Took my kids out to dinner the other night at Red Robin, which we usually like because they have both acceptable grown up food and kid food, they are reasonably priced, they have a little game room at the front to distract the kids, and they sell beer which on occasion is a requirement. It’s one of our top default out-to-dinner-with-the-whole-tribe destinations.
Normally they do a really good job there. Last night, not so much. Rather than rehash what went wrong here (don’t worry — I’ll passively/aggressively rehash it in a second) I’ll just list out some ideas that may help servers and restaurants better meet the needs of their customers, enable said customers to spend money, and encourage the same customers to leave more tips.
If someone walks into your restaurant with a child or children under 10, please always do the following things.
- Always remember the golden rule parents have when taking their children out in public: Get your children out of public as fast as is humanly possible. This not happening has never once been good for anyone.
- Constantly look over to me, wherever you are in the room. If you are not in the room, constantly get in the room and look at me. Look down just long enough to jot down orders in your little book for your other tables and to avoid running into a busser and hilariously destroying a bunch of dishes. I am not necessarily going to need very much from you, but when I do, I need it NOW! Don’t make me bust out an “Excuse me” from across the restaurant.
- Be ready to take my order the second I sit down. Your kids menu has the exact same food as every other kids menu. My kids already know what they want (or, quite possibly never will, but I’ll already know what I want to order for them). I’ll know what I want. If I’m waiting on someone, assume that I know what they want and can order for them. If, heaven forbid, I’m not ready to order, see rule #2 above.
- Under no circumstances should you go on break while I am there. Ever. If you do, turn the ticket over to someone else and make them aware of rule #1. Do not deliver our food, check on us, then be gone for a half an hour, because I’ll be ready to leave 5 minutes after our food arrives.
- No matter what happens, be gracious. I’m not any happier about my kids being here than you are, but at some point they need sunlight or they’ll get a Vitamin-D deficiency, and sometimes I don’t want to dip from the unending pot of mac-and-cheese with hot dogs cut up in it. We are here, deal with it. Acting perturbed isn’t going to do anything but help me break rule #1, which isn’t good for anybody. I know we are messy. I have plenty of disposable income to make it up to you. Don’t make me feel like an a-hole.
- Bring my children’s food as soon as it is ready. Make mine soon afterwards. Push my food to the front of the line. Trust me, people will understand.
- Do not serve my children food that is 3 billion degrees. I understand they only eat fried things and those things are fried in very hot oil, but delivering food that my children can’t eat for 20 minutes and will burn themselves on isn’t any better than bringing it 20 minutes later at an appropriate temperature.
- For the love of God do not say the word “dessert” or any examples of it in front of my kids. I’m well aware that your restaurant serves it, and if I want some I’ll ask you. In fact, if I want some, I will have almost certainly already ordered it at the same time as my meal.
- Little known fact to non-parents: kids never actually eat food at restaurants. I can’t take this food with me for future use as a car air freshener or home penicillin kit if I don’t have boxes. I won’t want to wait on those boxes. Give me some boxes when you give us our food.
- Offer me my check within 2 minutes of my food hitting the table. You can always go add more stuff to it if you need to, but I need to be ready to pay now. Be fully prepared for me to hand you my credit card at any point. Always be ready to take my money and take it quickly. Nothing will lose you a tip faster than a long wait to actually complete the transaction (note: that is also true when I’m out without kids).
So that’s pretty much it. Hitting on all of that stuff will assure you a 25+% tip every time. Anything less and I’ll blog your butt and send the link into corporate.
Finally, in honor of my son’s fifth birthday, here’s a bonus tip.
- If I ask you about a damned birthday cake and singing as I’m ordering, assume I’m not interested in waiting for 10 minutes after all of us are done eating in order to go and track down the hostess to hurry you up because you’ve already broken rule #2. This will result in a pre-tax tip of 15%, which, quite frankly, you were lucky to get.
To the good people at Red Robin corporate who may be reading this, please don’t fire this guy. He was really nice and didn’t come anywhere near breaking all of these rules (he was polite and professional, but really, really hard to track down and everything took FOREVER even though we beat the rush), but as a family-friendly restaurant I would encourage you to make sure your people know that families dining with you have special needs, and doing a better job meeting them will help you (and your staff) make a lot more money.
Please note that some of our follow up experiences at Red Robin have been much, much better.