Photo: lolostock (iStock), Graphic: Nicole Antonuccio
The 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?

Help!
James

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.

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“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.

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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.