Cell phones are banned when we are in classrooms, theatres or libraries. Mainly because it distracts other people, and we, over the course of time, have become polite enough to realize that. We have grown accustomed to the fact that these are banned in these places, but restaurants? Can we actually dissuade customers from using their cell phones while dining?
A few weeks back we talked about being cautious when serving customers, since today’s mobile phones, apps and social media have created a whole new generation of restaurant food critics and restaurant reviewers. Here’s something that challenges the new trend.
A new restaurant in Washington DC called Rogue 24 prohibits the use of cell phones and cameras while dining at their premises. The eatery, which offers a 24-course dinner for $175 per person, makes their customers sign a two-page contract that makes sure they won’t bring out their cell phones while dining at their establishment. The contract stipulates that, “all diners should be allowed to enjoy the experience, undistracted, that is provided for them at Rogue 24.”
The hot, pricey restaurant is willing to revise the other contentious provisions in their contract, such as penalizing diners if they arrive in the eating place more than 30 minutes late, but they have no intention of retracting their policy against cell phones and cameras.
“It’s basically about being courteous to your dining companions and fellow guests,” said restaurant owner RJ Cooper. “If every diner is allowed to pull out their phones, pretty soon the whole dining ambiance would be gone. We’re not saying our diners can’t Tweet – they can still do that, but this time it’s limited to the bathroom or the salon. We’re just really against cell phones in the dining room.”
In Houston, a customer who tweeted that the restaurant’s bartender was a “twerp” was ejected from the dining place earlier this month.
The diner, who was locally known for her late-night Tweets, was having drinks at the Down House restaurant when she had some form of squabble with the bartender, who had on his impeccable restaurant apron. She then sent a tweet, calling the bartender a “twerp,” of which the restaurant’s general manager saw instantly.
“I immediately called the restaurant, and conversed with her for a few minutes, asking her if she has any kinder words,” said Down House’s general manager Forrest DeSpain. “She said she can’t think of any, so I asked her to leave.”
Restaurants have always asked troublesome diners to leave the premises, but this incident marks the first time that a customer was asked to leave for making trouble online. The incident also brings up the question: which group of people should restaurants prioritize? The patrons who are physically present to witness the whole thing, or the throng of prospective customers who are virtual spectators to that behavior on social media?
The banning of cell phones in restaurants is evidently old story: Back in 1999, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay had once made public his infuriation “when he delivers his appetizer to a table and sees the diner on the phone.” But it’s been said that he somehow relented over the years, saying that there is “no set policy” regarding the use of cell phones at any of his restaurants.
So what’s the public’s take on this?
While many nod their head to the idea, saying that they are also appalled when their fellow diners spend more time texting, tweeting or updating their Facebook statuses than engaging in real-life conversation, they still think that we have to get real and realize that mobile devises have gone way beyond being mere phones now. People have become dependent and addicted to these mobile devises, and such drastic measure might just muddle up the customer traffic of the restaurant.
But if restaurants wish to preserve the ambiance of their establishment and want their customers to savor the dining experience that apron-clad restaurant team has worked hard for, then perhaps they can implement this rule slowly.
No one really loves to hear the customer at the next table talking loudly on the phone while they are trying to take pleasure in their meal. The whole loud-voice-while-talking-on-the-phone act is already being frowned upon; the etiquette rule of keeping it low already exists. But then, just like any other etiquettes, not all have completely grasped the idea just yet.
Think of a library—since childhood, we have been told time and again that libraries are silent areas and we’re not supposed to do anything distracting, let alone the heinous offense of allowing a cell phone to ring loudly. We never had a problem keeping this in mind, since the idea has always been ingrained.
So for restaurants who want diners to let go of their mobile devices, let the idea sit for a while, slowly educate the public, and gradually, gradually, allow it to stick.