Way back when, when I waited tables in a chain restaurant that made me wear pieces of flair, it was standard to ask parents if they would like their children’s meals to come out as soon as possible. Some parents said yes. Some said no. I never thought much about it.
When I had my own kids, though, I formed an opinion. When the boys were very young and we were still going to the type of chain restaurants that I had worked in, I had their meals brought out first. It gave me the opportunity to cut up food for them so that by the time my meal I arrived, I’d have the chance to eat without constantly attending to the boys.
By the time they hit 5 or 6 years old, though, I had their meals brought out at the same time as the adult meals. I wanted the boys to learn that everyone eats together and that they should have patience while waiting for someone else to prepare their food.
It’s been a while since either of my boys ordered from a kids’ menu, and I haven’t had to answer the “would you like the children’s meals brought out first” question in years. So I was taken by surprise a couple of weeks ago, when my 11-year-old had his meal served before the rest of the table. We were at an upscale burger chain, and he ordered off the kids’ menu because he didn’t want a huge burger. (My burger was delicious, but I would have been happy with a kids’ size portion. too.)
The waitress didn’t ask if I wanted his meal brought out first. His burger was brought out so early that he was finished before the rest of our meals arrived. I was annoyed, and so was my son. He understood he ordered from the kids’ menu, but he couldn’t believe someone would think he was unable to be patient and wait for his food.
He was insulted at the assumption, and so was I. There was a basic assumption by the waitress that I had raised my 11-year-old son to be impatient. That I didn’t set a standard for him to partake in a family meal as a full-fledged member of the family.
I ended up talking to a manager about it. I wasn’t nasty. I didn’t demand a free or reduced meal because we had been insulted. I simply wanted him to know that his waitress had sold my kid short, and she shouldn’t have done that.
To me, it doesn’t matter if every other parent wants their kids’ meals brought out early because they haven’t figured out how to get their children to be patient or hold a conversation. A server who wants to do his best serving job will not assume I’m like every other parent. It only takes a quick question to find that out.
I have the same rules when we eat out as I have when we dine at home. We sit down. No technology at the table. Everyone eats at the same time. There is conversation.
If my son ever orders from a children’s menu again, I’ll be sure to tell the waiter or waitress to bring it out with everyone else's meals — but I think it’s ridiculous that I should have to do so.
When you’re out to eat with kids, do you expect their meals to be brought out first, or do you expect them to be on equal footing with the adults after a certain age?
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