To be fair, Gilmore Girls‘ Luke Danes did this first. It was controversial then, it’s controversial now.
A new Italian spot called Caterina’s in Fort Worth, TX has a strict no-phone policy.
Guests will be required to leave their phones at the entrance when they arrive and follow a dress code. The idea comes from chef Tim Love, who owns the restaurant.
Love believes that it was time we all were able to enjoy a phone-free dinner. There’s something to be said for the idea; we’ve all become so easily distracted that we have trouble living in any one moment.
So Love opened up Caterina’s with the requirement that guests pack their phones away into bags before they eat.
“The hostess gives each guest a pouch to put their phone in and the pouch stays with the guest the whole dinner,” Tim told Paper City.
“We’re going to kindly ask them to put their phone in the bag. […] We give them the bag. They put their phone in the bag. It’s not a big deal.”
If the guest needs access to a phone, the establishment has an old-school landline. If the customer gets a call, the staff will walk the landline phone to the table.
“And, if someone really needs to access their cell during dinner, they are welcome to simply walk outside to use it,” Tim said reasonably.
A food blogger from Paper City also asked, “What about people like me who want to take photos of the space and their memorable meal?”
Tim had “already thought of that”.
He said, “We are going to send a follow-up email to all the reservations the next day, including a photo of everything they ordered. So they can share it online to their hearts’ content.”
Honestly, I agree with Tim Love; why can’t we go to a place to connect wholly with our friends and loved ones?
“If you can’t possibly deal without your phone for two hours, this is not the place for you,” Tim said to NBC. “I mean, people go to movies, they don’t get on their phone.”
(I mean… DO THEY, Tim? I know they’re MEANT to but…)
There’s also a dress code at Caterina’s; men have to wear sports coats and if anyone forgets, there are loaners at the door.
“Caterina’s guests will be treated to a multi-course meal,” Tim told Paper City. “It’s slow dining, or what I like to call analog dining where the entire experience encourages you to slow down. There will be lots of little surprises throughout the meal.”
“I wanted to create a little jewel box,” Tim went on. “A place where people could get dressed up, and enjoy a relaxed meal and good conversation.”
I love it, but the internet pointed out a few possible problems: what about people who are dining solo? Or, more importantly, what about people who track blood sugar levels via their phone?
I imagine, just given that Tim Love sounds like a perfectly reasonable dude, that people with legit medical issues will likely be exempt.
Or I guess they could just… not go to that restaurant.
One person online wrote, “Sounds great – I’ve sat at dinners with people on their phones – it’s pretty rude. Phones are useful but seriously put them away!”
Another said, “Other than car problems while out on the road, or a dire emergency – we all could live without carrying our cell phones everywhere we go. The cell phone has only been around for maybe twenty years, and somehow – somehow we’ve all managed to make do and function before they were invented. Yes, I have a cell phone. I turn it on when I’m on the road. Otherwise, it sits in my purse OFF. I find it interesting when dining with friends to see cell phones on the table, interspersed with glasses of wine and the salad. To be honest, I don’t get it. Maybe it’s generational. I don’t know. I wish that restaurant much success, however. When I meet friends at a restaurant, I expect a lovely meal and good conversation. A cell phone can provide constant interruptions, and iust an overall eventual feeling of annoyance.”
“Don’t like the policy, then just don’t go. Plenty of places to choose from. But I hope the menu is not shared via QR code!” chimed in a third.
Others did point out the possible problem this may cause for people:
“Love the notion but it is kind of ableist. Many deaf people type for waiters. Type 1 diabetics have glucose numbers sent to their phone and use the calculator to figure insulin doses. Those on special diets need to quickly Google nutrition information of menu items. Those with meds that go with meals have reminders set or trackers to update. I don’t mind the notion of “this may not be the place for you” “… until it’s blatantly ableist. (Nevermind parents and caregivers who can’t enjoy a meal out if they can’t be reached by the babysitter in an emergency. I know they have “the red phone” that they’ll bring to your table if that happens but this would not help if my son just needed to text me his glucose number and confirm the amount of insulin he needs… his autism and anxiety would keep him from calling a landline and talking to a stranger just to get to me,” wrote one person.
Another said, “It is a private establishment so they do have a right to make rules but I think it odd they are telling you what you can/can’t do at the table. If you’re taking a call and talking loudly in the restaurant, get asking you to take it outside. But if people want to be on their phone, why does anyone else care? Are they offending someone? Will they ban smart watches too?”
So what do you think?