Conversation, Eavesdropping

Restaurants are banning phones from their tables

In recent years, many restaurants around the world have taken a bold step to ban phones from their tables. The reasons for this decision are varied, but all stem from a desire to encourage diners to engage with each other and enjoy their meals in a more present and mindful manner. In this piece, we will explore the growing trend of phone bans in restaurants, and examine the reasons why more and more establishments are adopting this policy.

The rise of phone addiction is a well-documented phenomenon, with studies showing that people spend an average of 3 hours and 15 minutes on their phones each day (Statista, 2021). This trend has spilled over into every aspect of our lives, including meal times. Rather than engaging with each other, many people spend their time staring at their screens, scrolling through social media, checking email, or playing games. This has led to what some have called “zombie behavior,” where people are physically present but mentally absent.

Restaurants are not immune to this trend, and many have noticed that diners are increasingly glued to their phones rather than enjoying the food and conversation that surrounds them. This has led some restaurants to take action and ban phones from their tables, in the hopes of promoting more meaningful and engaged dining experiences.

One such restaurant is The Shed in London, which implemented a phone ban in 2017. According to co-owner Simon Anderson, the ban was put in place to encourage diners to be present in the moment and engage with each other. “We believe that food is something that should be enjoyed and savored, and that can’t happen if you’re constantly checking your phone,” he said in an interview with The Guardian (McVeigh, 2017). Since implementing the ban, Anderson reports that customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with many diners expressing gratitude for the opportunity to unplug and connect with their companions.

Other restaurants have followed suit, including the Michelin-starred restaurant The Fat Duck, which banned phones in 2019. Chef Heston Blumenthal said that he implemented the ban because he wanted diners to be fully present and engaged with the experience of dining at his restaurant. “We want people to be able to switch off and enjoy the moment,” he said in an interview with The Guardian (Kellaway, 2019). Since implementing the ban, Blumenthal reports that the atmosphere in the restaurant has become more relaxed and convivial, with diners engaging in more conversation and interaction with each other.

The benefits of phone bans in restaurants are not limited to promoting more meaningful interactions between diners. There is also evidence to suggest that banning phones can lead to better dining experiences overall. A study conducted by the University of British Columbia found that diners who were distracted by their phones during a meal enjoyed the food less and remembered less about the experience (Cheyne et al., 2018). This suggests that by removing phones from the equation, restaurants can create a more enjoyable and memorable dining experience for their customers.

Despite the benefits of phone bans, there are some who argue that they are unnecessary or even intrusive. Some diners may feel uncomfortable with the idea of being forced to put away their phones, while others may argue that phones are necessary for emergencies or important work-related communication. However, many restaurants have found ways to accommodate these concerns while still promoting a phone-free atmosphere.

For example, some restaurants provide lockers or designated areas where diners can store their phones during their meal. Others allow phones to be used for taking photos or checking messages, but ask that they be put away during the actual meal. Some restaurants have even gone so far as to provide a small discount for diners who agree to put away their phones during their meal.