Talk don’t text at the dinner table.
Restaurant owners are fed up with customers glued to their cell phones — so some have decided to give discounts to diners who surrender them at the door.
At Sushi Lounge in Hoboken, New Jersey,management decided to implement a “Reconnect Tuesday” as a way to rekindle the flame in the dimly lit dining room with a 20 percent off discount to those who put their phone in a box at the table and leave it there until the check comes.
“For some people the struggle is real. They can’t do it,” admits assistant manager Casey Zin, who has seen many first dates crash and burn because some are glued to their cell phones. “I’ve seen people on dates scrolling through Instagram and said, ‘this isn’t going well,’” says Zin.
A year after the popular neighborhood spot implemented the no-phone bill, diners have adapted and business has been on a roll during an otherwise boring Tuesday night, too. “People are coming in specifically for that deal,” says Zin.
That may be because people find talking on the phone during dinner obnoxious. A 2015 survey by Pew Research Center found that 88 percent of respondents believe it’s generally not okay to use a cell phone during dinner — though this is less than for other times: 94 percent say it’s inappropriate to use them at meetings; 95 percent think theaters are off limits and 96 percent believe you should not use them during religious services.
But actions speak louder than your cell phone ringer — and, sadly, many are still unwilling to hang up. So more and more restaurants are implementing the no phone policies.
The staff at Lebro’s, an Italian restaurant near Buffalo in Getzville, New York, think Sundays are as sacred as their “famous” red sauce for homemade pastas like cheese tortellini and sun dried tomato ravioli. So they give 10 percent off every week on the day of rest to people who put their phones in the bread basket a waiter or waitress covers with a napkin until the end of the meal.
“You notice everyone is sitting around and not communicating with each other, 90 percent of the time people have their phones out,” says Maura Pidanick, a server, of why her boss decided to sign off on the no phone bill. “It’s a family restaurant, so my boss thought it was a nice idea.”
Turns out the adults act like kids sometimes when they hear the rule.
“The kids aren’t as nervous about it as the adults are surprisingly. Sometimes the adults get more nervous than the teenagers,” says Pidanick.
Restaurant consultant Jason Kaplan says he doesn’t see the cell phone optional policy lasting for too long though.
“I hope in the future that diners will use their cell phone less to better the dining experience, but unfortunately we’re a cell phone age and everybody knows you’re constantly reachable so it’s hard to see if it’s a lasting trend,” Kaplan says, not denying the rude factor.
“It’s infringing upon the customer experience as well as the experience for other diners because they have to hear other people’s conversation,” he notes.
Three years since giving diners the option to silence cell phones one night a week on Wednesdays, Sneaky’s Chicken in Sioux City, Iowa is still going strong. Guests at the eatery, known for its roasted chicken, ribs and cheese balls, are asked if they’re willing to give up their cell phones in a box at the table to get 10 percent off checks from 5 to 10 pm.
“It’s just to help you interact with the people that you’re with and not have to worry about everyone else,” says waitress Kenzie Eichmann.
Luckily, she hasn’t gotten much slack about it.
“People love it. It gets pretty loud in here when we do it and it’s kind of nice. It’s way louder than usual. It’s kind of cool to see everyone interact and not on their phone,” she adds.