The world’s best restaurants admitted defeat to mobile phones a long time ago. But a few chefs would still like patrons to put their devices away while eating. Now, an eatery in Kent, England called Spice Fusion is adding an incentive for doing so. Diners will receive a 20% discount on their meal if they don’t use their phone while dining. The phone jail initiative aims to get people talking instead of looking at their screens.
Upon arriving at a table, folks will be given a small cage with a padlock and a key. The tiny phone jail remains with them at all times. But your device is completely out of reach. The English outlet introduced the idea after its chef saw it at an eatery in London. Speaking to Kent Online, the manager of Spice Fusion Rajeev Gupte talked about the concept. “Our chef, Abul Hussain, and his wife saw it in London and he suggested we do the same here.”
He explained that after observing how people in their restaurant are always on their phones, they decided to give phone jail a shot. “A couple of years ago we had a large group come in for lunch and I noticed something was different,” Gupte told the publication. “As I watched them I realized they were all engaged talking to each other. None of them had their phones in their hands.”
As such, Spice Fusion’s “Dinner is Better When We Eat Together” promotion was announced through Facebook on April 4th. “We love to see people enjoying each other’s company,” the restaurant wrote. “And because we like to see this so much, we’re offering 20% off food on tables of four or more if all diners on the table agree to lock away their phones in a phone jail. So everyone can concentrate on the important things.”
Since most people consider their phones to be an extension of themselves, this isn’t the first time a restaurant has given diners a phone jail option. According to Food & Wine, London’s Tea Terrace Restaurants and Tea Rooms debuted the “phonetentiary” in 2017. Customers were given a stylish box with a combination lock to stash their devices. “We want to bring back good old conversations,” Tea Terrace director Rowena Shouly said at the time. “Very often we see guests not engaging in conversation because the children are on their phones.”
The Fat Boar pub in yet another English town also put patrons’ devices in phone jail. But this time their staff kept the keys to prevent anyone from being tempted to break their phones out mid-meal. And an eatery in Sydney, Australia called Bistecca asked customers to surrender their phones at the door as part of their Digital Detox.
Speaking about the program, co-owner Warren Burns told The Australian that 70% of people were happy to do it, 10% were hesitant but came around eventually, and 20% outright refused. A McDonald’s in Singapore also got in on the mini phone jail trend. The popular franchise installed small plastic lockers where folks who wanted to experience what they called “a fun family playdate” could leave their devices during their meals.