WAITING: Kids

Hi! Doing well today? Well I am just fine. My name is GIGANTIC FAGGOT, and I will be waiting on you. Today, we will discuss kids.

I work at a “family restaurant” which includes a separate kids’ menu, is furnished with crayons and paper tablecloths, and hands out string and dry penne noodles to make necklaces.

I feel like most of my coworkers, or people my age, for that matter, aren’t nearly as patient being around children as I am. I don’t know why.

That said, kids are not desirable customers. They leave larger messes, make more noise, and only increase the bill half as much as adults (at my restaurant, which normally runs about $15 per adult, a kid’s meal is $5.75 including beverage and a cookie, virtually guaranteeing kids are worth no more). They also aren’t involved in deciding your tip, so in a practical sense, they aren’t really even your customers. They tend to be pickier eaters, but this is mostly the parents’ domain; rare is the adult who demands a free replacement dish if their child refuses to eat what is ordered.

Granted, a crying baby is unpleasant for everyone, and I do greatly appreciate the parent who will courteously remove themselves from the restaurant. Small children running back and forth in the open areas of the restaurant may be annoying, and an even greater concern is running into one; carrying multiple plates of food and jerking backwards to avoid stepping on a kid’s foot means there’s a heightened chance of showering him with shards of porcelain and burning marinara sauce. And this is America, home of the lawsuit; I wouldn’t expect the parent to blame the child for such an accident, and any resultant injury would pan out as my responsibility (in terms of monetary compensation, of course). Therefore, it’s important to get your kids to stay in the damn seat. Saying nothing as your daughter runs back and forth across the restaurant, pushing a high chair, is not socially acceptable, especially because the customer-is-king culture (and store policy!) does not permit the server to say anything in your stead. Badly-behaved children are a thorn in my side. Don’t let them break all the crayons in half, run into the kitchen/alley, or scream their asses off; they don’t need to be punished, they need to be kept in check!

On the upside, children (of reasonable parents) can be used as a tool to increase customer rapport. Kids are almost always too shy/inarticulate to demand extra errands from the waiter, and their entire meal is delivered in one dish. A couple with four kids may have a $50 bill instead of a $100 bill for six adults, but at least kids mean a little less work. The misbehavior typically constant of a small child is so minor as not to actually bother me. Polite parents offer small apologies for a child’s babbling or tendency to drop things on the floor, and my dismissive hand gesture and offhand comment that “ahh, no worries, that’s just what kids do” makes them more comfortable. I have to clean off that table after every customer anyway, and I have to sweep this floor every night regardless. The cookie, handed directly to each child, can be easily taken care of as you drop off the parents’ bill; it’s just another chance to make a kid laugh, keep them happy, and in turn keep their parents happy. [“And Carmen, what do you say?”/”FANK YOU”]. Better yet, hand the cookie over “secretly” and “shhhh”; of course the parents notice you’re making things fun for them. And it never hurts to add that “your kids were very well-behaved.” Parents of smaller children may consider dinner out a rare ordeal that may end in disaster. I won’t do nor say anything of the sort for badly-behaved children; I like kids, and I’m okay with being nicer than I have to be, but I won’t suck up. You’ll know I’m annoyed when my responses to your requests go from conversational to flat “okay”s and “yes’m”s.

Older kids appreciate nothing more than being acknowledged as adults. A twelve-year-old wants to order for himself; even if it’s off the kid’s menu, ask them if they want any side dishes or have special preferences later (they probably won’t be able to think of any). Boys around their early teens can be convinced to order off the adult menu (“Come on! You telling me you can’t eat like a man?” is a fair joke but means an extra $5 on the bill and an extra $1 for me). Again, they aren’t deciding your tip, but there’s a chance their parents will participate in this rapport-building. And if we’re talking even slightly older teens, especially if the parents’ rapport is the right flavor (or they’re up to go to the restroom), a quickly dropped, mild swear word will make the kid feel just cool. If a twenty-something sees me and thinks I’m mature enough to talk to on the level, I must be pretty cool.

So I disagree with my coworkers; kids aren’t worse to wait on, they’re only a different kind of a pain in the ass than adults. Arguably easier; the main downside in my mind is that they don’t spend as much.

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