September 27th, 2013
01:00 PM ET
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Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.

Last week, we got to talk about restaurants that have banned kids from their dining rooms.

Here’s something else other than badly behaved kids that can be annoying to diners: overactive cell phone users. Recently, NYU professor Anna Akbar suggested to CNN the “phone stack” game: When you go out to eat, everyone must put their cells in the middle of the table. Whoever is first to give in to the urge to check their device has to pay for dinner.

Here are several places in sync with the phone stack game.

Bedivere Eatery & Tavern (Beirut, Lebanon)
“Tired from going out to places where people are just sitting with a drink and socializing with their mobile phone? If YES is your answer, Bedivere is your place!" says the website of this year-old restaurant that specializes in sandwiches and burgers. Bedivere offers a 10% discount to guests who leave their phones with the restaurant during their meal.

Bucato (Los Angeles, California)
Chef Evan Funke’s dining room prohibits all cell phone use, including photography and texting. Diners can use their phones only within “designated cell phone areas.” The general manager, Ed Keebler, complained to the website Eater that cell phones contribute to “gastro ADD” and that guests are encouraged to “share their meal with fellow diners.”

Malibu Kitchen & Gourmet Country Market (Malibu, California)
Owner Bill Miller has a to-the-point sign posted at the counter of his cute deli: “You decide which is more important. Ordering food or talking on the cell phone. You won’t be waited on until the phone is off and put away.”

Patina (Los Angeles, California)
The iconic restaurant in the Walt Disney Concert Hall is polite about its no-phone request: “This restaurant is a quiet haven from the stress and tumult of everyday life. Please help us by turning your cell phone to vibrate while dining. Thank you.”

Rogue 24 (Washington, D.C.)
Over on the East Coast, in 2011 this prix fixe restaurant implemented a two-page contract to hold a reservation, including the request that all diners “refrain from the use of cell phones and photography. All guests should be able to enjoy the experiences that surround them at Rogue 24 free of distraction.” The contract is no longer in place but cell phone use, while not explicitly banned, is discouraged.

Bouley (New York City, New York)
The iconic chef forbids photos in the fancy dining room but allows them in the coat check and lounge areas. He also has been known to let diners into the kitchen to take pictures as the food is coming out. “That shot will look much better on the marble table of our kitchen,” David Bouley told the New York Times.

Eva Restaurant (Los Angeles, California)
This restaurant is now closed. Too bad: When it was open, chef Mark Gold offered a 5% discount on the meal if guests left cell phones at the host stand. The discount started in summer 2012, and an estimated 40-50% of the guests were participating in less than two months. "They actually get really enthusiastic about it," Gold told CNN Money. "I think people generally like the idea of being able to turn off their cell phones. They just haven't been given the opportunity to or thought about it."

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© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. Pandamonius

    "Bedivere offers a 10% discount to guests who leave their phones with the restaurant during their meal."

    Wow! for a 10% discount, I can have my privacy invaded and my identity stolen!!!

    Always thought the business was there to serve the customers, not the customers to serve the business. If you don't like seeing people on their smartphones while having lunch... then eat in your cubicle.

    June 24, 2014 at 2:28 pm |
  2. Seanette

    If I'm eating by myself or with my husband (who isn't much on conversation during meals), I do want reading material, and my phone has a nice selection of e-books available. BTW, my husband has no problem with me reading during a meal (I've asked him about his feelings in the matter). As for phone conversations, most restaurants have enough background sound I'd want to find a quieter area anyway, and as much as I hate having to listen to someone shouting into a phone, I don't inflict that on others.

    October 9, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
  3. Contrary

    Since I think we can ALL agree that rude cell phone users are a huge problem in restaurants, we can also probably all agree that no cell phone policies in restaurants are a good thing overall. Especially when they have a cell phone area, or you can nip out for a quick call if it's an emergency. There's really no reason to be talking on your phone the whole meal – especially if you are with someone else.

    I have gone to restaurants on my own before, and with the sound off played games or gone online while waiting for my food, but that's something that doesn't disturb anyone else in the restaurant. If they had a no cell phone for any reason policy there, I would just not use it until I left the restaurant.

