A restaurant in the south of France is challenging customers to take part in ‘No Phone January’ and spend their meal without using their smartphones.
Since January 1, 1950s American-style restaurant Samy’s Diner in Albi, Tarn (Occitanie) has been inviting customers to place their smartphones in a tray on their table, and leave them there without touching or using them, for the entirety of the meal.
If customers succeed, they are offered a free tea, coffee or digestif.
The move is a take on common challenges that take place in January, such as ‘Dry January’ (no alcohol for the month) and Veganuary (eating vegan for the month).
The restaurant is set to end the initiative on January 31, but is already considering repeating the exercise next January.
Adrien Marie, owner of the restaurant, told BFMTV: “The idea came to me one weekday evening. I was walking around the restaurant and I realised that 80% of customers had their eyes fixed on their phones.
“It startled me a bit. I thought, people come to a restaurant to have a nice experience, but they just end up on their phone. It worried me, so I thought about it, and decided to launch this in January.
“The first week when we told the first customers, some of them looked at us with wide eyes.”
‘But what will I do?’
Mr Marie said the invitation is generally met with one of three reactions.
“There are those who think it’s a great idea and take part immediately; those who ask for five minutes to just finish what they need to do; and others who just refuse. But only a handful have refused.
“Sometimes they ask me: ‘But what will I do?’, and I answer: ‘Well, you’ll have to chat, have a conversation, and enjoy your food’,” he said, with a touch of humour.
The move is not mandatory, but the reactions have been “interesting”, Mr Marie said, saying that his goal is not to “have a confrontation with clients”.
He said that he has not noticed a significant difference between how attached older and younger people are to their phones, and that younger customers were even “more ready to play the game than older people”.
He said: “On a human level, it’s really interesting. The best thing is to see their reactions at the end, they realise that they’ve spent an hour, an hour and a half, without their phones; they can do it. Sometimes they feel as though they’ve really achieved something.
“It’s great to see. It’s a good start that people are getting involved and are managing to get away from their screens for the length of a meal.”