This is going to sound privileged and whiny, but hear me out. Parents with children should be served first. I know it looks like I'm out for special treatment and think the world owes me because I chose to drag my brood into the restaurant, post office, wherever, but it's not just for my sake. It's for your sake. It's for the sake of the other patrons.
Please, don't read me wrong. I don't wish that you ignore your other customers. And if you choose to see to them first, I would never complain, as that's really the way things should be. But, I'm telling you from experience, if you bend the rules just slightly, your shift will run a lot more smoothly. Three minutes of waiting to the couple to our right is a much shorter time than three minutes to the toddlers I have with me. And that couple will most likely enjoy their meal much more if they don't have toddlers accidentally spilling their milk across the room, or wailing loudly, or singing silly songs at the top of their lungs. All of these things happen when toddlers are forced to sit in one spot and bored.
So, when we've just been seated, and you're done rolling your eyes at having to serve the family table, (it's okay, I'd roll my eyes, too, but we'll leave you a good tip) and we put our drinks in, really, go and get our drinks. It will help us distract the babies while you tend to your other, less offensive, patrons. When you come back with those drinks, if you ask to take our order, it will take you mere seconds and save precious and annoying minutes off the other end.
If we're not yet ready to order (and, trust me, we will try very hard to be ready as soon as possible), and you say you'll be back in a minute, try to be back in a minute. Normally, when diners aren't yet ready to order, it gives the waitstaff a reprieve to check on other tables, take a break, find out what's going on in the kitchen, etc. Now, you have every right to do that, should we need another minute, but, again, if you come back quickly, it may save everyone around us a huge headache. There are only so many times we can point out letters on the sugar packets before one of those packets gets torn open, know what I mean?
Now, parents should be able to control their kids, it's true, and you have no responsibility toward them if they can't or don't. We do absolutely suck sometimes. (Sometimes, we're awesome, the kids behave, they're cute, they don't ruin anything or make a mess, and we leave a big tip for your hassle. This is what every parent strives for, I assume.)
The most important time to be quick, though, for everyone, is after the meal is over. Usually there is a nice, slow, three-step process here, in which a server drops off the check and leaves, the patron puts the money or the card in and waits, the server after taking care of hungry customers on whose tip he or she is still depending, comes back and takes the money.
A slight adjustment here would help parents, servers, and other customers. When the check is delivered, wait for two seconds longer than normal. The parent will most likely pull out a card right away because at this point we are dying to leave the restaurant. There is nothing left with which to distract the kids, no promise of forthcoming goods or fun, and nothing new to show them. We need to leave, and we need to leave now. When the parent whips out the card in a flash and gives it to a server, the server would do well to run it right away and give it back. The sooner the family gets out of the restaurant, the better, for all involved.
I'm not saying parents deserve special treatment. We certainly do not. However, should you choose to give it to us of your own voilition, things might be better for everyone. Don't do it for us; we're the jerks who showed up and ruined your shift. Do it for you. You have the power to salvage that shift, yet.
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