    Now, since only a few restaurants have this policy, and it's very close to the very few restaurants that disallow children, please allow me to show all the touchy parents what they sound like when outraged over this kind of thing:

    WHAT??!! My cell phone is banned at five or six restaurants around the country??? They should go out of business!! How are people supposed to learn cell phone etiquette if they aren't allowed in ANY restaurants ever? I will never go there, not ever, and any thinking person should boycott them as well. NO I CANNOT go next door to the restaurant that does allow cell phones! CAN'T YOU SEE IT'S TOTALLY WRONG THAT OTHER PEOPLE WANT A NICE QUIET MEAL and don't want my cell phone around?! You all should be ASHAMED!!

    October 8, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  4. silentgirl

    Next thing you know if you laugh too loud at a restaurant you will have to go to a loud talking only area. Jeez. What else should we try and police next?! My god.

    October 8, 2013 at 7:17 am |
    • Frank

      I'm guessing "silentgirl" isn't all that silent and is one of those people you do NOT want to sit near at a restaurant, on a plane, on a bus, on the bike at the gym, etc., etc.

      October 16, 2013 at 2:02 am |
      • BRB

        Bet she is a screamer in the bedroom.

        October 16, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  5. Magister

    Think I'll go to a Panera Bread and USE MY CELL PHONE THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE GODDAMNED MEAL. DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, LEFTIES!

    October 4, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Ubiquitous

      Whoa whoa whoa.... Why are you yelling at left handed people?

      October 25, 2013 at 9:09 am |
  6. Sherri

    Unless it is an emergency, I find it very rude for someone to be at dinner and then talk on their phone to someone else. Any call can wait. I mean, we did without phones at dinner for thousands of years. If there is an emergency, the police can come find you. There is NO reason to be talking on the phone while out to eat. And those losers who sit, texting etc while facing a person across the table, and ignoring that person -they are truly idiots. And I've seen couples, with kids, and each adult has their face in their phone, texting, totally ignoring their child. Why did they HAVE a child?

    October 3, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • lagunalady27

      AMEN!

      October 5, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
  7. Thinking things through

    Okay, I still run a dumb phone that looks like a Star Trek communicator. (At least I can't accidentally dial it...)

    I have no problems with cell phone usage in restaurants, as long as you aren't yelling into the thing. Seriously, regular conversational level is fine. If you have to be loud, take it outside. I do think the people who sit WITH EACH other engaging their phones and NOT each other throughout the meal are true losers, but as long as I'm not dining with them, I don't care what they do. I also have no problem with food photography - I sometimes do that myself, only with a real camera (and I only use that when I am seated unobtrusively or at an outdoor cafe). NEVER flash-light your food! That's distracting.

    October 2, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
  8. Ann

    You know, I hardly ever use a cell phone myself, but I fail to understand how upset people get about them.

    The rings are annoying, yes ... turn it to vibrate. But unless you're screaming into the phone, why would I care if you made a phone call from another table? I'm talking to my friends; you're talking to yours. Mine just happen to be sitting with me. How is overhearing one side of a conversation more offensive than overhearing both sides?

    As for texting – who cares? It's silent. Sure, it's rude to ignore the people you're sitting with, but that's none of the restaurant's business. And what if you're dining alone? When I travel on business, I routinely take my kindle with me and either read or email from the table. That's no different than texting or playing a (silent) game. How is that bothering anyone?

    Stop worrying about what other people are doing and enjoy your dinner.

    October 2, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • rskins09

      What bothers me is that EVERY call is life or death, especially at a restaurant...It's rude ...What did people do before cell phones ? ? ..Can't people go 30/45 mins without playing with their toy ? ? ..

      October 6, 2013 at 8:02 am |
  9. bs1

    No cell phone, no business. How dare these restaurants try to tell me who I can talk to while dining.

    October 2, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • silentgirl

      I agree. I often like to dine alone and so what if I want to read my kindle on my phone or make a phone call and catch up with people. Others in the restaurant are talking to their friends and family, what is the difference if it's on a phone or in person? I'm a grown woman and mother and if I want to send a damn text I'm going to send a damn text.

