There's something magical about the holiday season. Everyone's getting together and making merry. Everyone's shopping and spending money. Everyone's taking everyone else out for a meal or a drink to celebrate. And I mean everyone.
New parents who haven't had a night out since their baby was born this time last year, families with dozens of children who scrimped and saved all year for that one special holiday meal, friends and relatives who haven't seen each other in who knows how long--they're all here. And because they aren't the usual week-to-week dining-out crowd, they've been known to make some unusual demands, and have some slightly unrealistic expectations.
Take the family with several children under 10, for example. Their kids were adorable and well-behaved. But they were also picky eaters. And when Mommy and Daddy asked to see a children's menu, I had to explain we didn't offer one.
No Wonder Bread toast with margarine (not butter!) for little Sally. No "orange noodles" (read: macaroni and cheese) for little Jimmy. No Cheerios and saltines for little Marie.
Mommy and Daddy, of course, wanted to speak to my boss. When she told them we'd never served a children's menu, they huffily stood up, strapped their various offspring into various child carriers, leashes and strollers and stalked out of the restaurant.
Or how about the table of relatives so engrossed in thinly veiling their hatred for one another that they can't be bothered to enjoy their meal? I once took care of a group of eight assorted cousins whose idea of a lovely holiday meal was to sit in absolute silence, looking down at their plates, morosely chewing their meals. The only words any of my co-workers or I heard spoken at that table all night were the ones they said to us: "I'll have the Cobb salad," or "May I have some more water, please?" uttered through clenched teeth. Bet they can't wait to do it again next year.
Why not alleviate all that holiday pressure? Perhaps a nice family outing, come June, to another restaurant? It doesn't have to be five-star cuisine--just an opportunity for you to take your show on the road for a test run.
Or if one meal out a year really is all you can manage, at least check out the restaurant first. When you call for your reservation, it never hurts to ask if they offer a children's menu, or have enough high chairs to accommodate your brood. You may feel like you're inconveniencing the person answering your call, but trust me: better the receptionist a few months in advance than the server as you're being seated that night.
As for me, I'm just happy to have the holidays behind me and to get back to people who don't bring toddlers and grudges into my place of business. At least until this time next year.