“The age of your children is a key factor in how quickly you are served in a restaurant. We once had a waiter in Canada who said, ‘Could I get you your check?’ and we answered, ‘How about the menu first?'”

 – Erma Bombeck

Large family at a nice restaurant

Our wedding anniversary is coming up in a few weeks. Grandpa and I have decided to celebrate with a big family dinner at a nice sit-down restaurant.

It sounds like so much fun: dressed-up kids, best manners, good food, no clean-up – what could be better? In reality, a dinner out could be a minefield. As our family continues to grow, so do the potential conflicts.

Like cooking a perfect dinner, a family outing requires planning. What cuisine? What restaurant? Are the littlest kids invited? Plus one? Who is driving? Who is going to be late? Do we need reservations? Picky eaters? Allergies? Who is paying?

It’s tempting to take everyone out for fast food instead.

Ducks in a Row

We’ve survived more significant events, so we’re getting pretty good at herding (organizing the family) cats. Here are some of our best tips:

  • If you choose an ethnic restaurant, find a place with a few safe items on the menu. For example our family is split right down the middle on sushi. Because most menus will include Yakisoba and Teriyaki, we’ve all been able to enjoy our meals.
  • A couple of our favorite Breweries don’t have booster seats or high chairs. You know what that means? Kids aren’t welcome! If the kids are coming, stick to a family-friendly restaurant.
  • If you are inviting everyone – figure out how many you are really asking. Make a guest list. Our adult kids, their partners, adult grandkids, their partners? It’s oK to insist on an RSVP when you have to make reservations. For a whole family event, you have to make reservations!
  • Make it clear from the initial invitation who is paying. If you aren’t paying, don’t be hurt if some can’t afford to come.

In the restaurant

Eating out requires a step up in good manners from the adults and the kids. Grandmas can set the rules in a way that parents can’t. I love using the manners game to help the kids stay on track. They usually have fun trying to ‘win’.

Don’t count on the restaurant to have something to amuse the children. Bring a bag with crayons, paper, and so on. If you can get away with it, seat the kids with someone fun.

Do you prefer a phone-free dinner? Then start by turning yours off deliberately. Make a deal of it and encourage the phone pile.

Avoid turning the evening into a family therapy session by letting the adults figure out their own seating.

Ending the evening

The upside (or downside) of going out to eat is that the evening ends when you leave the restaurant. Enjoy dessert, make sure everyone is sober and ask your server to take photos.

Tip well and start planning the next Sunday Dinner at Grandma’s.


Watch out for photos! We’ll be posting soon! ~ Grandma

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