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Eating in restaurants with children: a survival guide

By Nicola Arencibia

Planning to eat out en famille this Easter? You'll need to dig dip. We’re talking a level of patience that has to extend not only to your own sprogs, but also to all the people around you silently judging your parental skills. But you can do it. Here's how:

1. Lower your standards

Your choices now are so limited that spying a Leon on the horizon or finding a new topping on the Pizza Express menu are moments of pinch-yourself joy. Jamie’s Italian is your new Wolseley.

2. Feel the need for speed

Your kids will detonate after 60 minutes of confinement, so you need to be tactical with your restaurant choice and favour places with a wham-bam approach. 

3. Charge your devices

Technology is your friend. If an iPad full of ‘Peppa Pig’ will get you to the bill without being blacklisted by the restaurant, it’s worth the guilt. 

4. Give thanks for bread

Most children – especially small ones – will happily gnaw away on bread, so a crusty roll can double as a makeshift chew toy for a good 20 minutes. Little cherubs won’t eat their actual meal? Ask for more bread. They start whining? Stuff some bread in. You need more time while the bill comes? Bread is the answer.

5. Bribery is all

Ply them with pudding – or anything, really – in order to elicit good behaviour. We will brave the Lego Store if you eat your greens. We'll pick up a Maccy D's later if you sit on that goddam chair. You can play with the bleach bottle when we get home if you eat three more mouthfuls. That sort of thing.

6. Forget wine

Your child will soon discover that wine glasses/bottles/decanters and such are the most fascinating yet unstable vessels on the table, and sooner or later, they will topple the lot.

7. Don’t try to combine kids and friends

Stick to nuclear family only. No-one wants ringside seats as you attempt to force-feed/tame your own personal Damien. But hey, make the most of that quality family time or before you know it your little ones will be old enough to only want to eat out with their own friends. 

8. Never, ever be spontaneous

You will need: a high chair, a kids’ menu, changing facilities, a free table, the right sort of ambience, and child-friendly waiters. Leaving all this to chance is a recipe for misery. Book one of these tried and tested places instead.

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