When Japanese restaurant Baba Sushi first announced that they would be hosting Parents Night Out evenings at their Sturbridge location -- offering on-site babysitting while mom and dad enjoy a date night dinner -- parents went bonkers.
“Those first posts on social media reached like 100,000 people. It was crazy,” said general manager Sara Gallant. “People were just so excited about the idea, and we were really the only place in the area to do something like this.”
More than a year after launching the weekly program, Gallant wants parents to know the offer still stands.
“We’re not going anywhere,” she said.
Every Thursday the sushi and hotpot restaurant offers childcare from 5-9 p.m. while parents enjoy dinner. Kids hang out in Baba’s spacious upstairs karaoke room, which on these particular evenings, is akin to a mini daycare. There’s a private bathroom, cozy couches, puzzles, blocks, games, and a big-screen TV. From your table, you can order food for your kids which is brought upstairs so they can eat while you do.
Children are supervised by CPR-certified babysitters, and Gallant, who happens to be a Registered Nurse. The cost is $6 an hour, and the total is added right to your dinner bill.
Gallant, a single mom, came up with the Parents Night Out idea after recognizing a need for mom and dads to have a little “me time,” while understanding how hard it can be to find childcare or trust just anyone to watch your child.
“I thought, wouldn't it be awesome for parents to come out and have a date night, but know their kids are right upstairs? It’s sort of like being at a family party, and your kids are playing with the older kids… you can take your eye off them for a minute, but you are still right there,” she said.
Gallant spent about six months communicating with the restaurant’s insurance company and state’s Department of Early Education and Care to square things away before the program got off the ground.
She filed documents through the EEC to become exempt from having to get a license as a childcare facility, but worked with the department to develop a comprehensive list of rules and regulations that parents must sign off on.
The service is offered for babies through age 12, though parents must do diapering. Gallant said older children with special needs are also welcome.
Since Baba launched Parents Night in October 2018, attendance has varied, ebbing with the season, Gallant said. On any given Thursday, they watch anywhere from a couple to dozen kids. There’s also a handful of regulars.
“We’re kid-friendly,” said Gallant. “We don’t have a kids menu, but there is a huge slew of items on the menu that kids like to eat. Chicken tempura is kind of like chicken fingers… and yes, we have ketchup! Kids also love chicken and beef skewers, which is just like chicken or beef teriyaki served with white rice.”
At any point during dinner, parents are welcome to check in on the kids, but they will probably be too busy enjoying their own dinner. The menu features award-winning sushi, Asian hotpot, and entrees that range from stir fry to filet mignon.
Baba Sushi also offers babysitting services for private functions.
Reservations for Parents Night Out are recommended, but not required. For more information, go to babasushi.com/sturbridge.