To Cell or Not — While Dining Out

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The escalating battle over digital displays in public has reached new heights…or lows…depending on your position on personal freedom versus a modicum of civility. Between texting, tweeting and Instagram-ing restaurant meal photos, “distracted dining” is the latest scourge on the most basic of manners, the art of face-to-face conversation.

Eva Restaurant on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles is offering diners a five percent discount on their bill to check their tech at the door. “For us, it’s really not about people disrupting other guests. Eva is home, and we want to create that environment of home, and we want people to connect again,” said owner/chef Mark Gold. 

About half the customers at Eva, a 40-person restaurant with European nuance, take the discount. “I think once the server approaches the table and they’re presented with the offer, they like the idea of actually talking to each other again,” adds Gold.

Interested in wooing business in a challenging economy, and accommodating a younger, wired clientele, many restaurants now cater to diners who have morphed into “food paparazzi.” [more]

The LA Times reports:

Flickr, the photo-sharing website, has seen the number of pictures tagged as “food” jump from about half a million in 2008 to more than 6 million today… In the group “I Ate This” on Flickr’s site, nearly 20,000 people have uploaded more than 307,000 images of their latest meals, from a 7-Eleven hot dog smeared with mustard to the butter dish at the Michelin three-star restaurant French Laundry in Yountville, Calif.

Of course, this doesn’t begin to count the myriad pictures of food posted to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, Yelp and foodie niche social networks like Foodspotting. Restaurants on the digital bandwagon have integrated iPads, QR codes and various data and social apps into menus and services, while Nikon, Olympus and Sony cameras now come with customizable “cuisine” and “food” settings.

The Food Network has catapulted chefs to rock-star status, and gustatory bloggers and websites have tagged us as a nation of gourmands. “What happened to the enjoyment of just eating the food?” asks Andrew Knowlton, restaurant editor for Bon Appetit in the LA Times. “People are losing sight of why you go out. Now, [eating] is the entertainment. It’s like if you were going to a theater or a sporting event, and taking a photograph of your favorite performer or athlete. But now, your favorite star is the plate.” 

Perry’s Deli in Chicago, has gone so far as posting a sign for consumers of their signature overstuffed sandwiches: “Attention! The use of cellular phones at Perry’s is strictly prohibited. If you are that important that you must use your phone, you should be eating in a much more upscale restaurant.”

These comments from bottomline encapsulate the drama surrounding the issue:

itsrobynb: Really? You can’t sit at a meal with someone without your phone? Unless I’m at a fast-food restaurant, I’m sitting down to a nice meal I’m paying good money for. If I go to all of the trouble to bring someone along or join someone, that’s who I should be paying attention to! Emergency? Leave the # of the restaurant with your sitter or kids. It seems our parents did that, and they did just fine.

LB-3426829: The restaurant’s job is to make my food. What I do while eating it is none of their – expletive deleted – business. The business doesn’t tell the customer how to live their lives, the customer tells the business what he/she wants. Turn the phone to vibrate and only answer emergencies, but trample on my freedoms and me and my $ will walk to the place next door.

tombones: Nothing is worse than some amateur’s crappy photo of their dinner on FB. Always looks like $hit, never looks appealing.

Comments welcome – but please refrain from sending while dining!

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