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Restaurants Deal With Customers’ Love For Smartphones By Supporting It

Remember when we talked about how some restaurants ban the use of mobile phones in their premises? Here’s a twist to that move: realizing that cellphones are an integral part of their customers’ dining experience, some restaurants now make sure that their waiters are well-trained to handle their diners’ mobile devices and their use of it.

Instead of being treated as a nuisance in the dining room, smart phones now present a complete new set of restaurant etiquette issues. Los Angeles-based Il Covo, for instance, has started offering small plates in their diners’ tables solely for the purpose of holding customers’ phones.

“We realize the role of today’s smartphones in the lives of our diners, forcing us to integrate the use of mobile devices into our waitstaffs’ table maintenance and sequence of service ,” says Il Covo’s general manager Eric Rosenfeld. Indeed, the modern smartphone has become truly indispensable—a mailbox, instant messenger, flashlight, camera, map, computer, newspaper, dictionary, social media portal and personal assistant all rolled into one device.

There are still many who scowl at the thought of customers using their phones while dining. Patina, for one, includes this type of message in their menu: “We have intended this place to be your silent haven from the tumult and stress of your everyday life. Please help us out by putting your phone on silent or vibrate mode while dining.” This notice can easily be seen along with the specialty dishes that the chefs at Patina, in their cozy chef uniforms, prepare. At Sushi Nozawa, they post “no cellphone” notices in their dining walls.

But many restaurants, such as Il Covo, decided to join the smartphone rage rather than hope to beat it. They find ways to deal with the reality of living in a fast-paced digital age, and simultaneously look for ways to encourage their diners to still stay involved with their companions while dining.

Part of their waitstaffs’ table maintenance service is allocating a specific place in the table setting for the diner’s phone, such as a small plate. They also keep an unobtrusive stack of Blackberry and iPhone chargers for their customers’ use, and train their servers on when and how to approach a diner who is using his phone. They know the action to take when a phone is taking up the space intended for the plates, glasses and silvers, trained to always remember the fast and hard rule of “never putting your hands on another person’s phone.”

Christian Page, chef of L.A.’s Short Order says, “Mobile devices are now part of a restaurant’s place setting. When diners sit down, it’s just automatic that they’d be putting their phone somewhere, too.”

Indeed, the use of cellphones in restaurants has become a thorny issue—a lot of people say that using a phone while dining is not polite, but with that admittance, they will simultaneously confess that they, too, are guilty of the offense. In fact, a new term has been recently coined for this: reciprocell—the term to use when someone at the table starts to use his phone; and his companions, instead of stopping him, or complaining, will also start doing their own surfing, texting, calling and tweeting.

So what can today’s restaurateurs do? Celebrity chef Kerry Simon of Simon in L.A. and Simon Restaurant & Lounge at Palms Casino in Las Vegas, in his classy chef uniform, has this to say: “It’s truly a hectic world now, we can’t tell people not to text when they have to do it for their business and their corporate dinners. We just can’t dictate our diners on how to behave.”

If it helps, you might want to learn from what some restaurants do to dissuade their diners from using their phones—read our article Restaurant Game Phone Stack To Curtail Cellphone Disturbance While Dining Out.