Restaurant Bribes Patrons Into Giving Up Their Cellphones During Meals

Food and phones may go together like chalk and cheese, but that hasn’t stopped millions from talking and texting on their cellphones during meals. According to CNNMoney, Eva Restaurant in Los Angeles is trying to change that by offering patrons a 5% discount if they leave their cellphones with the receptionist while dining.

Since starting the offer about one month ago, chef Mark Gold, who runs the restaurant with his wife Alejandra, estimates that between 40% to 50% of his customers have taken the discount―and they seem happy to do it. "They actually get really enthusiastic about it. 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."

Gold says the idea for a discount was born out of a conversation he had over his frustrations that people were constantly communicating on their phones instead of enjoying their meals. “Eva is really about family and being at home. That’s what we want to exemplify. We just want people to connect again.”

Though it’s not a new concept for restaurants to encourage their clientele to stop talking on handheld devices, Eva is, as far Gold’s aware, the only restaurant that comes with a discount if patrons abide by it. 

Other eateries have taken a different tact. Slightly west of Eva Restaurant, in Hollywood, Groundwork Coffee, a popular neighborhood café, actually refuses to serve anyone who approaches their counter talking or texting on a handheld device.

The idea seems to be catching on, though some take it farther than others; according to The Consumerist website, a deli in Vermont will actually add $3 to a patron’s bill if he approaches the counter mid-phone-conversation.

For some eateries, the point is to insist on mutual respect between staff and guests. For others like Eva Restaurant, it’s about encouraging guests to savor their food and engage with the people who are sitting in front of them.

Would you give up your cellphone for a 5% discount? Let us know what you think about cellphones in restaurants in the comments.

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A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and medical writer.  In addition to reporting the weekend news on TakePart, she volunteers as a webeditor for locally-based nonprofits and works as a freelance feature writer for Email Andri | @andritweets |