Americans LOVE to eat out and it can be quite an adventure taking a handful of kiddos to a meal in public. Here are some helpful tips and suggestions just from our countless eating out experiences.
kids eat free
No parent wants to pay $5.99 for special "kid-friendly" meal when (more than likely) Junior won't eat it all. Here is a helpful website that can be customized to your city and state. http://mykidseatfree.mobi
You will find all of the restaurants in your area that offer a kids eat free night! How helpful is that?!
If it's decent weather, and if it's even a possibility at the restaurant you choose, sit outside. I think it's just better for everyone all around: you aren't too concerned about the little ones raising their voices or spilling drinks and handfuls of food, and I have found that we just have a more relaxing and pleasant meal if we aren't cooped up inside trying to keep each stray food morsel from hitting the ground.
We used to let our kids choose what drink they wanted, but then it got kinda dicey. For one, there's always a million choices the waiter spouts off, then there's the period of decision making for each child, then there's the "I changed my mind" decision. So unless the drink is included in the price of the meal, they are ordered water. Mommy orders water too, we always let Daddy get whatever he wants.:)
With four kids and the price of a child's entree these days at most places, we always share. For example, at Mexican restaurants we order two kids quesadilla plates with rice and beans on each. Ask in advance for extra plates. Then when it arrives, you receive a huge quesadilla that I cut into 2/3 for one of the boys and give the remaining 1/3 to one of the girls and divide up the beans and rice respectfully and everyone eats everything...not to mention we've saved about $8-$10 by not ordering two more kid meals. On top of that, the ungodly amounts of chips and salsa that's consumed before the meal comes out is more than plenty of food.
ask for the check after ordering
We don't always do this, but it allows you the freedom to leave as soon as you are done eating as opposed to sitting around with antsy "I've sat for an hour already" kids waiting for the waitress to show up with the check. If you aren't getting dessert, get the check with your meal.
avoid bad timing
Nobody wants to eat out with a bunch of kiddos close to their naptime or so close to bedtime at night. This one is common sense and I'm probably wasting my breath articulating this one.
Not to get on a soapbox here, but please tip your server appropriately. Whether you do it as a percentage of your total, or so much per person ($2 per family member, for example), be proud of the tip you've given. And if you follow Christ, and you tip $2-$3 on your bill, that is disgraceful, embarrassing, and a poor witness!! Tip with love and appreciation in mind.
clean up after yourself
My husband and I usually get scolded by the wait staff if they catch us wiping down the floors or picking up crumbs before we leave. However, we don't go into another's house, destroy it and then thank them for inviting us over without cleaning our mess. We know that there are people paid for that job, but especially if you have young ones, toddlers, babies...it doesn't hurt to clean up at least SOME of the mess your child made. I have witnessed way too many after church crowd families leave an absolute explosion at their table upon their departure and it's just nauseating to me. What kind of witness is that?! Clean up your mess!!!
no phone zone
Make eating out a wonderful, loving, attentive experience by leaving your phone in your pocket. Ask your children fun questions, play a game where you have to guess what animal or object someone is by giving clues, draw lots of pictures using the crayons and paper they give. No phones. No YouTube videos of their favorite shows for the kids, no adult texting, no electronic devices allowed. Enjoy your family, enjoy your meal together, and count your blessings.
Eating out is fun! What a privilege!
Ps. Product we LOVE for eating out: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B000TVWIPU