In order to preserve the sanity of their customers and foster an irritant-free environment, some fed-up US-based cafés and restaurants are not adding apps for customer interaction; they’re stepping up no-phone policies from a handwritten note next to the till, to just short of open warfare.
The digital invasion
The digital divide is no longer just a generation gap, but spans those who can’t make it through a meal without yapping, tweeting, and snapping a retro-style picture of their burger for their online friends to see, and those who just want to engage the old fashioned way, be fully present, or just be left in peace.
In the UK, there are train carriages that are designated “no phone” zones with hefty penalties for ignoring it. If you want to chatter on your commute, find another carriage. Now the disdain for the constant invasion of peace has spread to restaurants in the States with innovative (and controversial) no-phone policies that include a $3 penalty added to your bill and, conversely, rewarding compliant customers with a 5% discount.
Fighting a lost battle?
While many customers of LA eating spot, Eva Restaurant, that’s implemented a 5% discount for leaving phones at the door, have responded with cheers of support, others have revolted with, “from my cold dead hands!” The policy appears to be working though, with 40% of patrons complying.
For those who’d prefer to keep their phones in view, they’ve turned the policy into a game called “phone stacking,” an activity that becomes increasingly challenging as the wine and beer flows: Groups of diners stack their phones in a pile in the centre of the table. Whoever reaches for their phone first has to pay the bill for all.
Not all restaurants are on board the phone-ban though, believing that tweeting, snapping photos and chatting is free advertising and it’s pointless to fight a losing battle – smartphones are now appendages and approximately one in five US adults say they share online when dining out, and teens one in three.