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How do you deal with customers and their digital devices?

3 min read


From laptops on every table at Starbucks to businesspeople wheeling and dealing on smartphones at white-tablecloth eateries, the digital universe has become a real part of the restaurant experience. A few restaurants try to fight it, but most are finding ways to make it easier for patrons to phone, text and otherwise connect with the virtual world.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, the issue of loud cellphone talkers at restaurants, a hotly debated issue in recent years, has shifted a bit now that most people have a smartphone. Instead of talking, they’re texting, Googling, Facebooking and otherwise populating the room with beeps and clicks, while other diners snap and send photos of each dish.

Some fine-dining eateries abhor the digital distraction, including Patina, where a request to turn off cellphones in the dining room is printed on the menu. Others accept it as reality, and some even cater to it, according to the Times. Il Covo in Los Angeles provides patrons with small plates for their phones, to keep the gadgets safe from food and drink spills. Others keep iPhone and BlackBerry chargers on hand for guests to use and train servers on the etiquette of approaching diners who are on the phone and how to handle it when phones get in the way of putting plates on the table.

“It’s a busy world now, so it’s hard to tell people to not text when they have so much business going on and so many business dinners,” chef Kerry Simon of Simon L.A. and Simon Restaurant & Lounge at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas told the Times. “What are you going to do? You can’t dictate to diners how to behave.”

Make it a game

Blogger Brian Perez has nothing against digital technology, but he’s over it at the dinner table, New York’s Daily News reported. Perez created a game aimed at getting people to put down their phones and converse face to face during meals. Players put their phones in a pile at the start of a meal, and the first one to touch a phone before the check comes must pick up the tab. What started as a joke quickly gained in popularity after Perez posted it on his website on New Year’s Eve.

Even nature’s call doesn’t stop digital communication

Consumers aren’t using digital devices only in the dining room. A recent survey found that multitasking Americans don’t stop taking calls even when nature calls. Three-quarters of men and women said they’ve used their cellphones in the bathroom: 63% said they’ve taken a call, and 61% said they’ve made a call, TechJournal reported.

Does your restaurant encourage, discourage or ignore digital distractions in the dining room? Tell us in the comments.

Photo credit: iStockphoto