When Cell Phone Use While Dining Out Becomes A Problem
The culinary world is changing fast. That should come as a surprise to just about no one. As technology quickly becomes the forefront of how people get their recipe ideas and restaurant reviews and even do their grocery shopping, we can all agree that we are aware that things are on the move. But even more than how food bloggers, tv personalities, chefs, cookbook writers and restaurant owners get their food and their word out is how their customers and clients are taking it all in. Or just really how they are taking the world in now that just about everyone has a jam packed spy device in their hand, ready to use whenever. To get people off their phones and focused on the roads, strict “hands-free” traffic laws have been put in place all over the world to help hinder the dangers of using cell phones while driving. The violations come with hefty fines and that’s if it wasn’t the cause of an accident. That’s a whole other issue. But how do restaurants adjust to the newly distracted customer? A recent article about a trendy, busy restaurant in New York City looked into why it is that this very successful restaurant could consistently get bad reviews online among other issues that were arising in the restaurant, like food constantly being taken back. Because of a major lag in service, the restaurant did the obvious and cut back on menu items and added more staff hoping that would help make up for it. Long story short, it didn’t, so they reviewed security tapes from 10 years ago and today and saw that it wasn’t the restaurant but the customers that had changed. Instead of sitting down, looking at the menu, decided what to eat, eating and then heading out, there were 5-10 minute lags of photos and texting and social media and asking waitstaff to take photos and so on and so forth. It sounds like a total mess.
The headline referred to the findings as “unexpected” but I don’t think that word really accurately describes it at all. That’s like saying that it’s unexpected when a business doesn’t do the numbers they should on a particularly stormy winter week. I’m also sure the waitstaff weren’t at all surprised by what the tapes showed considering it seems that they’re the ones having to deal with the brunt of these interactions. Essentially what was seen was that people took forever in choosing their menus because they were too involved in their phones, when they did get it, they were too involved in their phones and taking photos of their food that by the time they dug in, the food was cold. Their response to this wasn’t that it was their own fault but instead, they sent the food back. They also asked waitstaff to take photos of them, taking away from the amount of time that server would have to wait on other tables. If everyone is doing it, that makes for a seriously hectic environment and will greatly decrease the functionality of how the restaurants runs.
But the big question here is, what do you do about it? It’s too often that people get too wrapped up in their phones that they become completely unaware of their surroundings and the environment around them. Too many times you see people hold up that one little finger, asking for more time because they’re too involved with their phones. So what does a restaurant do about these situations? It is my personal opinion that since the restaurant isn’t at fault for the behaviors of their customers, that this should all weigh on those dining in the establishment. Let’s just get it out there in the open. If you want proper service and food delivered at decent times, save your phone for later. If you can’t make this sacrifice, don’t turn around and make it seem like it’s the restaurant’s fault that your food got cold because you spent 5 minutes photographing and instagramming the dish that a chef just put a lot of love into. It’s wasteful, it’s unnecessary and it’s inconsiderate. If you can’t think of it that way at least think of the business and its other customers. Your actions most definitely affect those around you and it very much goes for any sort of industry that relies heavily on timing. There are many things that go into running a restaurant but much of it has to do with finding a pace where the operation runs smoothly and efficiently. There are only so many margins of error that can be dealt with before the whole thing falls apart and things start getting sticky. There are certain instances like mad rushes and peak times that just require you to throw up your hands up in the air, tighten your apron and dive in, but there are also specific ones, especially those that happen on a reoccurring basis that have to be dealt with.
So how do you deal with this? If a general understanding of politeness doesn’t do it then you’re left with a few options. One, this wouldn’t be the first case where cell phone use is prohibited in restaurants. It’s actually been going on for years. Signs are always an option. You could even add some text in the menu. Waiters could have to start off the meal with, “if you insist on using your cell phone, I insist that your service might be lacking.” There’s also the option to create some sort of app that allows people to order at the restaurant on their phones, saving waiters the fuss and the time of consistently checking in. Or the restaurant could just let the negative reviews fly and keep doing what they’re doing. I think our best bet is to just get the word out that this restaurant etiquette is less than satisfactory and move on. The people who care will bite and those who don’t, well then they can eat their cold food and their negative urbanspoon reviews. Restaurants stand to serve us delicious food and drink that make us happy. Let’s all accept extensive cell phone use while dining out is a big “no no” and move on to our delicious food.