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No Phone Zone: Frankie and Benny’s ban mobile phones in bid to ‘embrace family time’

PUBLISHED: 14:44 01 December 2018 | UPDATED: 14:44 01 December 2018

Frankie and Benny's on Riverside in Norwich. Picture: Archant Library

Frankie and Benny's on Riverside in Norwich. Picture: Archant Library

Archant © 2005

A popular restaurant chain has become the first in the UK to ban mobile phones at its family tables.

Frankie and Benny’s has introduced ‘No Phone Zones’ across the chain’s 250 restaurants in an effort to spark the conversation at the dinner table.

Owned by The Restaurant Group, Frankie and Benny’s has become the first UK restaurant brand to trial a scheme – which runs from now until December 7 – that will see families who are willing to hand over their mobile devices to restaurant staff receiving free children’s meals in exchange.

Frankie and Benny's logo.Frankie and Benny's logo.

Specialising in American-Italian food, the chain – which has restaurants in Great Yarmouth, Norwich, King’s Lynn, Wisbech, Ely, Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds – is introducing the “no phone” campaign to encourage diners to talk to one another at the dinner table instead of spending time on a mobile device.

If diners agree, their phone will be placed in a lockable box by restaurant staff, but those who do not wish to take part will not be forced to do so.

Frankie and Benny's.Frankie and Benny's.

And as an incentive to families who do choose to part with their phones, kids will eat for free. During the promotion diners aged up to 14 will be able to eat from the restaurant’s children’s menu free of charge, with paying parents, if the family give up their mobile devices.

The promotion comes after Frankie and Benny’s commissioned a survey of 1,500 parents and children. It showed children want parents to spend less time on their phones and to spend more time talking to them.

Barry Turner, of Drayton, said the Barry Turner, of Drayton, said the "art of conversation is dying." Picture: Chloe Tucker

The research found the main part of the day when mobiles get in the way is dinner time, when almost half (46pc) of children would like to take the device away, followed by family movie or television time (29pc) and holidays (24pc).

More than one quarter of adults (26pc) admitted to checking their phones during family meals.

Domonique Turnham, of Dereham, said its Domonique Turnham, of Dereham, said its "probably a good idea unless you’re on your own." Picture: Chloe Tucker

A Frankie and Benny’s spokesman said: “We looked at various ways we could encourage people to engage more at the dinner table and found giving families a chance to part with their devices for a couple of hours a great way to bring them closer and embrace family time.

“Our staff will be actively encouraging customers and families to take part in the initiative but of course, we can’t force them to hand over their phones.”

Christine Wilson, of Norwich, thinks it’s an Christine Wilson, of Norwich, thinks it’s an "interesting idea." Picture: Chloe Tucker

The chain said it would look to roll out the initiative on a permanent basis if it proved successful.

Reaction

With Frankie and Benny’s becoming the first restaurant chain in Britain to introduce a trial no phone zone, CHLOE TUCKER found out what the people of Norwich thought.

Barry Turner, 70, of Drayton, said: “I’m all for it.

“The art of conversation is dying.”

Mr Turner thinks the biggest benefit of the ban is people would be encouraged to “communicate with each other.”

He added: “Why all go out together and be stuck on our phones?”

Domonique Turnham, 28, of Dereham, said: “It’s probably a good idea unless you’re on your own or just with a baby.”

Ms Turnham said it can be “quite nice” to have her mobile in restaurants because she has books on her phone. However, she said “on a girls’ night out you wouldn’t have your phone out unless to check on babies.”

Nikki Buckby, 22, of Norwich, said: “I think it’s a really good idea. We live in an age where we don’t converse any more.”

Ms Buckby believes that the epidemic of selfies and photos of food means “we lose the organic process of being natural and in the now.”

Christine Wilson, 28, of Norwich, said: “I think it’s an interesting idea. I have a friend who says mobile phones kill the conversation.

“When I’m out and about I want to spend time with the people I’m with but they’re useful devices.”

Ms Wilson remains divided on the ban adding “It’s a good idea but they need to be careful about how it’s enforced.”

While Frankie and Benny’s roll out their nationwide campaign to promote family time, businesses are commending their spirit but say the campaign may not be well received.

Stephanie Druiscall, who is the duty manager of pub-style chain, the Beefeater Foxburrow in Lowestoft believes the essence of the campaign was “thoughtful” but didn’t know if it would help.

She said: “I think it is a great campaign to support families, I know personally if I went out and my children were screaming and they had a phone to distract them I would be relieved.

“It’s thoughtful but unfortunately in this day and age and with technology, we have to take it one step at a time.”

Mary Lynn, manager of the Giraffe restaurant in Norwich, said banning mobile phones in the venue would be “controversial”.

She said: “I don’t think it would go down well in here, I am not seeing as many families come in and sit on their phones anyway.”

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