Distraction-Free Dining: Restaurant Bans Cell Phone

waitress-cell-phoneThe next time you visit your favorite restaurant, think twice about pulling your cell phone out of your pocket or purse to call home to check on the kids or answer a call from your boss. Like movie theatres and libraries, cell phone usage in restaurants will soon be taboo, at least if some restaurant owners have their way. Many restaurants already have signs or notes on their menus asking customers to refrain from using their phones, but one Los Angeles restaurant has taken the cell phone ban a step further, offering a 5% discount for those who choose to leave their phone with the hostess during their meal. Mark Gold, owner of Eva, a Los Angeles New American restaurant, says that almost half of his customers opt for the discount in lieu of using their phones at the table.

Eva is not the first restaurant to take a bold stance against cell phone usage. Last year, Rogue 24 in Washington, D.C. asked those who wanted a reservation to sign a two-page contract prohibiting cell phone and camera usage.  The eatery has since revised its rules, noting that diners who use their phone for a quick minute during dinner will not face any repercussions other than a few dirty looks from fellow patrons.

Removing cell phones from the dining room has some obvious benefits for restaurants and guests alike. Guests who refrain from using their cell phones during a meal often have a better experience because they are able to focus on their companions, and more importantly, the food and the service. A phone-free dining area also makes your restaurant more relaxed and inviting, attracting customers who know that their dining experience will not be tainted by the phone conversations of guests at nearby tables.  These guests are also more likely to linger longer, adding a dessert or a cup of coffee to their tabs, increasing revenue for restaurants. Foodservice establishments that ban cell phones from tables may also see an improvement in employee morale: servers will find it easier to wait on patrons who are not distracted by having a phone conversation while ordering.

Incentivizing customers to leave their phones behind does have some consequences. Many people pull out their phones to tweet or post on Facebook or check in on Foursquare while waiting on their entrees. Restaurants that prohibit cell phones at tables may lose out on some social media value from customers who want to tell others about where they are eating or their experiences at the restaurant. Additionally, some customers may be unwilling to part with their phones in fear of missing an emergency call and therefore choose to eat elsewhere.

Not all restaurants are on board with eliminating cell phones. Conversely, some are actually encouraging guests to stay connected by providing cell phone chargers on tables and bars.

Do you believe restaurants should ban cell phones?