We went out to dinner tonight. Before getting out of the car we gave the kids (the 5 and the 3 year old anyhow) the standard lecture about what to do and not to do in a public place.

Once we entering to my surprise (and delight) the place was completely empty. Had this been our first trip there I would have taken this as a bad sign and we’d have turned around and left. We’d been there before though (without the kids) and had no worries. So we went to our table and then I went in search of a highchair for our 12 month old.

Given that we were the only patrons I had high hopes. I saw four highchairs stacked near the bathrooms. But as I approached my heart sank. I could see frayed webbing dangling from the nearest chair and I knew we were in for trouble. While the other three chairs had webbing rather than tattered threads none of them had functional buckles or even a middle strap attached to the bar across the front.

I picked one up anyhow and it sagged and creaked under its own weight as I did so. Disturbed I grabbed another with the same result. I gave the others a shake and discovered that they were all on the brink of collapse. So I trudged back to the table with the one in my hand and began to devise a way to secure our baby in it.

My wife, watching what should have been a sturdy piece of furniture sway back and forth stood up without a word, grabbed it, and walked to the back of the room, and went through the same inspection process I had, came to the same conclusion, and came back with the same highchair.
Rather than chide her for the implication that I am unable to competently select a highchair I said, “Yes, they’re all terrible,” and proceeded to try to strap in the baby.

We spent the dinner taking turns keeping on hand on him for fear that he’d wiggle out or that the chair would simply collapse. This wasn’t what we had in mind, though I suppose it was slightly better than wrestling with him on our laps.

Now I can understand that certain establishments might not want to cater to families. But if you’re doing business in Utah, making accommodations for families is a fact of life. Highchairs are a bare minimum for this. I’ve come to expect that unless a place is brand new the highchairs will be filthy and will not be fully functional. The straps might be missing or the buckles will be broken. But I’ve never seen the frame actually splitting and the pegs that should be holding it together exposed.

I actually keep track of places that have functional chairs and it influences where we eat. In fact, I can tell you that Royal India (which has excellent food) in Sandy, UT has one excellent chair and several so-so ones. We try to get the good one if we can.

So I close with two business suggestions. One, if you own or run a restaurant, please inspect your highchairs on occasion and repair them or buy new ones if the straps break, if the buckles don’t work, or if the frame is no longer solid.

Secondly, there is a business opportunity for someone to build and sell restaurant highchairs that can last more than a few months without falling apart.