Restaurants Call Customers Out on Cell Phone Use

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Restaurants Call Customers Out on Cell Phone Use

It’s hard to imagine a meal at a restaurant without cell phones. Between people texting their friends, Instragramming shots of their drinks, and taking quick calls from their boss or babysitter, sometimes it seems like phones are a little too present. Some restaurant owners agree, and they’re doing something more than just hanging up a “No Cell Phones” sign.

Many restaurants simply ask customers—in either nice or not-so-nice terms—to refrain from using their phones while at the restaurant. Some restaurants offer 5-10% discounts to customers who leave their phones at the door while dining. A Washington, D.C. area restaurant made customers sign a two-page contract before being seated that promised, among other things, that they wouldn’t use their cell phones. One deli even tacks an extra $3 onto the bill of anyone who stays on their phone while ordering.

As you can imagine, there are pros and cons to taking a hard “no phones” approach. On the positive side, many customers appreciate not having phones around during meals. They can be distracting and noisy, and no one really wants to overhear someone’s one-sided phone conversation. Without phones, diners are free to actually focus on the meal and the company in front of them. A lack of phones can also make it easier for servers to take orders and help customers. If you want to create a restaurant environment in which customers can escape from the pressures of their daily lives, it can make sense to outlaw phones.

However, there are definite downsides. Some customers might be turned away by these rules. After all, they might argue, what if they get an emergency call, or what if they’re worried about missing a call from a babysitter back home? And then there are customers who, for work reasons, can’t eat even one meal away from their phones.

But the disadvantages aren’t just for customers—they extend to the restaurant itself. Although all of those Instagrams, tweets, and Foursquare check-ins might seem annoying when you see a dining room full of customers on their phones, remember that they’re all spreading the word. Word-of-mouth advertising is some of the most important advertising you can get, and with every tweet a customer sends, another person learns about your restaurant. By getting rid of phones, you might also be getting rid of valuable free advertising.

Although many restaurants are starting to see the benefits of going phone-free, it’s not for everyone. Would you ever consider outlawing phones in your restaurant?


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