It used to be that the family going out to dinner was a big event. It was typically a treat to celebrate a special occasion. As restaurants proliferated across the country, introducing various styles and budgets for people to choose from, it became a far more common occurrence. Family friendly restaurants specifically became one of the most successful businesses and pretty soon it seemed like families were almost always going out to eat.
Today that has begun to change again thanks to the ever increasing demands of an overscheduled life. That is not just referring to the parents either. Many children these days have full days including various sports, clubs and other activities on top of their school days. Families are still eating out, but instead of doing it at a casual fine dining restaurant, they instead are relying on the quick meal provided by the drive through window of a fast food restaurant. Finding the time to sit down for a meal as a family is getting harder and harder to do. That is why when it does happen it is important to find the right restaurant for you and your family.
Ideally, it would be something for everyone. Too many places seem to think that family friendly dining means catering directly to the children and letting the parents fend for themselves. An acceptable reason for this, of course, is that parents are expected to know how to behave in public but children are not conditioned to the societal norms of dining out at a sit-down restaurant. By directing the focus on them, it creates more of a cushion that the kids will, if not exactly behave properly, then at least fit in with the atmosphere of the location.
A good starting point is to look for restaurants that are family owned and oriented. The owners of these restaurants tend to view their kitchen and dining rooms as an extension of their own homes. They cook with the expectation that there will be something for everyone, and they also tend to have an environment that balances perfectly between being something more than a play scape for the children and something less than linen napkins and candlelit tables.
Having this ability to see the whole family means that there are menu items designed for the pickiest eaters as well as a bar that allows parents the opportunity to enjoy a drink or a glass of wine with their meal. By being able to offer something for everyone, it helps eliminate the tension that can arise when somebody feels left out of the decision making process. Eating as a family is something that does not happen as often as it should anymore. The next time you find the time for a casual fine dining experience with the family, make sure you take full advantage of it by choosing the right restaurant for everybody.
Jack Terry is a freelance writer who has been covering the food and beverage industry for more than 20 years. http://www.osorioslatinfusion.com