      October 8, 2013 at 7:20 am |
      • Hahrumph

        Go ahead and send your text already. Jeeze.

        October 8, 2013 at 7:26 am |
      • Contrary

        Probably because people tend to scream into their phones. I don't know anyone, even me, who doesn't automatically raise their voice when they are on the phone. There's already a lot of noise from people talking in reasonable tones to each other, but you can still usually hear the voice of a phone user rise above the crowd.

        Then there is the fact that some people don't seem to realize that everyone around them can hear their conversation. I've had people sitting near me, shouting about closing on a home, how to cure their diarrhea, itching in private places... this is stuff that no one in a restaurant ever needs to hear.

        October 8, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
      • BRB

        You probably need to dine alone because no one wants to sit for two hours listening to your mouth yapping on the phone. Get a life and maybe you will get friends.

        October 16, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
  10. cali girl

    Could not agree more. Very rude to ignore your dinner company because the text about nothing is so more important.

    September 30, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • Sandra

      Yes.. it is very rude.

      People need to get over themselves. Guess what .. You're not that important.. the freaking phone call or text can wait !!

      Unless you are a surgeon who is on call.. turn the damn cell phone off.

      October 1, 2013 at 10:41 pm |
      • AleeD®

        Annnnnd just how do you know the person checking their phone isn't an on call surgeon? Hmmm?

        October 4, 2013 at 6:44 am |
        • aled

          hey AleeD? Are you a surgeon or simply a loudmouth that enjoys the sound of their own voice? I bet you are the one in the movie theater talking on a phone while the movie is playing, or maybe you're the one in the checkout line in the grocery store forcing everyone to wait on you while you make [life and death decisions] on what type of wine to serve with your dinner.Either way I THINK YOU'RE THE KIND OF JERKOFF THIS ARTICLE IS TALKING ABOUT! P.S. I AM AN ON CALL SURGEON!!!
          '

          October 4, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
        • AleeD®@aled

          Wow. Totally missed the point of my post. Keep attending your reading comp classes.

          October 8, 2013 at 7:33 am |
  11. EMD_CT

    Too many people are on their phones too much and can't let them be or disconnect. Having a cell phone doesn't mean you have to be available every second of every day.

    I hate having to listen to other people's conversations in the check out line, or immediately after a flight has landed, or at the next table, or in the next row. It drives me nuts in meetings when the phone is more important than the conversation.

    The funny thing is, the vast majority of time, the call, text, tweet, snapchat, FB update, 4 Square check in, or whatever else, can wait.

    But sometimes, we do need the coupon, or the tip calculator, or the loyalty card....

    September 30, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • Sandra

      My girlfriend and I went to lunch the other day. A man and a woman.. (husband and wife?) were seated at the next table.

      BOTH of them were on their phones the entire time.. either taking phone calls or texting. NO conversation.. NO politeness.. Just 2 rude people who thought they were so important that the world could not wait while they took time to eat lunch.

      October 1, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
      • Sherri

        I see this in my city all the time. Makes me nuts. Why did they even bother to go out, with each other, if they were not even going to acknowledge the other? Any call can wait.

        October 3, 2013 at 11:23 am |
        • AleeD®

          How do you know what's gong on a another table, Honey? Could be anything causing users to check their phone in the company of other people. Try minding your own business for a change. It does a body good.

          October 4, 2013 at 6:51 am |
        • silentgirl

          No, not true. Those of us divorced with children need to have access to our telephones when our kids are not with us..at all times. It isn't anyone's business who anyone chooses to phone at a restaurant, this is just nonsense. My family is often making calls because they are self employed and work doesn't always end at 5pm for everyone, the entrepreneurs of this world make calls morning through evening and who's right is it for you or anyone else to judge another person's phone habits anyway?

          October 8, 2013 at 7:23 am |
      • BRB

        Get a pair and inform them that you really don't want to listen to their personal business – they will turn it off 90% of the time. Don't be a doormat to the world.

