News alert: you don’t have to have your cell phone with you at all times. At least, that’s the message West Hollywood’s Eva Restaurant is touting. In fact, they are offering their customers a 5% discount if they are willing to leave their phones with the receptionist at the door.
Although some find chatting on cell phones in public to be rude, owners, Mark and Alejandra Gold, say their initiative isn’t about that. Instead, they want customers to focus wholly on their meals and the people they are with and not on calls, texts, emails, and the internet. “It’s really not about people disrupting other guests. Eva is home, and we want to create that environment of home, and we want people to connect again,” Gold said.
Considering many “home” meals are constantly interrupted by cell phone calls and texts, perhaps what the Golds are going for is not today’s home environment but how dinner was 20 years ago before portable phones became like a fork and knife, a meal mainstay. Either way, the sentiment is the same — put the phone away and focus on who and what’s in front of you.
And the Golds aren’t the only ones, or the first, to take such a stance. Eight months ago, Tumbler blogger, Brian Perez, wrote about a dining out game he plays with friends to encourage conversation (among those actually at the table).* The game is simple: everyone places their cell phones face down on the table or stacks them in a pile. The first person to flip over their phone loses. The loser pays the bill. If no one caves, everyone pays for their own meal.
Although other restaurants across the country have tried implementing a no-cell-phone policy, most have done it by simply asking or, in the case of one Vermont deli, actually adding a fee onto a customer’s bill if they use their phone.** Eva restaurant is different because they are giving people a monetary incentive (arguably the best kind) to put their phones down.
Still, the Golds feel their customers enjoy leaving their phones behind; not just for the discount but because of the freedom it provides. “They actually get really enthusiastic about it,” said Mark Gold. “I think people generally like the idea of being able to turn off their cell phones. They just haven’t been given the opportunity to or thought about it.”
So, for Eva Restaurant customers, there’s only one question to ask yourself — is a 5% discount worth not posting a picture of your food on Instagram?