Eating out: The guide for families

When you’re young and free of responsibilities, there’s nothing quite like venturing to a restaurant to enjoy dinner. Then, when the responsibilities hit home, suddenly something changes.

As pretty much every parent in the land will testify, eating out with little ones is anything but straightforward. It’s something that prompts all sorts of problems, stress and leaves many of us asking why we didn’t just attempt to cook at home.

Well, if you fall into said category, let’s take a look at some of the best ways to tackle eating out as a young family. Whether it’s the restaurants around Covent Garden or national chains, all of the following advice should help your quest for a pleasant meal out no-end.

Make sure you go armed with a bag of time-fillers

Let’s start with one of the most important things you can do ahead of your big meal out. Even if you have chosen the most child-friendly restaurant in the city, you know your kids better than anyone and you know what keeps them entertained. For some, the regular colouring handed out by high-street chains will suffice, but you might need to be a little more creative with your own kids.

There will be times where everyone is left twiddling their thumbs, and this is where the drama can unfold. To avoid this, bring along the tried-and-tested toys and activities that are going to keep your little ones quiet. We’re by no means suggesting you should bring along loud iPads and be “that” noisy family, but try to bring along a bag full of items that you know will keep your little family entertained for an hour or so.

Eating out is a reward

If you regularly dine out, this might be hard to enforce. Children need to know that they are being treated and if they just expect a meal at a restaurant as an everyday occurrence, the chances of them misbehaving suddenly increases substantially.

Instead, reiterate the importance of eating out, and just how much this should be valued. Make sure you spell out the message that good behaviour is required at all times – there’s no negotiating here.

Timing is everything

This next suggestion might be a little more surprising, but let’s talk about the importance of timing and just how important it is to time your visit accordingly. If you head out to the best restaurant in town at 1pm, it goes without saying that you’re asking for trouble. You’re going to not only have to queue to be given a table, but the waiting times for each course aren’t going to be short either.

The best way to mitigate the above is to make sure you go early. If you’re going for lunch, go for the earliest sitting possible. The same rules apply to every other meal as well. By being the first one in, you don’t only get that elusive choice of tables without any queuing, but you can also get your order straight to the kitchen before the next surge of diners enter the picture.

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Photo Credit: Aaron Burden Alex Holyoake Thibault Copleux

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