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Mobile phones have grown to be a pervasive part of our lives. The need to text, check social networking updates and even accept calls has meant that we have our phones on hand even during intimate occasions. As a result, families might rarely have meaningful conversations over dinner. Dates end up being disasters due to interruptions. Even business meetings over a meal might get interrupted.

Restaurateurs have been trying to discourage the use of mobile phones during meals. Someone at the other table might consider it rude to answer a phone and indiscreetly talk while others are enjoying meals and conversations. Eva Restaurant in Los Angeles has an interesting idea: they will give you a 5% discount for checking in your mobile phone with the maitre d’.

The idea is not so much about avoiding rude interruptions from the other table, but rather keeping the meal intimate. “We just want people to connect again,” says chef Mark Gold. It seems the customer feedback has been good, so far. “I think people generally like the idea of being able to turn off their cell phones,” Gold says. The 5% discount is, perhaps, just icing on the cake.

Other restaurants have tried different ways to discourage the use of mobile phones at the table, including adding a surcharge to the bill for cellphone usage, or even explicitly banning phones and photography. Then there are also some customer-driven interventions. Take for instance the Phone Stack game. It involves collecting everyone’s mobile phone on the table. Whoever picks up his or her phone before the meal finishes, for whatever reason, gets to pay for everyone else’s meal.

Sure enough, smartphones have been helpful in offering discounts and deals for patrons, especially given location-based services and app-based reservations. But once you’re at the table, it’s probably best to keep your attention off of the phone and on other more important things.

Would you be willing to part with your smartphone for a few minutes to get a discount?

J. Angelo Racoma
J. Angelo Racoma has written extensively about mobile, social media, enterprise apps and startups. Angelo develops business case studies for Microsoft enterprise platforms, and is also co-founder at WorkSmartr, a small outsourcing team that offers digital content and marketing services.
  • Peterson Silva

    Fuck no! But for security reasons. I can’t trust a waiter I’ve never seen or talked to in my life with my phone. I know it’s protected and all that, but, as technology progresses and credit card information (with services such as Google Wallet) become part of the data on phones, I just think I wouldn’t take the risk of… I don’t know, some sort of intricate scam involving restaurant owners and crackers and shit. I just don’t know. I’d rather pay the 5% and simply turn off the phone.

    • vJ

      lol you talk about progressing technology and you cant even add security measures to your cellphone. Just add pin/pattern or face recognition lock and give the device.. :D

      • socrfan

        Yeah, that is taking paranoia to an extreme. I don’t talk on the phone much anyway so I’ll take the 5%.

      • Peterson Silva

        Maybe I’m paranoid parrot =P
        But hey, just a few posts ago there was something about breaking into pattern-protected phones with an USB cable. If here in Brazil some gas stations used to “clone” credit cards with the payment machines, they could do the same things with phones…

  • NoreenD

    No…absolutely not. I don’t feel comfortable even at the thought of leaving my phone with the staff or the public. It sounds too risky for plenty of reasons. Heck, I’d be worried the entire time if I’d caved in. No way! Thanks, but no thanks, really!

  • Nobody

    Cool Idea! I can see how that would force us to interact more and less likely to see what everyone “outisde” the restaurant is up to. Society is way too paranoid. Relax, besides if you don’t feel comfortable letting them hold your phone, then why would you feel comfortable with them making your food?

  • Michael Villalobos Gomez

    Just 5%? I would rather keep my phone. If it were 25% or more discount, sure take my phone! As long as you don’t post stuff on my facebook or google plus I’m fine…

  • Mona

    when you leave your coat in the coat room you get a ticket, if it’s lost or damaged they have a claim process. yes ? the restaurants shown on the tv clip didn’t provide either so this just comes across as a cheap (5%) PR ploy. yes, cheap at a min. the discount should equal the meals tax. cell phn security measures are meaningless, addicts & dealers looking to trade it for a few pills/bucks could care less if they can fire it up.

  • Laury Burr

    I heard about this idea on British TV (Channel 5 if anyone’s interested!)

    I hate the way many people treat their mobile phone (that’s British English for cellphone) as their best friend &/or their dominatrix and can’t bear to be without it, I daresay some will even break off from sex to respond to a call or a text (brings a new meaning to “coitus interruptus)

    So it won’t surprise you that I’m in favour of this idea. Provided I get some form of receipt in exchange for the phone I’ll happily hand it over.