I was reading a blog recently humorously listing off all the reasons you shouldn’t take your kid to a restaurant.
My wife and I are an anomaly in this arena. Not only do we take two kids under 4 to breakfast every Saturday, we’ve taken them on numerous road trips, plane rides to Berlin, Honolulu, and New York (when we were living in Florida and New York was pretty far away). Almost all of these adventures were without incident, my laptop touch pad the sole casualty of a sippy cup incident on the way back from Hawaii. We time things around nap time, keep kids occupied with some combination of books, screens, and funny faces, and keep it together when a child decides they want to have a sword fight with the little wooden coffee stirrers.
But this isn’t an essay to humble brag on what great parents we are. It’s an essay to beg the question as to why the restaurants near our home are generally so damned hostile to families. It doesn’t need to be this way.
On that crazy Christmas vacation to Berlin to see extended family, my wife and I noticed that most restaurants and virtually all coffee shops had an area set aside for kids to go wild. This was usually tucked away in a corner off to the side and parents could enjoy their meals with one eye on the play area but still enjoying an adult conversation with spouses, friends, and coworkers. I queried a few European friends in other countries and discovered this is also the norm there.
In the US and Canada, that area would be taken up by two extra tables that would remain unused in all except the busiest of times. So, for the few extra bucks of profit earned only during peak service times, restaurants willingly alienate an entire class of potential patrons. In fact, the only places that are willing to cater to families are fast food places like Chick-fil-A, McDonalds, and rarely, Burger King.
Millennials are increasingly taking up a large market share of restaurant expenditures. I’d say its high time to demand a place for our kids to play as we eat our avocado toast and bitch about student debt.
We’ll pick motels for being friendly to our fur babies, so it’s not a big ask restaurants to set something aside for our real babies. In the meantime, I’ll keep plugging along every Saturday for breakfast in Fredericksburg, VA enduring my playful 2-year-old for as long as I can before I hand him my phone and hope for the best.