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French restaurateur tries to encourage less phone use during meals

Customers who leave their phone untouched for the entire meal get a drink on the house

A photo of a woman using her phone while having a meal

The scheme encourages diners to give up their phone during the meal, to encourage talking, interaction, and less screen time Pic: kitzcorner / Shutterstock

A restaurateur in southern France is once again encouraging customers to give up their smartphones for the duration of the meal, in what he calls “No phone January”.

The move is a smartphone take on the popular ‘Dry January’ trend where people give up alcohol for January.

Read also: Dry January in France: how our readers are changing drinking habits

Restaurateur Adrien Martin has run the 1950s American diner-style restaurant Samy’s Diner in Albi (Tarn, Occitanie) for seven years. He said that the move is intended to show us “that we are capable of being on our screens a little less”.

Diners are encouraged to leave their phones untouched in a basket on the table for the entire meal. If they succeed, they can order a free coffee, tea, or digestif. 

Mr Martin told that the idea occurred to him a few years ago, when he realised just how many customers were looking at their phones during their meal.

He has run the scheme for several years now but keeps bringing it back every January due to its popularity.

He said: “I had a revelation. I found it was such a shame how customers weren’t even lifting their heads, not talking to each other or to staff…that’s how the idea for ‘No phone January’ was born.” 

Of course, customers are not forced to take part but the scheme has been a success so far. He said: “I would like no one to be on their phone but I’d say around 90% of customers get into the spirit of it.”

He said: “And, contrary to what you might think, young people aren’t the most reluctant. It’s really interesting to see clients’ reactions. For some of them, it’s as if I asked them something crazy!”

In 2019, a poll found that 69% of people in France find it annoying when other diners use their phones in a restaurant. However, 74% said that they had previously shared smartphone photos of their dishes with their partner and friends.

The same study also showed that 40% of French people regularly use social media in a restaurant, and mainly do so to post photos of their food (29%), or to “check in” where they are geographically (15%).

Related articles

French public say phone use in restaurants is annoying

‘No Phone January’: Restaurant in France launches new initiative

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