Food & Drink

One Way Every Restaurant Should Imitate Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A Family Challenge
Courtesy of Chick-Fil-A

If I had a dollar for every time my dining companions had a phone, instead of a fork, in their hands at the table... well, I actually don't know how much money I'd have, because I'm usually distracted by my phone, too. Which is why Chick-fil-A has developed an unfocused eater solution: a small box, or "phone coop," set on the table where devices can remain sequestered during meals. And if all phones remain in the coop, untouched during the course of the meal, the restaurant awards all participants with an ice cream cone. Currently, 350 Chick-fil-A's are participating in the program, with plans for more to follow suit. 

It sounds silly, and maybe it is. But, it's exactly what the restaurant world needs right now.

Using your phone during meals
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

There's a big problem with using your phone at the table

It may seem like an innocuous, 21st century annoyance, but more than 40% of Americans in this study admitted to using their phones frequently during meal times, and nine out of ten people admitted to use the same phones in the bathroom, which is gross. 

But hygiene isn't the problem here. Studies have shown "phubbing," or snubbing someone to use your phone, can actually ruin relationships. Even the very presence of a smart phone can put a strain on conversation and real-life connections. And when one third of Americans would rather give up sex than their iPhones, we know we have a pandemic even Dustin Hoffman, Cuba Gooding Jr., and a tranquilizer gun can't solve. 

We need to save our meal times, arguably the most fundamental and sacrosanct source of human bonding, from the onslaught of technology. The answer may lie in a chicken box. 

Chick-Fil-A family challenge
Courtesy of Chick-Fil-A

This is the only way to get people to put their phones down

The only time I haven't used my smartphone for more than a few hours, was when I went to Cuba for a week and literally couldn't use it. This is indicative of most people's smart phone habits. Technology is so accessible, we need our devices physically removed from us to stop using them. After all, Internet addiction can present urges and symptoms in line with cocaine and alcohol dependence.

Short of going to a country without Internet, or just nailing your smartphone to the sidewalk, a reward-based system like the one implemented by Chick-Fil-A may be the only method that could actually curb cell phone use during meal times. Plus, once the phones are away, customers will probably realize how nice it is to live in the moment, and translate the behavior to dining rooms at home. Straight-up banning of phones in restaurants will never work, as there are always cheaters, and people don't like being told what to do. But giving customers the option, and a reward, is a brilliant compromise. 

If money is the one great motivator, free ice cream is probably a close second. I for one, hope to see this trend flourish. For humanity's sake. Also, I love ice cream.
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Wil Fulton is a staff writer for Thrillist. He wrote this on his iPhone. At dinner. Follow him: @wilfulton.