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article imageOp-Ed: Smartphones and the dining experience Special

By Paula Kirman     Jul 17, 2014 in Technology
My name is Paula, and I am addicted to my smartphone. Oh wait, no, I am actually addicted to social media. Either way, I am part of a new trend in dining.
According to Slate, customers snapping photos of food and dawdling on Facebook at meals have slowed down table service by an hour over the last 10 years, at least according to an anonymous post on Craigslist’s “rants & raves” section.
I am as guilty of this as anyone. Just ask my friends, co-workers, even my dates. I photograph my food. I text. I check my Facebook. I even use make or answer the occasional call.
Now, to some extent, I consider myself to have a legitimate excuse: I am a food blogger. So, most of the people I dine with tend to forgive for photographing my food. Nor does simply photographing my meals really add a lot of time to that spent in the restaurant.
However, if I were to start sending those photos to Facebook and Twitter, that does add time. Not more than a couple of minutes, if I use a deft hand. Now, if I were to start a text conversation, scrolling through Facebook, or talking on the phone, that is where time gets eaten up. And where my dining partner starts to get annoyed.
I honestly do not think I have extended any of my time in a restaurant by an hour because of my smartphone and social media use. Maybe 10 or 15 minutes at most. If I am dining alone, I tend to do most of my texting and Facebooking while I am waiting for my meal. At coffee shops and bars, however, I can sit for a while with my phone as my companion. But those are places where people are expected to occupy a seat for a prolonged period of time.
Lately, if I am dining with someone, I have been making an effort to refrain from using my phone for anything other than photographing my food, unless it is a very important call or message. My reasoning has more to do with courtesy towards my friend/partner/co-worker than it does the servers in the restaurants. I honestly have never thought about the effects of diners lingering longer on the hospitality industry until looking at the Slate piece.
People spending longer times at restaurant tables means fewer patrons served overall which means lower revenues for the restaurant itself and fewer tips for the servers. Indeed, smartphones and social media are having an impact in the hospitality industry, and it isn't good.
My advice? Take your food pics, send them to your social media if you must, but then focus on enjoying your meal and company and only looking at your phone if it doesn't prolong your time at the table.
For my associates who are reading this and intend on holding me to it the next time we go out, I apologize in advance.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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