Restaurant Etiquette for a Peaceful Family Meal


Published:

Eating out more frequently has become part of what we do as Americans, says Patrick Whalen, operating partner at Nan and Byron’s restaurant in Charlotte. “I don’t know if it’s good or bad, it just is,” he says.

But as routine as restaurant dining has become, it still serves as a special occasion for families. Parents can use eating out as an opportunity to act as role models and teach children how to socialize and behave in a restaurant environment. Here are suggestions for how you can work on restaurant manners with your child for your family’s next dinner out.

Practice at Home

Alice Cunningham, owner of Alice’s Place, a teahouse in Winston-Salem, says restaurants provide parents with an extended environment in which to model the good manners they should already be practicing at home.

“Good etiquette is good etiquette,” Cunningham says. “You don’t separate restaurant behavior from day-to-day behavior. It’s not like a dress you can take on and off.”

At home, Cunningham advises turning off the TV to fully enjoy a family meal and focus on good behavior and conversation. “If it’s done day-to-day, it’s not as traumatic when you go out in public,” she says. “What you do at home, you automatically do ‘out there.’”

Susan Caldwell, founder of Lil’ Chef Kids Cooking Studios in Raleigh, says “Etiquette is a spin-off of what we do every day. … Kids feed off praise and recognition.”

Set Expectations

Before going to a restaurant, parents should prepare children for how they’re expected to act. Cunningham encourages parents to tell their children to be mindful of others, to stay in control of their behavior and to think twice about misbehaving, which will not be tolerated.

“When you set clear boundaries at any age, they know from your voice that you mean what you’re saying,” she says.

Caldwell, who has an 11-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son, recommends role-playing at home to prepare your child for dining out. She even prints out a placemat to teach children how to set the table. (Try this one from emilypost.com.

Plan Ahead

“Advanced preparation is key,” Caldwell says. She suggests bringing a backpack of items that will keep the child occupied: toys, paper, pen, crayons and books, for example. “I try to be prepared for whatever’s thrown my way,” she says.

Whalen, who has a 3-year-old son and 4-month-old daughter, encourages parents to “be engaged with what your kids are doing — it’s part of the social process. You can’t just hand them an iPhone and have them disengage. It’s good to learn how to deal with impatience or not getting exactly what they want to eat. They need to learn the rules of the restaurant.”

Step Away

If your baby begins screaming, take her out of the situation, Cunningham advises. Likewise, if an older child causes a commotion, talk quietly and firmly to him or her at first.

“If the behavior continues, then remove the child from the restaurant,” she says.

Whalen recommends that parents take the child outside, weather permitting, to calm her down. “People are more willing to be forgiving if the parent is involved in the socialization of the children and [is] correcting behavior, than if you’re disengaged and playing Angry Birds,” he says.

Clean Up?

The jury is out on this one. Whalen doesn’t think parents need to clean up messes made by a baby or toddler when dining out because, “the whole point of going to a restaurant is to be taken care of,” he says.

Caldwell, however, suggests parents attempt to clean up, including taking baby containers home rather than leaving them on the table. Caldwell says if she can’t clean up the mess, she compensates by leaving a larger tip.

Whalen says a bigger tip is not necessary. “Families may not be in a position to pay more,” he says. “So don’t add to it by increasing the tip.”

(See below for how some of our Facebook fans handle this situation.)

Order Independently?

Children’s readiness to order their own food depends on their personality, age and developmental stage. Whalen advises that parents take over when their child is hesitant or takes longer than 10-20 seconds. “It’s not quantifiable,” he says, but can occur “when the child feels comfortable to speak publically without infringing on the server’s ability to do their job.”

Good restaurant etiquette not only reflects favorably on your child and the job you have done as a parent; it also builds self-esteem, encourages self-confidence and sends your child into the world with life skills he will use over and over again.

“Children learn to respect themselves and others, and it helps with making good choices at home, school and in play,” Caldwell says. “A good foundation gives them the opportunity to learn and practice leadership skills, and it makes them more likable.”

FACEBOOK: Do you clean up after your family at a restaurant, or leave it to the wait staff?

We try to keep it clean, stack plates, pick up major crumbs, etc.
— Denise McEntee

I always clean up and make it as easy as possible for them to get the table ready for the next guest. I was a waitress for years and make sure that my children appreciate that waiters, waitresses, bussers, etc., are people too
.— Heidi Mulligan Walker

I stack all plates and silverware, put all napkins on top and move all drink glasses next to the stack. I pick up anything that was dropped on the floor by my children and I wipe down the table. I’m a tad OCD, but I have four kiddos so I feel like I should not leave a disaster for the waiter/waitress. My kids all help with the cleaning.
— Christina Beatrice Minnish

Unless we are leaving because of a meltdown we try to clean up. Thankfully we have finally passed the throwing food on the floor stage ... With having our three in three years it seemed like poor daddy spent at least 5 minutes crawling around under the table every time we went out!
— Covey Denton

