Ask The Salty Waitress: Ew, parents are changing baby diapers in the dining room

Illustration for article titled Ask The Salty Waitress: Ew, parents are changing baby diapers in the dining room
Photo: lolostock (iStock), Graphic: Nicole Antonuccio
The Salty WaitressThe Salty WaitressSalty Waitress is The Takeout’s advice column from a real-life waitress that will teach you how not to behave like a garbage person while dining out—and maybe in real life.

Dear Miss Salty, I own a restaurant and have for over 35 years. I am baffled at the way people think they are allowed to change Little Miss Perfect or Little Mister Perfect anywhere they feel is convenient! After having one of our customers change a dirty diaper on one of our wingback chairs in front of our fireplace today, I felt compelled to write a little note to you just so I can get a different perspective on this nasty situation. Parents seem to think it’s fine—how can I prevent this? What are they thinking?


Dear James,

Oh sweet Christ. Were all your customers born in a barn? Who raised these feral diaper-changing morons? Shame on them!


Now, I know no sensible reader of this column would even dream of pulling off a dirty diaper near where others are eating, so I don’t have to spend too much time dwelling on how totally gross this is. I don’t want to even hear justifications—“I wiped down the chair!” or “I used a changing mat!”—because you are still putting your baby’s doo-covered butt in plain view while people are eating. I can’t speak to health codes everywhere, but I’m sure poop near tables raises some red flags.

I’m sorry, I got upset there. I’m going to step outside for a smoke.

[10 minutes pass]

All right, that helped. Let’s keep going.

James, though you didn’t say so in your letter, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you have baby-changing tables in your restaurant’s bathrooms, right? Because if you don’t, sir, then you don’t have much of a leg to stand on. Babies poop, and parents need a place to change them—away from the food.

“But Salty, my trendy little Lower East Side restaurant is too small to fit changing tables in the restrooms!” In that case, parents of babies still in diapers should think long and hard about bringing them in. Of course, parents can bring kids to eat wherever they want, but beware, Mom and Dad, that these restaurants might not be comfortable. It’s going to be a pain to fit the high chair or the baby carrier, and the tables are close together, and your baby might start screaming, and there’s no room to change them in the bathroom, and it’s just a nightmare. This is why family restaurants exist.

Okay, back to you, James. I’m not sure why parents are repeatedly changing their babies’ diapers in your dining room, but let’s think of some ways to keep this shit from literally happening:

  • Put a note on your kids’ menus, if you have them, letting families know you have changing tables (and wipes, that’s a nice touch) in the bathrooms.
  • Better yet, put these signs up near the bathrooms, too.
  • Tell your staff to quickly mention this to families who come in with babies. If a host or server has to set up a high chair, that’s a good time to mention it.
  • Stop the behavior as soon as you see it happening. Tell your staff to (in no uncertain terms) tell parents that it would surely be more comfortable if they changed the baby out of view of other diners. They can phrase it as a suggestion, but make clear that it’s really non-negotiable.

Other than that, not sure how much more you can do short of banning kids altogether. (If you’re running a casual family-oriented restaurant, that’s not going to work.) All you can do for now is make diaper-changing stations available, and let the parents—very clearly—know where they are.



Dear Salty,

Both my wife and I work very hard and we think we deserve, nay, are entitled to blow off a lot of steam with a nice dinner out with our 14 month-old Instabook tenant.

Yet we get dirty looks (of jealousy?) wherever we go because we find it convenient to change our kid’s nappy at our table. (It’s the good one, by the way) Occasionally my wife will leave our table after taking a cell phone call at the table to go to the patio and check up on our dog, who’s tied to the patio fence, but is REALLY friendly and NOT a bother to anyone. Of course, while she’s gone, the waitress always somehow takes her plate away even though she’s not finished. Frankly, if she insists on throwing anything out, it should be the junk mail that I VERY politely asked her to toss for us but is still sitting there at our table. (the good one) Finally, we always get charged for menu substitutions (which is fine, mostly, because we work hard and can afford it), but we really hate it when the server doesn’t tell us how much it’ll run us. Frankly, we’re finding eating out really super-frustrating.

So...should we take our grievances with the restaurant to Yelp? We’re both Elites since 2012.


Work Hard, Play Hard