As a new parent myself, I’m familiar with the fiercely debated stories of patrons changing dirty diapers on dining tables; the reason for this, as most parents insist, is because the restaurant neglected to install a diaper changing station in the restroom. Of course, this quickly turns into a debate on whether or not it’s the restaurant’s responsibility to supply a changing table in the restroom.
Regardless of which side of the fence you reside, I think most agree that given another option, a parent would choose not to change their child on a dining table.
So the question is, “Is it the restaurant’s responsibility to be kid-friendly?”
QSR magazine recently highlighted new parents as an overlooked demographic through the Hartman Group’s recent findings; new parents are described as being not only “more purposeful in making healthy food choices,” but they are “also looking at restaurants from a different angle: one in which they must consider the logistics of dinging out in a new way.”
Recently we featured the pros and cons of having a diaper changing table in your restaurant, and many of these points still hold true. As a parent who has changed her baby both in the car and on awkward side tables in the restroom (you do what you gotta do), I appreciate having a changing table accessible. Though I never considered accommodating a specific child’s needs to be a restaurant’s responsibility per se (because let’s be honest, kiddos need a lot), it does impact my decision for repeat visits. For example, when planning a family dinner out with a large group, I’ll probably pick a place which has changing facilities because it makes my life just a little easier.
Where there is need, there is opportunity: restaurants can make small changes that could translate into return visits and even more loyal customers. I’m not even talking about loading up on crayons and butcher paper-lined tablecloths, but rather, small discreet accommodations that most diners probably wouldn’t even notice:
Install Changing Tables
In my own personal experience, one of the first things I do at any new dining establishment is to pop into the restroom and assess the changing facilities. It’s all about planning after all, and if I need to get creative with changing my baby at some point during the meal, I prefer to be prepared. For example, the car might not be an option if we parked several blocks away, or if there’s inclement weather—and under no circumstances is the bathroom floor ever an option.
While I don’t necessarily expect a changing table in the restroom, I absolutely appreciate one in place. My husband and I often enjoyed dining out for two, and that hasn’t changed since the little one’s arrival (except now our reservation is a table for three). And with newer, stylish options like this Koala Baby Changing Station with stainless steel veneer, you don’t have to compromise style with function.
Set Aside a Table or Two with More Room
My husband and I have dined at several places where two tops (one side is a booth, the other are chairs) are stretched along a wall, and the tables were pretty much right on top of each other. In these situations, I found it difficult to shimmy myself between two tables just to make it to the booth—and don’t even think about any bathroom break during dinner. Not only that, try maintaining a consistent conversation string when you’re so close to your neighbor you can hear them chew.
If you find diners struggling to get in and out of your seats on date night, consider diners with children or even those with special needs. Children not only come with lots of gear (diaper bag, snacks, carrier and/or stroller), but they also want to grab everything within reach—you’ve seen it before… glassware, plates and utensils pushed to one side of the table while the child gets the most elbow room of everyone.
Try giving extra room to a couple tables for diners who are unable to make the tight squeeze to their seat. You’ll be pleasing more diners than just the new parents.
This should already be on your inventory list, but I have encountered some newer farm-to-table like venues who opt to go straw-less. Saving the environment is noble and I do commend it, but even a paper straw kept on hand for requests is helpful for children who have yet mastered the art of drinking from a glass. Not only will you save a (potentially) big mess, but the parents will thank you for making their lives much easier. Bonus: have a few kid cups with lids (or try these Disposable tumbler lids from Cambro that’ll transform your existing drinkware into kid cups) and those parents will be over the moon.
Above and beyond – the outdoor space
Here in Colorado, we experience a range in temperatures—from the high highs of 100 degrees (but it’s a dry heat), to the low lows of 0 degrees. Still, when one local restaurant transformed the old parking lot into an astroturf play area, parents were thrilled.
Why? Instead of waiting in the tight entryway for a table during peak times, kids could stretch their legs and release some energy while parents could put their feet up. Lucky Pie in Louisville, CO utilized the new space to showcase their raised bed gardens (you can only order a margherita pizza when the tomatoes are in season) and filled the area with ample seating.This space is great for all people (not just families) as a way to spend those moments waiting for a table that much better.
What tips do you have to accommodate different diners?