Time Out! Serving Difficult Kids

Service & Sales

It’s a reality — kids will be kids. They will throw fits. They will throw food. They will throw a wrench in even the most well thought out plan. Happy families make happy customers – take care of even the most difficult little guests to ensure that their families come back.

It takes more than just a good kid’s menu to make families eating at your restaurant happy. Training your waitstaff on the art of serving difficult kids is critical to guest satisfaction. Keep kids engaged in what’s going on around them with servers who interact with them by talking to them and getting down to their level.

But even when you do everything right, some kids just can’t be contained. When you have little guests who aren’t staying at their table, you have a responsibility to that family, your other guests, and your staff to control the situation. Since talking to parents about the behavior of their children can be sensitive, managers should be the ones to intervene, following these steps:

1) Put safety first. If a child has been running around the restaurant unattended, go to the parents immediately. Explain that you’re concerned the child may get hurt and make them aware of how servers carrying large trays — often with hot contents — can’t see a small child in their path.

2) Watch your own step. Unless it’s a true emergency, don’t pick up a child in an attempt to return him or her to the parents. Some children can be traumatized by a stranger trying to control them, which will make your situation worse, and many parents may take offense. Instead, try to convince the child to return with you to the table and if that won’t work, stay with the child while another person notifies the parents.

3)  Pick your battles. Serving difficult kids often involves some important judgement calls. Limit your intervention to situations where the safety of the child, your staff, and your other guests is at risk. A child who is screaming in her booster chair because she wanted root beer instead of cola will certainly be a disruption to everyone in the restaurant. Asking a parent to control the child’s behavior will always be taken the wrong way, and you most certainly will lose that family’s future business. Your other guests aren’t likely to hold you responsible for the child’s behavior, so it’s best to just ride out the storm. As every parent knows, no kid can be bad all the time!

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