the unruly family. If I go all out making sure your dining experience is as smooth as possible then the other tables are going to notice that you're getting better service and my tip will suffer. Better to lose one tip than five.

    You're also assuming that other families act like you do and get their payment out right away or make any other attempt to be considerate of other patrons. It's pretty standard for servers to bring families their checks while they're still eating so parents don't have to deal with it after the meal. I've had more than one family accuse me of trying to rush them out because they have kids. When you're trying to serve the public you can't win.

  4. I see both sides of this. I have 4 kids and there are certain things I avoid... like the post office and restaurants where I am bound to receive attitude (thanks, anonymous.. lol). I hear people saying they'd pay extra to have a kid-free zone on airplanes... hallelujah! I cannot imagine how awesome it would be to NOT have to deal with kidless people who are intolerant and forget what it was like to be a kid... or have a kid... or were treated like crap as a kid and think that if children are not sitting as quiet and still as churchmice then the parents are just Bad Parents. Ooops... getting heated here. I need to stop :)

    I have also waited tables and remember that the hardest tables USUALLY tipped the worst... and often those were families. Sometimes it was simply because the parents were so distracted.

    It's true... when you're trying to serve the public, you can't win. But you can be nice and work with common sense.

  5. I hear you about the check. When I'm holding out my credit card as I ask for it, that means we've precious few seconds left of restaurant manners.

    My bigger gripe, though, is with people who eat in family restaurants and are offended to have to eat among families. If I've sacrificed my own culinary satisfaction to eat at Friendly's so we can comfortably bring the kids, I will not spend the entire meal trying to shush my relatively well-behaved kids so that someone else can have a child-free meal. Don't roll your eyes at me, go somewhere that doesn't give out free balloons.

  6. I'll admit, I do have very limited experience here. I didn't know that families often don't tip well. I would have assumed that they tipped very well, given the trouble they are causing by going out. For my family, we certainly don't tip worse if we're not taken care of first. There is no obligation there, obvs. But, I think, the things I was suggesting aren't indicative of ignoring other families for the needs of one table. It seems to me that a drink tray could easily carry that table's drinks and two little chocolate milks, saving the server a trip, and us a few minutes. I could be totally off-base though, since I am the family.

    All I know is, having been single and having been the family...everyone tends to want the kids out of the restaurant asap.

    It's great that the other patrons would commiserate with the server; I certainly wouldn't expect them to sympathize with any parent unable to control their kids. Still, I'd bet both the server and the patrons sympathizing with them would rather the kids just be out of everyone's hair.

  7. I kind of agree with you... My tactic is to beg to be seated away from other people, if at all possible. Then I tip REALLY well, especially if my son is naughty or makes a mess. He always makes a mess.

    My son was an angel in restaurants until he was maybe 18 or 20 months old. Now he's sometimes a monster.

  8. One thing I have learned is to try your absolute hardest to have your cash/card/payment ready BEFORE getting the bill. In my experience, whether I have the kids with me or its just my husband and I, it seems as though once you are given the bill, the waiter forgets to come back for ages.

    My kids may not (ok definitely are not) always the quietest by the end of the meal, but I do not feel that I should have to tip more than anybody else, like percentage wise. I get sometimes a kid may make a mess, but if mine do, I do my best to pick it up. My husband and I always organize the dirty dishes so its easier for the waiter to pick up (and its farther from grabby little fingers). I see people get annoyed when we walk in with 2 little boys, and I love proving them wrong (well, most of the kids are far from perfect!)

  9. Move to Europe. They've got the whole restaurant thing down cold. In the UK families with kids go out for dinner nice and promptly at 5 or 6, they're the only people in the restaurant usually because everyone else eats later (8 or 9). And if you're out for lunch, or you are surrounded by other patrons the other patrons are HAPPY not to be rushed out of the restaurant at breakneck speed. What is with the American desire to have everything 5 minutes ago? What happened to sitting down with a bottle of wine and chatting for the extra 10 minutes between courses? Don't get me wrong I don't want to be sitting around waiting for my dinner for 3 hours but I also don't want to have my main served before I'm done with my salad thank you. And if the family next to me is having trouble keeping the kids entertained PLEASE server them first! Am I alone here?

  10. We've eaten in many, many restaurants with our three children. And they (In our opinions) are not always the easiest to dine with (although it DOES get easier as they get older. Many times, the waitstaff will bring out some bread or popcorn for the kids while they wait. And often, they will ask if we want their meals put in first even if we are not ready to order.

    When my daughters were younger (three under three years old) we would bring books, puzzles, crayons and other quiet things they could play with while they wait. This dramatically decreased the amount of "bored time".



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...