Chain Restaurants: Bring ’em On!

Picture in your mind the most elegant restaurant you have ever been to. Picture the beautifully folded cloth napkins, the pristine linen table cloth, the smell of the real candles that burn low to add to the ambiance. Imagine the soft sound of orchestral music playing in the background, and the many different courses offered to you. Imagine the maitre’d kindly telling you of the chef’s specials that consist of words you don’t understand, and how the catch of the day was flown in from somewhere tropical.

Now…picture your children there.

Yep, ruined it for me, too! We used to go to fancy places to eat. Our palates were once refined, we enjoyed drinks with dinner and looking at each other across a candlelit table. Then, we had kids.

I used to work with someone who would always come in telling me about the latest and greatest that KC had to offer in restaurant finery. She would go on and on about how great the (fill in obscure food) was or how amazing the (insert live music or drink special) was. We tried once to take our kids off the beaten path, and we quickly learned a few lessons.

Lesson 1: Kids don’t have refined palates, the don’t care where the fish is from, cause they weren’t going to eat it anyhow. You can in fact mess up a chicken strip, they were not all created equal! And kids REALLY don’t enjoy gourmet mac and cheese. If it doesn’t look like it came from the blue box, they won’t eat it.

Lesson 2: If the restaurant doesn’t come with a separate draw on kids menu, then life is over. There is nothing for them to do. This also falls along the lines of, if there isn’t an abundance of crap covering the walls you might as well have asked them to sit in time out! If you don’t get a little claustrophobic due to the ADHD provoking amount of wall decor then you are not in the right place.

Lesson 3: The music should be loud and fast, not slow and silent. The louder the music the louder the other patrons are… thus disguising the sound of your children yelling or you yelling at your children to stop yelling! If you can’t sing along to the music because it’s in a soft foreign language or it’s just instrumental, then you are not in a kid friendly place!

Lesson 4: If your eating establishment can’t be found in numerous states, you’re in for it. Knowing that our favorite chain restaurant can be found in multiple locations and states is comforting! This way, we know exactly what our children will eat. They feel comfortable, and we aren’t fighting a battle over how they would like their slabs of chicken prepared, in: strips, nuggets or tenders.

Lesson 5: Fries. Enough said. No side of fries, no deal. Sides shouldn’t cost extra, they should be the added delicacy that pulls the kids meal together! Without it, complete and utter anarchy!

Bottom line: although we may love eating a variety of food, when we go out our children do not. They enjoy comfort and familiarity even if we are traveling. They enjoy knowing that their chicken strips aren’t served with a “chef special buttermilk caesar ranch,” but made the regular way and served with the regular white stuff! We enjoy knowing that our family dining experience will consist of finding the hidden pictures in the colorable kids menu and circling all of the food related words in the word search! I don’t have to pack toys, bribe them or let them sit on devices.

My husband enjoys knowing that our whole family can eat our mediocre food for just $35, tip included, and we will be in and out in under an hour. We know that if our kids pitch a fit or put shoes on their heads, we don’t have to apologize to the surrounding tables, because the music is so loud they couldn’t hear us anyway. Chances are their children were just as loud as ours! We know that it’s perfectly fine if our kids spill all over the table and floor, because the laminated menu was sticky when we got here and there were already fry remnants under the table.

Our best family memories have come from eating at chain restaurants! Someday we’ll get back to fancy, and salad forks, and chef specials, but for today, bring on the loud 80/90’s music, sticky table, and drinks with lids!

Roth family party of four, please.

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