Restaurant Etiquette

by Julie

cartoon image of child at a restaurant

There is a whole new dimension to restaurant etiquette once you become a parent. Everyone seems to follow their own set of rules, and no one can seem to agree on what is appropriate and what is not appropriate when you eat out with a child. This topic is completely subjective, so here is my side of the story…

1) What types of restaurants are suitable for children?

The majority of restaurants are suitable for children if you go at the right time. Billy and I have started calling it happy hour, because telling people you are going out to dinner at 4:30 sounds a little strange. My rule of thumb is that if they have high chairs or booster seats, then you are good-to-go.

2) When is the right time to eat out with a child?

It depends on their age, and the restaurant. Newborns and school-age children can eat out past 7, but with a baby or toddler I like to eat anywhere from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Anything later and you are getting into the adults only crowd, and pushing it with bath and bedtime. If you want to go fancy, eat early. If it’s casual, go when you please.

3) Who should clean up after my child? 

You! Especially, if you have a child like mine, who thinks it’s hilarious to throw food on the ground (he also likes to laugh when I say “no”). Just give it your best effort, and pick up the big chunks on the floor. The servers and busers will be very grateful (trust me…I used to be one). My new favorite accessory for easy clean-up when you are eating out is a table topper.

4) How much noise level is appropriate? 

Once again, it depends on the restaurant. If the hums of the restaurant can mute your child’s shrieks then stay put, but if your little one starts to draw attention from other tables, do yourself and everyone else a favor and take a walk. A little distraction usually does the trick!

5) How long should dinner last? 

Unless you’re at McDonalds, Chuckie Cheese, or some other restaurant with a play zone, I wouldn’t go longer than an hour. If you can get your child to sit in a high chair for an hour, then give yourself a pat on the back, but don’t make them sit forever. They are kids, and they need to wiggle!

6) How can parents prepare for taking their kids out to dinner? 

Don’t assume the restaurant will have what you need. Be prepared! Always bring a sippy cup, snacks, and a pouch (just in case). Also, bring the essentials for keeping your child and the restaurant clean, to the best of your ability: bib, table topper and wipes. If your child eats off of a plate, then you are in a whole different league.

What restaurant etiquette do you follow when you eat out with your child?

P.S If you haven’t read this story about the crying baby at Alinea. Check it out!

(cartoon image from

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