Digital Detox for a Better Restaurant Experience

Screen time is at an all-time high. Everyday experiences like shopping and dating have transformed dramatically since the inception of smartphones and the proliferation of the Internet. This has led to unrivaled convenience and information access but at a cost. One of the many downsides is an adverse effect on your restaurant dining experience.

Low-Tech Solution For a High-Tech Problem

At Hearth, an Italian restaurant in the East Village, the head chef and owner Marco Canora concocted a low-tech solution to solve the problem. Canora set vintage boxes atop each tabletop to encourage diners to stash away cellphones while they ate.

According to Canora, those that end up immersing themselves at the moment are more likely to enjoy the experience. Even the presence of the stash box, he admits, can spark conversation about screen time. The irony: these cellphone stash boxes have become a popular subject for Instagram posts, leading to free publicity for the restaurant.

Tech-Free Zones

Some restaurants place limits on cellphone use to avoid irritating patrons in their dining rooms. The speakeasy Violet Hour in Chicago and Restaurant Gwendolyn in San Antonio have banned them altogether. According to a psychology study conducted by Ryan Dwyer, a Ph.D. student at the University of British Columbia, creating these tech-free zones can offer real benefits.

“When we use our phones while we are spending time with people we care about,” says Dwyer, “we enjoy the experience less than we would if we put our devices away.”

Connecting Without Technology

For the study, researchers asked more than 300 people to go to dinner with friends and family at a restaurant. Participants were randomly assigned to either keep their phones on the table or to put their phones away during the meal. After the meal, they were asked a variety of questions, including how much they enjoyed the experience.

Researchers found that participants with phones on the table felt more distracted. This reduced how much they enjoyed spending time with their friends and family. The same participants also reported feeling more bored during the meal.

Back to Basics

As smartphone technology advances, screen time seems unavoidable. By offering patrons creative ways to keep their eyes off of their screens, restaurateurs are improving customer experience. This shift leads to stronger customer retention, word-of-mouth referrals, and customer loyalty, which increases the bottom line.