I always clean up and stack the plates. I sometimes try not to but I can’t help it! Also, it shows common courtesy and speeds things up for the next person waiting for a table Besides, that way I can also make sure I did not leave anything behind!— Veronika Garcia

Table Manners

Alice Cunningham, owner of Alice’s Place in Winston-Salem, and Susan Caldwell, founder of Lil’ Chef Kids Cooking Studios in Raleigh, teach the following table manners to their students:

  • Always put your napkin in your lap.
  • Chew with your mouth closed.
  • Don’t slurp your drink.
  • Cut your food into small pieces.
  • Eat small bits of food with a fork.
  • Don’t bang utensils or other items on the table.
  • Start from the outside in when using utensils.
  • Hold the chair for ladies.
  • Cross your legs at your ankles.

 Restaurant Etiquette Resources

Online

  • Emily Post Institute: emilypost.com/home-and-family
  • Cookbook author Linda Stradley: whatscookingamerica.net/Menu/DiningEtiquetteGuide.htm

 Books

Emily Post's Etiquette, 18th Edition by Peggy Post, Anna Post, Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning

Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior (Freshly Updated) by

Judith Martin, illustrated by Gloria Kamen

Etiquette for Dummies by Sue Fox

For a list of local family-friendly restaurants in North Carolina visit:

 Cathy Downs is a Triangle-based freelance writer.

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The Engage Art Contest is a juried competition for original Visual Art, Music Video, Film and Performing Arts. The topic is the Spiritual Battle described in Ephesians 6:10-20 and related...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online
PO Box 78951
Charlotte, NC  28271
View map »


Sponsor: Engage Art Contest
Telephone: 980-999-1447
Contact Name: Ranika Chaney
Website »

More information

Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
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Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

It's time to play... TAKEOUT BINGO!!!  Take a screenshot or download the game board. Mark off the locations you visit. Share your progress on Facebook and Instagram using #CRTakeoutBingo. Send...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Crossroads Plaza
Crossroad Blvd
Suite 215
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Sponsor: Crossroads Plaza/ Kimco Realty
Telephone: 864-979-2291
Contact Name: Katie Earnhardt
Website »

More information

We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
Website »

More information

Art Walk featuring local galleries and artist studios in historic downtown Hillsborough on the Last Friday of every month (no Art Walk in December).

Cost: FREE

Where:
Downtown Hillsborough (multiple locations)
102 N. Churton St.
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Hillsborough Arts Council
Telephone: 919-643-2500
Contact Name: Torey Mishoe
Website »

More information

River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
Website »

More information

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The Engage Art Contest is a juried competition for original Visual Art, Music Video, Film and Performing Arts. The topic is the Spiritual Battle described in Ephesians 6:10-20 and related...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online
PO Box 78951
Charlotte, NC  28271
View map »


Sponsor: Engage Art Contest
Telephone: 980-999-1447
Contact Name: Ranika Chaney
Website »

More information

Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Farmers markets are essential to the livelihood of farmers and food producers and are exempt from the Governor's Stay at Home Order (page 6). Farmers markets offer an efficient way for residents to...

Cost: free

Where:
Holly Springs Cultural Center
300 W. Ballentine St.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
View map »


Sponsor: Farmers Market Coordinator
Telephone: 919-567-4010
Website »

More information

PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Parents, bring your child to class with you. Children 10 years...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
View map »


Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
Website »

More information

PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Must register in advance. Space is limited. Parents, bring your...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
View map »


Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
View map »


Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Join one of our talented Mid-South Fencers’ Club coaches for a one hour virtual lesson to the fast paced and exciting sport of Olympic Fencing! This will be a FREE ONLINE class. All you need is...

Cost: free

Where:
Mid-South Fencers' Club ONLINE
125 N. Gregson St.
DURHAM, NC  27701
View map »


Sponsor: Mid-South Fencers' Club
Telephone: 919-286-3100
Contact Name: Jeff Kallio
Website »

More information

It's time to play... TAKEOUT BINGO!!!  Take a screenshot or download the game board. Mark off the locations you visit. Share your progress on Facebook and Instagram using #CRTakeoutBingo. Send...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Crossroads Plaza
Crossroad Blvd
Suite 215
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Sponsor: Crossroads Plaza/ Kimco Realty
Telephone: 864-979-2291
Contact Name: Katie Earnhardt
Website »

More information

We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
Website »

More information

The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver personalities and compete for the title of Beaver Queen with their fashion,...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-698-9729
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
Website »

More information

River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
Website »

More information

Get your summer vibes going at the 1st Annual Hubb’s Beach Blast at Hubb’s Farm in Clinton, NC.  Hubb’s Beach Blast will feature two of beach music industry’s top groups, Jim Quick and...

Cost: 20-50

Where:
Hubb's Farm
10276 US HWY 421 N
Clinton, NC  28328
View map »


Sponsor: Hubb's Farm
Telephone: 910-564-6709
Contact Name: Tammy Peterson
Website »

More information

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