The Lowdown: Phones in restaurants

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Phones in restaurants

Related tags Casual dining Technology The restaurant group

Frankie & Benny’s is - ahem - ringing the changes by asking diners to lock away their phones prior to sitting down

Ah. The scourge of the dining table rears its head again...
Yep. But this time it’s not about snapping pictures. Frankie & Benny’s says it’s banning mobile phones in a bid to get its diners to talk to each other more.

Wow. Why?
The decision comes after a nationwide study found as many as 72% of kids wish their parents would spend less time on their phones and more time talking to them. Sadly, one in ten felt their parents preferred staring at their phones to interacting with them. Some even admitted hiding their handsets in a bid to get attention. “We looked at various ways we could encourage people to engage more at the dinner table, and we’ve found giving families the chance to part with their devices for a mere couple of hours is a great way to bring them closer and embrace family time,” says a spokesperson.

How will the ban be enforced?
Well, as the quote hints it’s not really a ban, even if a lot of newspaper have reported it as such. The 250-strong Italian-American restaurant chain is simply asking customers if they’d like to put their phones in lockable boxes prior to being seated.

What’s take up been like?
The initiative launched today (29 November) so it’s early days. Frankie & Benny’s No Phone Campaign will run until December 7 but could be extended indefinitely should it be deemed a success. Even if it doesn’t take off, it can be marked down as a successful publicity stunt for the The Restaurant Group-owned chain, which hasn’t had the greatest press of late. 

It wouldn’t be the first restaurant operator to try and reduce the use of phones in the dining room...
Indeed. But it’s usually fancier restaurants that are fed up with diners taking pictures, or feel constant status updates and email checking is distracting diners from the experience. It’s a tricky one. Like it or not, phones are central to many people’s lives; seeking to reduce their use feels a bit preachy and out-of-date. And for any restaurant seeking to attract customers via social media, being sniffy about the use of phones is a marketing own goal. If people are disturbing other diners or mucking up service that’s a different story, but for the most part customers should be left to their own devices...

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