Not all “family-friendly” restaurants are created equal. This is something I discovered the hard way when at brunch with friends two weeks ago. My ever-restless one-year-old had managed to escape the harness of the restaurant-provided highchair and was attempting to launch himself at my butter knife when my husband plucked him from the air.
After the “incident” I stopped and really considered my surroundings. Beyond having easily escapable highchairs, the restaurant we were at wasn’t exactly what you’d call family-friendly. It was a nice enough place, and there were plenty of kids around, but in my heightened state of vigilance, all I could see was danger.
That being said, here we explore how to spot a family-friendly restaurant and what you can do if you’re feeling a little wary.
Find out how well-trained the staff are
Look for reviews discussing how the staff treat guests. At many restaurants, the servers will comprise a lot of younger people without children – for the most part, people who have no idea what it’s like trying to manage kids. Restaurants that take pride in training their staff are more likely to treat kids with the same respect as they would adults (hey! kids are customers too).
This is also particularly important because a well-trained staff member will know not to place a scalding hot coffee within a child’s reach. It seems obvious, but I’ve had waiters put coffees at the edge of the table or try to pass them to me over my son’s head – a BIG no-no (things spill).
Something you can do, too, is to ask for a table larger than what’s actually required. For example, if you’re a family of four, ask for a table that seats six (if there is room, of course). This way, you can have more room between everyone – if you’ve brought child paraphernalia to keep the kids busy, they’ll have more space to do their thing, and you’ll still have room to eat without them grabbing your utensils.
See if they have kid supplies or activities
A family-friendly restaurant doesn’t have to have a McDonald’s style ball pit to be fun for the little ones. Many restaurants keep special kid packs, like boxed crayons and placemats – these are the places where you want to be. Even better is if you find a restaurant that provides sippy cups as toddlers aren’t exactly adept at drinking from highball glasses!
This is all stuff you should be probably be bringing with you, but you know that a restaurant wants to do right by families if they have these in stock.
Even if they don’t have activities specifically designed for kids, one great thing to look out for (if you’re travelling somewhere warm, especially) are restaurants that have spacious outdoor areas where kids can roam. We particularly love places that are set up on the beach. Let them burn off energy while you’re waiting for the food to arrive.
Look up the kids’ menu beforehand
Menus are easy to find these days. Unless it’s a family-style sharing restaurant, search out the kids’ menu before you get too carried away with all the delectable things you could be eating. What are they offering the kids? If it’s the usual chicken fingers, hamburger or pancake deal, they’re probably not giving kids a second thought.
If you see things like a babyccino on the menu, they’re more likely to give kids the same service they would an adult!
Another tell-tale sign about kid-friendliness is whether or not they allow modifications to the meals!
Talk to a pro
If you’re travelling with The Luxe Nomad, you have access to a complimentary concierge service. The concierge team members are well-versed in restaurants that are genuinely welcoming of families, having tried many of them themselves. Talk to them about your needs, and they’ll put you on the right track!