On the Availability of Change Tables and High Chairs

I know the locations of the “secret” elevators at Metrotown. I’ve come to identify brands of strollers from as far as a football field away. I subconsciously estimate the mom-to-dad ratio at the local playground. When you become a parent, you start to notice things that you had previously ignored.

And in going out with a baby (and now a toddler), I’ve really started to notice the kinds of high chairs that restaurants offer to their patrons… when they have them at all. Let’s just say some places are better than others.

The Case of the Restless Toddler

A good friend invited our family out for Sunday brunch at West Restaurant several weeks ago. This is the same restaurant where I had proposed to Susanne a little more than five years prior. They’ve got terrific food and superb service. As we made our way over to our table, I asked the server to grab us a high chair.

“We don’t have high chairs.”

That’s rather unfortunate. The good news is that our daughter is at the age where she can use a belt-free booster seat with some supervision. So, figuring it was a suitable alternative, I asked the server if they had any boosters.

“We don’t have booster seats.”

We ended up eating brunch with Adalynn hopping between our laps. As you can imagine, toddlers can be awfully restless and she didn’t really want to sit still for more than a few minutes at a time. In general, she does a lot better when she has her own high chair. Maybe it’s because she feels like more of an equal. Maybe it’s because she’s more restrained.

After trying to keep her occupied for as long as we could, we eventually let Adalynn walk around. She went up to the hostess to say hello. She looked out the front door and pointed out the traffic. She wandered over to the other tables to spy on the other children. She was well-behaved, but letting your kid meander through a busy restaurant is hardly ideal.

This was basically the same scenario we encountered at Oakwood Canadian Bistro a few months ago, except Adalynn was able to sit on the banquette next to her mom for most of the meal. No high chairs. No booster seats. It wasn’t ideal, but we just had to make do with what we were given.

Taking Responsibility and Planning Ahead

For the most part, our experiences at West and Oakwood were unique. Nearly every time that we’ve gone to any other restaurant, they’ve been able to supply us with a high chair.

It might be plastic. It might be wood. It might not be the most sanitary seat in the world. But it’s there for us to use. Maybe establishments like West and Oakwood aren’t exactly catering to a more family-oriented clientele.

Of course, had we known in advance, we could have taken matters into our own hands. When we went on vacation to Hawaii last year, we knew that we were going to have to feed Adalynn in our hotel room. So, we decided to pack a handy cloth travel high chair with us and it worked out reasonably well. It rolls up like a burrito and takes up no more space than a t-shirt.

A Matter of Service?

There are some compact, plastic high chairs that can be folded up for ease of transport, but we really don’t want to lug around any more stuff when we out for lunch or dinner somewhere in the city. Given that most restaurants have high chairs already, it’s not that much of a concern.

All of this got me thinking: Should restaurants be obligated to have high chairs and booster seats for guests who need them?

Begrudgingly, I don’t think so. I don’t expect them to provide a sippy cup or toddler-friendly cutlery. I don’t expect them to have little finger foods for the little one to snack on while she’s waiting for her meal. I don’t expect them to puree said meal either.

It’s just awfully inconvenient. And it might be enough for me to pick somewhere else to eat as a result.

Image credit: Quinn Dombrowski (Flickr)