The sound of conversation in restaurants these days sound quite different than in the past. Now we hear the click clack of texting and the buzzing or beeping of texts being received. Where cellphones once posed a nuisance as people chatted loudly into them during meals, they now present a whole new set of etiquette issues as entire tables disappear into the Internet via their small glowing smart phone screens.
The modern cellphone has changed into instant messenger, mailbox, camera, flashlight, computer, map, dictionary, newspaper, personal assistant and social media portal. As such, its use at the table has become so prevalent that restaurants are now forced to incorporate how to deal with them into the sequence of service and table maintenance, even offering plates or coasters specifically for diner’s phones and offering and training staff on chargers, etc.
That’s the practical side. There is also the matter of manners, and when it comes to that debatable issue, most people will tell you that using a phone at the table is not polite while simultaneously admitting to being guilty of having used their phone at the table.
It’s a busy world now, so it’s hard to tell people to not text when they have so much business going on and so many business dinners. The phone is part of the place setting now. When people sit down, they put their phone down somewhere too.
For restaurant staff, if a diner is constantly submerged in his or her phone, it can be difficult to provide good service. It’s hard to know when it’s okay to interrupt or ask a question if the customer seems busy on their phone.
Cellphones aren’t always a distraction, though. For example, at Paymon’s, we love for customers to check-in on social media, share pictures of our delicious food, and provide feedback through comments on our posts and reviews, etc.
The bottom line for what’s polite and what’s not while using your phone at a restaurant is this – be considerate of other people. If you must take a call, it’s usually best to excuse yourself and go somewhere that your conversation won’t be disruptive to other diners. If you’re with a date or a group of friends or family, show your consideration by putting your phone away and engaging fully in the human interaction in front of you. Even if your phone is on your lap, people know you’re not fully focused on them. Even though it’s a mainly silent activity, it’s best if you don’t text when you are involved in any type of social interaction—conversation, listening, in class, at a meeting or, especially, at the dinner table. If you really need to communicate with someone who is not at the event—or at the table—excuse yourself, send your message. Then return as soon as you can to enjoy your food and drink as it is meant to be enjoyed — in a social setting, interacting with those who are with you.