"If you can't possibly deal without your phone for two hours, this is not the place for you.”
In the mid-2000s, people were so eager to adopt smartphone technology that we never had time to create any etiquette for using it. Now, two decades later, it’s acceptable for people to stare at their phones when others are around, even in social situations. It's also fine to take any event and turn it into little more than an excuse to create social media content.
But in 2022, the constant notifications can feel a lot more like an annoyance than a blessing. Further, these tiny interruptions take us out of the moment and prevent us from paying attention to our friends, a good meal or a show.
Studies show that having a cellphone in your pocket can make you feel more stressed, but when we don’t have our phone on us we experience a sense of anxiety as well. Smartphones, can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.
Smartphones have become such an interruption that some concert venues and comedy clubs have adopted a new system that locks phones in a pouch and they can only be opened in case of an emergency or when the show is over.
The system is great because it prevents others from being distracted by the guy in front who wants to film every moment and also allows you to enjoy the show instead of feeling pressured to take photos or text your friends.
Tim Love, a chef who owns several restaurants in the Fort Worth area, thinks it’s time we enjoy smartphone-free dining, too. According to a report by NBC Dallas-Fort Worth, customers at his new Italian restaurant, Caterina's in Fort Worth, will be required to pack their phones away into small bags while they eat.
"The hostess gives each guest a pouch to put their phone in and the pouch stays with the guest the whole dinner,” Love told Paper City.
"We're going to kindly ask them to put their phone in the bag,” Love said. “We've already had that happen. Some people forget. They just have their phone in their pocket. We give them the bag. They put their phone in the bag. It's not a big deal."
The idea is to create a place where people can disconnect and pay attention to their friends, fellow diners, the ambiance and food without being distracted by technology.
"If you can't possibly deal without your phone for two hours, this is not the place for you,” Love told NBC. “I mean, people go to movies, they don't get on their phone."
\u201cWhy chef Tim Love banned cell phones in Caterina\u2019s https://t.co/DpwoGcyqnb\u201d— Eater Dallas (@Eater Dallas) 1659623426
The restaurant has a swanky ’40s and ’50s vibe and, to keep things classy, men are required to wear sport coats. Love has made the restaurant's old-school bright-red rotary landline available to anyone who needs to be reachable during their dinner. If a diner receives a call, the staff will walk over to their table with the phone.
The meals are served at a slower pace to help people relax. “At Caterina’s guests will be treated to a multi-course meal,” Love 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.”
Bud Kennedy from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram says the smartphone-free restaurant encourages people to socialize.
“Tables talking to tables—[patrons] making new friends—the vibe is so great,” Kennedy said.
We rushed into the new world of smartphones so quickly that we didn’t have a chance to figure out how far we should go. Now that we’ve had smartphones in our pockets for 15-plus years, many of us are starting to realize what we’ve lost due to the change in technology.
Kudos to Love for creating an environment that fosters human connection. Hopefully, others will run with the idea and we can start to find a better balance between digital technology and our natural environment.