Paul Roub

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An Open Letter to Restaurateurs

We’ve all heard the crime-prevention refrain that car thieves, for example, will go for the most convenient target. Alarms, wheel locks, etc. can’t prevent a theft, but by making it more difficult, more time-consuming, you lead the thief to grab someone else’s less-difficult ride.

By very clumsy analogy, the same thinking is applied by parents choosing a restaurant for dinner. Of course we want good food, courteous service, tolerable pricing, etc. But that almost always leaves a number of options. What to do?

Make it easier for us to eat at your place. You don’t have to add clowns, rides, games, animatronics. Trust me, for most of us, Chuck E. Cheese’s is the third circle of hell. Just eliminate some of the pain. A few examples:

Functioning High Chairs
Nothing fancy. Simple is good. The wooden ones with the strap are just fine. Except when the strap is missing. Or broken. Or missing one of the buckles. Or when the high chair feels rickety and about to collapse.
Clean High Chairs
Just wipe them down before you put them away. That’s all we ask, really. Just so the next family doesn’t have to see gobs of food left over from the last.
Include the Kids’ Menu in the Adult Menu
The kids’-menu placemats (plus crayons, please include the crayons) are great. But they’re in use, as a coloring book, a hat, a brooch, a pterodactyl. Please repeat the information on the big laminated menu in my hands. Thanks.
Bendy Straws
Like I said, it’s the little things. Toddlers with long, straight straws will inevitably tip the cup about 80 degrees to get the thing in their mouth. Spills, messes and tears follow. Flexible straws can’t cost that much more, and yes, Sysco has them.
Serve Kid’s Food Warm
As opposed to mouth-searingly hot. Too-hot-to-touch plates are not the most kid-friendly move, either. This is easier than you think - the kids’ portions are almost always ready first, anyway. Let ‘em sit and cool off while the parents’ dishes are in progress.
Changing Stations.
Clean ones. Make sure the straps work. Keep the disposable changing pad dispenser full.
A Changing Station In The Men’s Room.
You have no idea how much the moms will appreciate this one.
Seat Families in the Real Non-Smoking Section
If you’re in a state that still allows a smoking section, by all means go ahead, it’s your business. But if I ask you to sit my family in the Non-Smoking Section, the tables right next to the (Smoking Allowed) bar, or directly adjacent to the smoking section, don’t really cut it. So now we’re six feet from the smoke instead of three? Gee, thanks.
Let Us Decide About Dessert
It’s really nice of you to bring by the free cookies, ice cream, or whatever it is you offer the kids at the end of the meal. But if someone’s having a picky-eater day, and has eaten a total of one kernel of corn in the last hour, the parents aren’t going to be thrilled that you’ve turned them into the bad guy; now we have to take away a chocolate-chip cookie from a four-year-old. Which is not fun. Watch it sometime. Just, perhaps, ask first. Ask the parents, in case that’s not abundantly clear by now.

You can certainly expand on this list. Ask your customers. See for yourself. If you don’t have kids of your own, take some friend’s kids for dinner at your restaurant. Deal with all the aspects of getting them seated, fed, cleaned up, happy. Try to involve a potty and/or diaper break. If nothing else, your friends will appreciate an hour or two to themselves.

Comments? Additions?