Is it possible to halt the spread of mobile phone use and social media surfing in restaurants, asks Pride of Britain chief executive Peter Hancock
As a waiter in my earlier life I can remember being slightly miffed whenever customers ignored my polite enquiry as to whether their meal was satisfactory. This was easily excused, however, if they were so engrossed in conversation that they literally failed to notice my presence.
These days it's very different. On countless occasions in restaurants, here and abroad, one now sees people speaking into their mobile phones during lunch or texting openly in front of their partner, oblivious to everyone in the room. Recently my wife and I were seated near a couple who both had their mobiles out and tapped throughout dinner, making no conversation whatsoever.
This is not unusual and in restaurants everywhere there are idiots paying good money to share a meal with one person while frantically communicating with others, perhaps even with total strangers through "social" networks. I think it's the height of rudeness, not just to the table companion but also to the staff whose efforts to deliver high quality service are so casually overlooked. One might as well have supper on a tray in front of the TV.
Can anything be done about it? In theatres there is usually a reminder to switch mobiles off before the performance begins. One or two chef-patrons have even banned them completely.
But I fear it is too late to extinguish the habit in our hotels and restaurants. One solution might be to hover, indefinitely if need be, without actually putting down the food or drink until the person has finished their call, text or tweet. This could be followed with "sorry to have kept you waiting Sir/Madam, I assumed that was something important". Ideally this will embarrass the target and act as a lesson to any observers. Of course, it's just possible that the perpetrator is entering a post on TripAdvisor in which case my advice could be counterproductive.
An alternative tack could be a little card, like the ones we used to place on tables saying "thank you for not smoking" but which instead says "thank you for switching off your mobile communication device while enjoying our wonderful hospitality. Please tell all your friends about us… tomorrow".