Tables turned

Published May 17, 2019

Photographing food

Late last year, restaurant chain Frankie & Benny’s launched an initiative to ban families from using their mobile phones whilst having dinner. As in, handing over your phone to the restaurant while you ate, and then getting it back at the end if you were a good family and ate up all your greens.

Tweet from Mr C: “I wouldn’t trust staff at @frankienbennys with scissors let alone a £1,000 phone.”

It was an initial trial for a month in 2018, and the company said: “We’ve found giving families the chance to part with their devices for a mere couple of hours is a great way to bring them closer and embrace family time… If the initiative is a success we’ll certainly be looking at ways to activate it on a more permanent basis.”

I, as well as many others, was outraged at the restaurant’s audacity, controlling streak, as well as just the general tone of disapproval of people who use phones at table. As though it’s inconceivable that families talk to each other outside of their designated meal times.

Tweet from mrschristine: “Ate in a restaurant this evening and both of us were using our phones. I commented that some people would mightily disapprove of two diners ignoring each other but ‘I’ve been talking to you all day,’ I said. ‘I know,’ he said, ‘I’ve been LISTENING to you all day.’”

So I was indignant. It’s nobody’s business how people choose to eat their meals and whilst a restaurant can choose whatever atmosphere it likes, the judgement cast on families with this move makes me want to yell “Stop interfering!” I swore off Frankie and Benny’s, which was probably good for my health anyway. Then I kinda forgot about the whole thing, until today when I spotted their new initiative.

Snap a picture of your main course and share it on Instagram to get 50% off. Actively stop your meal and your conversation to take a picture ON YOUR PHONE and then share it on a social network instead of having a social time with your friends and family. How does this reconcile with the concept of embracing family time?

Of course companies try campaigns that don’t always work and of course they’re allowed to change their minds. But the brazen-ness of this initiative and such an about-face from just a few short months ago, well, it’s made me even less likely to head to F&B no matter how good their fries are.

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