Dining out is incredibly popular. According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurant industry sales in 2016 were expected to exceed $782 billion in the United States alone. But dining out is not exclusive to the United States. Restaurants Canada reports that the Canadian restaurant industry accounts for nearly 4 percent of the country's economic activity while directly employing just under 7 percent of the country's entire workforce.
Dining out would seemingly appeal to diners from all walks of life, but parents of young children may find it difficult to enjoy dining out with tots in tow. The following tips can help parents of young children make the most of their nights out as a family.
· Do your homework. Parents should take some time before choosing a restaurant to examine the menus and policies of any establishments they are considering. Many restaurants make their menus available online, so parents can compare menus of various establishments to determine which have the most kid-friendly fare. Some restaurants have children's menus, while others do not. Examine menus ahead of time so you don't arrive at the restaurant only to sit down and discover it does not have anything your children are likely to eat. In addition, determine if restaurants have any specific rules regarding children. Some might not allow youngsters after a certain hour, while others might go above and beyond to accommodate families.
· Dine during off-peak hours. Parents concerned about how their children will behave in a restaurant setting can get kids used to the dining out experience by dining during off-peak hours, such as late afternoon or very early in the evening. Restaurants are less crowded during these times, and that can lessen concerns parents might have about upsetting other customers.
· Bring something to keep kids occupied. Parents may want to bring something along to keep kids distracted in case the restaurant is busy or meals take longer to prepare than expected. While tablets with video games or movies might keep kids occupied on road trips, it's best to avoid bringing something noisy into a restaurant setting. Coloring books, word search puzzles or traditional books won't distract or upset fellow diners and can help keep kids occupied until dinner is served.
· Ask to be seated at a kid-friendly table. When being seated, ask the hostess to seat your party in an area where kids won't be distracted or grow antsy. A corner booth can make for a cozy family meal, and kids won't be distracted by fellow diners or even other youngsters in the restaurant.
· Explain restaurant etiquette to youngsters before going out. If the family dinner table at home is short on etiquette but long on fun, explain to youngsters that the same rule does not apply at the restaurant. Parents can explain that it's still okay to have fun when dining out, but that the volume needs to be turned down and everyone must remain in their seats unless they need to use the restroom.
Parents can calm their nerves about dining out with youngsters by employing a few strategies that can make family nights out on the town enjoyable for all involved.