        October 16, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • Crocky

      I do use my phone right after I get off the plane, but it's usually when I've gotten to the connecting airport when I travel to see my parents. As they have AT LEAST an hour and a half drive into another country in order to pick me up when I fly to see them, this way, they know that I'm still on time in my travels and they won't be wasting their time and gas to pick me up when I won't be getting there until later.

      You don't always know someone's situation...but I'll agree that using a cell phone in a restaurant is simply rude.

      October 4, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
  12. rhoksh

    I like the idea of the soup nazi.

    September 29, 2013 at 1:29 am |
  13. rhoksh

    Reblogged this on RhOksh.

    September 29, 2013 at 1:28 am |
  14. Sherron

    And to think my generation actually raised kids without cell phones and the need to check on them every other minute!

    September 28, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
  15. Magister

    Yeah.......I think the cell phone stays. Restaurants that think they're Buckingham Palace can go bye-bye, though....

    September 28, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
    • Dr. McDonald

      Restaurants reserve the right to serve you, too, Magister of Ent!tlement. If you're away from something that needs your undivided, order in or get over yourself.

      September 29, 2013 at 10:34 am |
      • mark

        Agreed!

        September 30, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
  16. Magister

    Actually, I'll be using my cell whenever I please, thanks, especially if I need to make sure the kids are ok or basically if I just want to, even if it offends a Lefty.......ESPECIALLY if it offends a left.......

    September 28, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • Unpublished

      "make sure the kids are ok" That's some funny stuff right there. What's interesting is that billions of humans survived into adulthood, in even more physically dangerous times, without Mumsy using her electronic tether. Be honest – you're playing Candy Crush when you're at the restaurant, aren't you?

      September 29, 2013 at 3:30 am |
      • EMD_CT

        Right on...

        September 30, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • Sandra

      Forget Lefty.. It offends the person you are with.. though they may be too polite to say anything.

      It is rude and inconsiderate of others to use your cell phone while dining. If there is an emergency call you absolutely have to take.. then step away from the table.. to the front entrance area.. or outside the building to take your call.

      If there are no emergencies in your life at the moment.. turn off the phone until you leave the restaurant. The world will be able to survive without your two-cents for at least the hour it takes for you to enjoy your dinner.

      October 1, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
      • Ann

        If it offends the person you are with, it's up to that person to decide how to handle it. They may seethe in silence, ask you to turn it off, or just decide never to go out to eat with you again. It's none of the restaurant's business unless you're making too much noise and annoying other patrons.

        October 2, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • Thinking things through

      A lot of people who are offended by it are not Lefties, but Righties. Thank about it. In fact some of my most Lefty friends have a hard time being amputated from their phones. I fail to see what politics has to do with it (because it has NOTHING to do with it).

      October 2, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • aled

      Maybe you and AleeD should hook up .It sounds like you both took the same etiquette class at Harvard . Oh, wait you didn't go to Harvard did you,and before you say something else that shows how simple you are , YES I CAN TELL!

      October 4, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
      • Magister

        Wow! Your whole, leftist vocabulary in one poorly-formed paragraph! You must be tired!

        October 4, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
        • aled

          DEAR MAGISTER, I'M NEVER TOO TIRED TO IRRATATE A LOSER LIKE YOU!

          October 4, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
        • aled

          SORRY I SPELLED IRRITATE INCORRECTLY ALTHOUGH I'M SURE YOU DIDN,T NOTICE.

          October 4, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • BRB

      You are a pox on civilized people. Take some vasaline, coat the phone, and shove it up you azz.

      October 16, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
  17. RC

    Aww-not this crap again. Help Kat!

    September 27, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
  18. Kat Kinsman

    I am reading this on my phone during lunch! but I'm by myself, so I hope that gets me a pass.

    September 27, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • Führer Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      NO SOUP FOR YOU

      September 27, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
      • RC

        ONE YEAR!

        September 27, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • Becks

      Nope!!

      September 30, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
      • AleeD®@Becks

        Huh? You want to control what a person does to occupy themselves when they're eating ALONE?! What a control freak you are. She's READING an article on the phone – not talking and disturbing people around her. How the F$&K does that effect you? Would it be less offensive if she was reading a book? Why? She's still shutting YOU out. I would, too.

        October 4, 2013 at 6:56 am |
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